Our Woodlands. Our Future.

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The 32nd Annual Economic Outlook Conference hosted by The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce gathered local businesses, community leaders, elected officials, and corporate executives and advisors to provide valuable insight into local community developments and projected economic growth in Montgomery County and Texas. In the midst of a region that got right back on its feet after being knocked down by a devastating Hurricane Harvey, the event theme this year was “Resilient Community, Innovative Future.”

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Laura Lea Palmer, Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion for The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, discussed past and potential future economic growth in the region. She highlighted that we are currently in a job boom and our local business economy is getting stronger, indicated not only by the large and increasing size of companies in our area, but the increasing diversity of industries here as well.

“The two things I want to point out are the size and diversity of these companies. To have companies this size is really the envy of a whole lot of other communities of similiar size. The other is diversity; you’ll notice that we’re not just energy anymore. You can see education, energy, healthcare, professional services, chemical, banking, hospitality, entertainment, and that’s just in the top 20 [sized companies],” she said.

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In The Woodlands, an iconic sculpture of a man lying half submerged in the ground rests in the median on the east side of the intersection of South Panther Creek and Woodlands Parkway, where it was installed by artist David Phelps in 1989. 

"The Dreamer" is a triple life-size mixed media figurative sculpture originally commissioned by the Connemara Conservancy for a temporary outdoor exhibit in 1987. It was then cast in a limited edition of three bronze castings. The first was commissioned by The Woodlands, the second was commissioned by the city of Palm Desert, California, and the third was commissioned by the Sterling Research Group of Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

I reached out to David Phelps inquiring about the meaning behind the sculpture. According to Phelps, the sculpture's origins can be traced to his childhood home in California’s Central Valley Delta, where a maze of rivers meander and crisscross on their way to the San Francisco Bay and eventually, the Pacific Ocean. Middle River, Old River, and the San Joaquin River intersect to form the largest island in the Delta: Roberts Island. The threat of the island flooding left powerful memories and emotions with Phelps as he grew up, and sequentially influenced much of the artwork he created as an adult.

"The Dreamer" image came to him in a vision brought about through extreme fatigue. He was working long hours in the studio and at two in the morning, turned and unexpectedly saw a wax head leaning in the corner of the studio. This triggered a full-blown vision of "The Dreamer" image in his mind. This was the only time one of his sculptural images developed in this particular way, and maybe not surprisingly, this image seems to viscerally affect people more than any of his other works. 

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Ode to Joy
Ode to Joy

Did you know The Woodlands has more public art per capita than any other community in the United States? We have over 36 pieces of art residing in the public domain and another 30 plus pieces residing on private property. The problem is…too few people know this amazing fact and too few Woodlands residents talk about our art or know the history of our art. Beginning with The Family, a sculpture acquired for The Woodlands’ grand opening in 1974, The Woodlands Development Company has embraced the arts as a mean to enrich our community from our very beginning. We are grateful to live in a community where art is one of our founding pillars of excellence.

...With its ability to memorialize and celebrate life, I believe, as many others, that art can have a profound effect on people. Our Art Bench initiative is an example. There are myriad stories about the positive impact and community value the Art Benches have had on its residents. Community art is important, free and for everyone. It reaches residents and visitors outside of pay-to-see art venues like museums, theaters and private collections. Our Art Bench Collection is a mirror image of the community at large reflecting who we are: a diverse people; and what we like to surround ourselves with: diverse works of arts from artists from all over the world.

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Since its founding in 1974, The Woodlands has steadily grown into a thriving community in which over 115,000 people live and roughly 64,000 are employed. Amazingly enough, through all of this development The Woodlands has managed to maintain a land ratio of 28% green space (that’s 5% higher than George Mitchell’s original vision for The Woodlands intended). This combination of urban development and conservation of the natural environment has developed The Woodlands into one of the most highly rated places to live and work in America, making its homes highly sought after and increasingly more valuable. With one of the lowest crime rates in the US and relatively low tax rates in comparison to similarly sized cities in Texas, there is not much for residents of The Woodlands to complain about…that is besides traffic.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to saving lives, Montgomery County Hospital District knows how true this is. Minutes count in heart attacks, choking and other potentially deadly incidents. The people who are in the room when something happens are the difference for that person. At MCHD, you are that ounce of prevention.

Is George Mitchell's Vision Alive and Well in The Woodlands?

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