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.”
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.
Since it first kicked off in March of 2015 with 8 members, The Woodlands Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Education/Lobby has grown significantly. This grassroots organization, focused on helping citizens create the political will to address climate change, ended 2015 with 49 members. By the end of 2016, those numbers tripled to 150. In Chairman Brady’s Texas District 08, there are now four chapters with 628 members at the end of 2017. That is more CCE/L members than any other US Representative’s District in Texas!
Citizens’ Climate Education/Lobby are intentional grassroots education and lobbying organizations. They have one rule: Treat everyone, even those who oppose them, with respect, appreciation, and gratitude. Both organizations are nonprofit; Citizens’ Climate Education is a 501(c)3 organization and Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a 501(c)4. They are non-partisan organizations, determined to build relationships with everyone.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby has one goal, to generate the political will for the United States Congress to enact Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation. Carbon Fee and Dividend is a market-based solution that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions efficiently.
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.
On Friday January 5, 2018, community leaders and planners of The Woodlands met at Town Green Park to celebrate a new partnership between The Woodlands Township and the world’s premier bike sharing platform, Mobike.
Mobike is a Chinese bike sharing company that utilizes smart phone technology and GPS data to allow people to pick up, ride, and drop off Mobike bicycles at their own convenience, for a price of $1 per 30 minutes of use. The bikes are designed with punctureless tires, smart locks, and disc brakes to be as safe and durable as possible.
Mobike is a turnkey operation, and it is providing 50 smart-bicycles for use in The Woodlands at no cost to the local government and taxpayers. The Woodlands is the third township/municipality in the US, and the first in Texas, to receive Mobike’s services following its rapid expansion to 200 cities around the world in the past two years.
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.
Through the passion they display with their hard work and triumph in the face of adversity, the Astros represent the indefatigable willpower of the city that was knocked off its feet but has gotten right back up again.
When they win tonight, the Astros will give their fans something to be proud of during hard times. Their trending hashtagable motto is something that Texans agree upon and understand. Nothing in this life worth having will be handed to you. If you want to be great and make it, you’ve got to #EarnHistory.
The hard data supports The Woodlands as well. Niche, the neighborhoods and schools rankings site, based these best city rankings on real statistical analysis as well. Cost of living, the percentage of residents with a college degree, average commute time, crime rates, public school ratings, resident reviews and weather are some of the major factors.
Over the past 43 years since the Village of Grogan’s Mill opened in 1974, George Mitchell’s vision has come to life with the development of each of the eight residential villages that make up The Woodlands.
Developers modeled the layout of the new community after similar neighborhoods around the country. Among the key planning committee members was Ian McHarg, a landscape architect specifically sought out by George P. Mitchell because of his unique design principles. McHarg embraced and applied a design that would minimally affect the area's woodlands and wildlife, according to a University of Massachusetts essay authored by ecologist Kristine Swann.
"McHarg looked at The Woodlands as an opportunity to apply his theory of ecological determinism - allowing the ecology of the land to determine what development could and should take place," Swann explained.
A testament to his vision, Mitchell's original plan for The Woodlands continued to be implemented even after he sold it in the late 1990s. He intentionally left a 1,000-acre parcel near the entrance of The Woodlands for a commercial district. Others recognized the value. "Many developers would have developed that first because it was closest to the highway and most accessible," Galatas said. "But George saw a bigger picture and he saw a town center that would serve not only The Woodlands but all of north Houston."