Government and business representatives talked about lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey — and Ike in 2008 — and what’s important for moving forward and rebuilding in an annual economic development summit Tuesday.
After Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008, Galveston was able to use federal recovery dollars to rebuild and jumpstart new projects, City Manager Brian Maxwell said at the summit held by the Galveston Economic Development Partnership.
But Maxwell cautioned that getting to that point did take time — and other panelists highlighted how communities are still waiting to see what kind of assistance will be available.
At the 90-day mark — about the point where communities struggling with Harvey are — people were still out of homes and planners were taking the recovery process week by week, Maxwell said.
Maxwell’s comments were offered as support for communities hit hard by Hurricane Harvey still early in recovery, particularly Rockport, whose chamber of commerce president attended Tuesday’s summit.
“Every single structure has something wrong with it,” said Diane Probst, president of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.
That community is still facing the difficulties of cleaning up debris, addressing housing for residents and doing business in a tourist community with tourism at a standstill, Probst said.
“It does get better,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell, along with Probst and representatives of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the International Economic Development Council, headlined the Galveston Economic Development Summit where they discussed best practices for rebuilding businesses and communities after a storm.
A big part of the ability to recover comes down to how much money Congress allocates for hurricane disaster aid, said Jeffrey Finkle of the International Economic Development Council.
It’s not yet clear how much Texas will receive for Hurricane Harvey recovery, Finkle said. Congress is working on a Dec. 8 deadline to approve a federal spending bill for 2018 and avoid a government shutdown.
Budget talks have stalled, which Mick Mulvaney, budget director for the Trump administration, has indicated is because of opposition to federal spending from the tea party faction of the Republican Party and lawmakers from coastal states who want to see more aid for hurricane relief, Finkle said.
Local leaders and residents should be lobbying their representatives to ensure federal aid for the state is adequate, Finkle said.
“There’s no magic formula that says you get this much — it’s all political,” Finkle said. “The community can only recover with that support.”