Here’s the two-headed animal that economic development officials are facing in Galveston County.

Some large companies, such as Amazon.com, look at infrastructure items such as light rail, universal access to the internet and satellite data in choosing where to locate a headquarters.

But public support in Galveston County for those improvements is lukewarm, officials said.

While Amazon’s decision last week to go elsewhere to build its second headquarters was disappointing, it can also serve as a litmus test for how far the area has to improve to attract new industries and startups.

We can understand the difficulties these officials whose job it is to peer into a future with an eye to economic development, but also deal with the problems of here and now.

As for mass transit, three of the questions facing officials are funding, coordination with other counties and public support.

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey noted that the Interstate 45 and state Highway 3 corridor between Galveston and Houston never got serious consideration for a commuter rail line, he said.

“That, coupled with strategically placed park and ride locations with direct access to rail and bus lines, would go a long way to address mass transit concerns that Amazon or other corporations would have,” Hallisey said.

It would seem, judging by the daily, and historical, traffic jams in League City, improving mass transit would seem like a logical part of the solution. But with a significant number of League City commuters working in Harris County, it would take coordination with Metropolitan Transit Authority’s service area.

Last year, the authority began discussing regional bus and rail priorities. Where cities in north Galveston County stand remains to be seen, because authority officials are not expected to have updated plans until late this year.

And if those cities are in the plan, how much would it cost Galveston County? For the county to pay for the cost, it most likely would take support from taxpayers.

Certainly, a light rail system was not the only factor in League City being passed over.

Bob Harvey, CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, told Houston Public Media, while the Houston-Galveston area has a deep pool of STEM graduates, it is not producing nearly enough in digital fields.

“I think this is going to provoke a conversation within the region,” Harvey said. “Do we have the number and depth of academic programs that are producing the specific kinds of graduates that these companies are looking for?”

Striking a balance between the needs of the here-and-now and of the future is a two-headed animal with which local and regional economic development officials are going to have to wrestle.

• Dave Mathews

Dave Mathews: 409-683-5258; dave.mathews@galvnews.com

(8) comments

Jarvis Buckley

I think labor force as well as hurricane potential may have played a factor.😀

Kelly Naschke

More progressive liberal hogwash. Houston will NEVER be Seattle, Portland or San Francisco. Question for Mr. Matthews....how is it possible that two of the fastest growing cities in the country (League City & New Braunfels) don’t have mass transit? And....why didn’t Amazon consider San Francisco? And why are many companies that are located in the progressive utopia of Portland fleeing like the downtown is on fire?

Chuck DiFalco

Mr. Mathews, nice to see you contradicting yourself in one article. "improving mass transit would seem like a logical part of the solution ... how much would it cost Galveston County? For the county to pay for the cost, it most likely would take support from taxpayers." Don't you see that the majority here in League City are unwilling to pay for other people's commuting costs?

Jim Forsythe

Did we want 50,000 new jobs in our area, or we are we happy the way it is.
We can make excuses why we did not get Amazon’s second headquarters, but we were not ready for them. Will be ready for the next company that wants to build in this area?
Are we going to be proactive, or reactive.
One of the things we lack is public transportation .
If we were proactive we would have said we will have it in place. It could have been a plan of a bus system to handle their needs.

We lacked a regional digital economy, particularly in the area of developing talent. What are we going to do to address this?
Just be happy the way it is now, or tell them we will have their needs taken care of, by having trained people in place when they need them.
Is this area looking  at becoming a smart city (area)? If not, we will continue to be passed over.
 Are we building a pipeline carrying digital cable, fiber optics and other high-speed technology conduits that would make League City area more attractive to high-tech companies.
This has been done on a smaller scale in Mississippi by Joe Max Higgins. Do we have a Joe Max Higgins type in place, to make sure we are not passed over, when companies come calling?  
Below is a link ,if you do not know the story
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-mississippi-factory-jobs-joe-max-higgins/

Jarvis Buckley

Jim , taxpayers are unable to participate in a wild goose chase.

Jim Forsythe

Jarvis, if we keep things the same, the results will be the same.
If you read the story about what they have done in Mississippi, we can do it here.
This is what we lost out on. 
  The company (Amazon)expects to create 50,000 high-paying jobs and invest more than $5 billion in the city where it opens.
What are we going to do to get in a position to attract companies like Amazon?
Are we going to stay the course, and not change, or be proactive and be in a position to take advantage of future company's that would like to locate in our area.
You say it is a wild goose chase, most of what I outline earlier, would not have to be started, until a company said they would like to come to this area. But they would need to see we have a plan in place.


            

Chuck DiFalco

What he said.

Ron Woody

One day I hope to be a part of the community instead of commenting from afar, I also want to apologize for any ignorance I may show about the Galveston County area. I have lived in areas both rural and urban from 7,000 to 9 million. Currently I live in Northern Virginia within 15 miles of three of the sites that Amazon is considering.
My first thought when I saw the article about bidding on Amazon HQ2, was "what bidding on the Olympics wasn't possible?" No offense but who thought it was a good idea to spend any amount of time chasing Amazon. To me it is an easy observation that it was never a viable option.
My second thought whenever I see public transportation discussed by individuals in the Midwest/Southwest is, what a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. Simply put the population density is not available to make public transportation a worthwhile taxpayer investment. The reason people live in places like Galveston County is because they are not on top of each other, that is a good thing but it makes large scale public transportation illogical. Also in order for public transportation to make sense communities need to be extremely walkable. Walkability is not truly practical in areas where for several months the temperature is above 90 degrees.
Many of the comments about digital economy and STEM education are valid, but let me ask a question? If after 50 years the Johnson Space Center has not promoted more STEM education in the area what makes anyone think that it is going to be increased by some other opportunity? There is plenty of STEM educated individuals between Galveston County and Houston, but the recruitment of companies must be proportional to the population.
I went back and read articles on MS, I could not get the 60 Minutes clip to play, I guess I need more STEM education! :) However, it seems that what worked was a few people being focused on simple goals and delivering the same message over and over.
Just my opinion, but Galveston County has a lot to offer, why fight what is already working and consider expanding what is already in the area.
I know energy is often viewed as an evil industry, but it is always going to be needed and research in those areas is never ending.
Along with the need for energy is the need for clean water. Focus on Environmental Studies, desalination, etc. Use the Gulf as a testing area for the rest of the world to provide clean water. Maybe if the Environmentalists did not see the Energy companies as enemies they could pool their knowledge and make incredible strides in the next two decades. Galveston would be a great place for Global Environment/Water Education/Studies and companies that are involved in the water industry. Focus on recruiting those type of companies.
Tourism is another industry that communities seem to run away from, but why? Recent weather aside, Galveston County should be a destination year round. Continue to develop festivals (national & international), promote outside of Texas, (probably already being done, just not in DC), continue to promote sports (how about XGames Galveston, sailboat races from Corpus to Galveston, to New Orleans to Tampa, Jet Ski competitions, etc.) What is the problem with small European style casinos? (please do not bore me with the thought that casinos cause crime)
Maybe I am too conservative in how taxpayer dollars should be utilized, i.e. keep the infrastructure strong (that includes roads, bridges, sewers, telecommunications, etc.), pay first responders appropriately (better than average), keep the streets safe and well lit and please, please, please at all costs keep the Gulf and beaches clean. it is what makes Galveston unique and can bring revenue for the community for years to come if developed and maintained properly. There is nothing wrong with development if done well.
I apologize for the length and local ignorance of my comments, one thing I have learned is things are rarely as difficult as they seem and good government and corporate development are not rocket science it just takes a consistent message.
To paraphrase Harry Truman, "It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit."

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