IMAGE: Fred Welch (left), Executive Director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, and Carl White (right), President, Montgomery County Chapter, NAACP, at the NAACP’s monthly meeting on March 9, 2017.
Conroe, March 9 – Fred Welch, Executive Director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council (CEDC) announced at a vibrant meeting of the membership of the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP, which meets at the Conroe Central Library, that the recently-established Sam Houston State University (SHSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine intends to locate its main campus at Grand Central Park, located at Loop 336 South and Interstate 45 in Conroe. SHSU announced the appointment of its founding Dean for the medical school, Dr. Charles Henley, on October 13, 2016. Henley stated at the time of his appointment, “The new medical college will establish a great tradition that will allow the university to see growth and development at a high level of achievement.” SHSU is currently raising capital for the construction of the Conroe campus and intends to open the school during the Fall Semester of 2020.
Welch discussed the history of CEDC which, after 1989 amendments to the Texas Economic Development Act, took advantage of the ability of municipalities to earmark a portion of sales tax collections for economic development. Presently, Conroe sales taxes are 8.25 cents per dollar of sales. 6.25 cents goes to the State of Texas, 1.5 cents goes to the City of Conroe, while 0.5 cents goes to the CEDC. Welch said, “The half cent allows us to begin to market Conroe. CEDC works at the Greater Conroe Chamber of Commerce under the direction of the City’s Industrial Development Council. We direct jobs, mostly manufacturing and logistics, to this community, develop infrastructure, such as the recent willing of two water wells in the City limits, constructed the Deison Technology Park near the airport, and focus on transportation needs.” Welch explained that CEDC is assisting in the construction of a customs facility at the “Conroe North Houston Regional Airport” and the extension of League Line Road to I-45.
Welch explained that the CEDC is responsible for bringing Galdisa Foods, a peanut grinding operation, Vam Foods, which makes frozen burritos, a division of Mitsubishi Caterpillar which constructs commercial electric forklifts with rechargeable batteries, and other employers who have brought jobs to the area. Interestingly, Welch’s contention that CEDC has brought all of those jobs as well as more than three thousand highly skilled other jobs, such as welders and machinists, to the Conroe North Business Park directly contradicts the contention of Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador and County Judge Craig Doyal who have tried to claim all of the credit for bringing all of those same companies to the community.
The CEDC Executive Director explained that the City wants to “make sure that young men and women who graduate from high school in Conroe will have a job and can live and make their lives right here.”
In response to questioning from individuals in the audience, Welch stated that there are no specific CEDC plans for development east of the railroad tracks in the central part of Conroe. Nevertheless, Welch assured those in attendance at the meeting that “we’re doing studies to identify projects and things to redevelop on the east side of the city.”
Welch also mentioned that Craig Realty, the owner of the Conroe Outlet Mall, is presently redeveloping that property with the idea of turning it into a “more walkable area so shoppers can park on the perimeter and walk from shop to shop more easily.”
As a representative of the City of Conroe, Welch explained that the primary tool to entice new businesses into the city was tax abatements and providing money for training employees. He noted that “for every dollar we put in through the CEDC, we bring back 8 dollars in taxes.”
As a community, we should ask some basic questions. First, is the criterion for successful development bringing more tax dollars into the government? Second, should government compete with private real estate developers to develop real estate such as the Conroe North Business Park or even the minimally-utilized “Conroe North Houston Regional Airport”?
Local political activist, civil rights leader, and filmmaker Carl White is the President of the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP. White previously served on the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Hospital District.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, is the oldest and largest civil-rights organization in the United States. Benjamin Todd Jealous has served as the NAACP’s Executive Director since 2008.
The Montgomery County Chapter meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Conroe Central Library. It’s a highly-spirited group that sponsors education, historical programs, excellent monthly presentations, and scholarships. If you attend, you’ll enjoy education and entertainment as well as the opportunity to meet some of the finest citizens of our community.