An economic group formed about seven decades ago asked the Houston City Council on Monday to support a grant package that could lead to jobs at a Spruce Street industrial building.
Separately, the Houston Development Co. (HDC) asked council members to acquire two, five-acre lots at the Northeast Industrial Park east of the fairgrounds, where negotiations continue with a bottled water manufacturer.
The talks come at a time when the HDC is short on cash and needs an infusion to continue its obligation under a loan that allowed for major renovations to quarters that once housed Air Evac before it moved those jobs to a headquarters in West Plains and elsewhere.
Under the proposal, the City of Houston would be the sponsor for a federal Economic Development Administration grant for an economic development project at a building that once housed the Exceptional Child Cooperative and Air Evac. The city’s obligation is expected to be little under the grant because the building’s value can be leveraged for the in-kind portion as a contribution. The application process may be lengthy.
In the meantime, the city would purchase, two-five acre lots – one this year and one next year at a cost of $45,000 each. The industrial park was developed using a Community Development Block Grant that installed sewer, streets, electric and water lines to the tract. In all, about $1 million was invested — about $200,000 from the city. HDC acquired the property in 1999 from an estate. Only one tract is left in the city’s industrial park off West Highway 17, and this new property is targeted for prospects who would bring jobs to the community. A city industrial group is working with a prospect there. The funds generated would be used toward retirement of the HDC debt for earlier building improvements.
Ultimately, the HDC plans to divest of its assets — if all goes as planned — and the city’s own industrial development group, which is able to tap additional resources because of its not-for-profit status, would become the community’s lead economic driver.
HDC board member Don Romines said the merger of the two would be done without cost to the city and much of it assets would revert to the city.
“It all boils down to jobs,” Romines said. “Those jobs drive growth of the community and sales tax.”
Appearing at the meeting were some members of the HDC board.
Mindful of a grant application deadline, the city said it will make a decision at its Nov. 20 meeting.