Unified Vision, Proactive Thinking Driving Fort Bend Prosperity

1 04 2016

The article below was published in The Katy Rancher on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.  The article was written by Landan Kuhlmann.

 

Fort Bend County SealFort Bend County has become a symbol of economic and demographic growth, not only in Texas but nationally, as the fourth-fastest growing county in the nation, with several factors contributing the boom.

Fort Bend Economic Development Council President and CEO Jeff Wiley believes that quality growth is the most important driver of economic prosperity available to a community. He credits the cooperation between Fort Bend and the entities within it as well as a unified vision for economic growth for enabling the county to not only achieve, but maintain, such growth.

“These common core beliefs, the continued public and private sector leadership and the results themselves instill trust by the community and cooperation by leaders to achieve more together than by themselves,” he said.

The old phrase “numbers don’t lie” certainly holds true in this aspect, as Fort Bend County has become a regional leader in virtually every aspect of demographic and economic excellence tracked at the highest level for several decades.

The Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land region of the county is 11th fastest-growing metro area in the US, while Fort Bend County itself grew by more than 3.8 percent in 2013-2014 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown topped Forbes’ list of America’s fastest-growing cities.

Wiley did note that growth of any type brings its own set of potential obstacles. For example, he mentioned that residential and population growth means increased responsibilities–every type of service provided must expand in accordance with housing and population growth.

“In many cases, the cost of servicing this growth exceeds the service revenues and property taxes generated by the growth,” he said.

On the other hand, Wiley said growth of businesses in a community generates property taxes which exceed service costs, thereby helping support the costs of providing the aforementioned services and providing other benefits.

“Commercial growth also provides primary jobs to a community, allowing residents to find employment opportunities,” he said. “Keeping and growing jobs is the second vital component of a successful economic development formula,” he said.

Several Fort Bend cities appear on lists here too, with Sugar Land rated as the top place to find a job in 2014 according to Money Magazine and Katy garnering the distinction as the fourth-best city in Texas to start a business.

Setting the conditions which attract such business growth is equally important according to Wiley.

“Low taxes, low burdens of entry, quality schools, educated and skilled workforce, and in some cases, business incentives are all parts of the toolbox in efforts to draw businesses to a community,” he said. “This is not a secret, but delivery of these building blocks to success are often difficult to accomplish.”

Wiley also praised the county’s economic development leadership, whether it be housed in elected or appointed positions, city staff or public and private partnerships.

“We understand the critical nature of setting the conditions for growth and work to improve them every day,” he said.

Numerous highway projects such has the US 90, Highway 59 and Grand Parkway expansions have enabled the county to keep pace with its aforementioned booming growth. Wiley says transportation and mobility are important not only to connect Fort Bend to Houston, but to connect the communities within the county lines as well.

Another reason Fort Bend has maintained its quality economic growth according to Wiley is county officials’ forethought in attempts to head off or prepare for any potential crisis before it even arises.

“Whether transportation, education, water, or sewer drainage, Fort Bend works to develop infrastructure in advance of critical stages,” Wiley said. “To do anything different would compromise quality of life for the community.”

A full list of Fort Bend County’s economic and demographic recognitions can be found at fortbendcounty.com by clicking under the “News” tab and clicking “Accolades.”

Advertisements




City Fire & Rescue Services Improves ISO Rating to Highest Level

15 02 2016

Below, please find information from a News Release issued by the City of Missouri City today:

Earlier this month, Missouri City was notified by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) that effective Aug. 1, 2016, it will have a Public Protection Class rating of 1/1Y, the highest rating awarded by ISO. Currently, only 26 cities in Texas and 97 cities nationwide have achieved a Class 1 rating, a prestigious group that Missouri City will soon join thanks to the many staff members, elected officials and stakeholder partners that assisted in improving public safety needs for the “Show Me City”.

ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program (PPC) plays an important role in the underwriting process at insurance companies. Most U.S. insurers use the PPC information as part of their decision making when deciding what businesses to underwrite, coverages to offer or prices to charge for residential or commercial property insurance. Communities that improve their PPC rating may get lower insurance premiums.

“Receiving an ISO Class 1 is a huge achievement for a Fire Department. In the fire service world, it is a very high honor to have this designation,” Fire Chief Russell Sander said. “An ISO Class 1 public protection rating is the highest a fire department and community can receive. We are proud to join the ranks of other local, state and nationwide municipalities who have achieved a similar rating. ”

Missouri City & Rescue Services Chief Russell Sander poses in front of Fire Station 5

Missouri City & Rescue Services Chief Russell Sander poses in front of Fire Station 5

Missouri City’s Fire & Rescue Services Department put a plan in action after it received its most recent ISO rating in 2006, which at the time was an ISO Class 3 Public Protection Rating. The Department’s multi-year plan included enacting the Quint concept, improving and increasing the training of firefighters, and improving the fire education and prevention activities, such as adopting the 2015 Fire Code.

In 2014, the department had a contractor evaluate the City’s status and suggest improvements before the actual grading process began in 2015. ISO rates communities periodically based on the last PPC score. Improvements were made based on this study that were within the budgetary limits.

“The opening of Fire Station 5 was also crucial to helping the City achieve the ISO rating and ensured that residents in our ETJ received the same rating,” Chief Sander said. “Additionally, the operation of the squad full-time provided additional staff on duty. It also reduced the calls the Quint responded to out of station 1, leaving it available for fire calls.”

Property owners within five miles of a fire station and 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant could save a possible 9 percent on residential buildings and 4 percent on commercial properties. A Class 1 also assists as an economic development tool. Missouri City’s Class 1 rating will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2016 and, afterward, residents will be able to ask their insurance providers how the new rating may impact premiums.

ISO evaluates a community’s Fire Department’s response capabilities, training, and equipment. It also evaluates the 911 dispatch center’s ability to handle emergency calls. Municipal water systems are also evaluated.

More information on the program can be found on the Texas State Fire Marshal website: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/fire/fmppcfaq.html.

For more information about Missouri City, please watch the City website: http://www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter and Instagram—@MissouriCityTX and watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse).





Brace Yourself for Fall and Winter Rainfall

19 10 2015

In its Fall 2015 Newsletter, the Brazos River Authority published an article indicating that those of us who reside in the Brazos River watershed, and that includes Fort Bend County, should be aware that we could experience more rainfall than normal this year.  The article is below:

A record-setting El Niño has the potential to deluge Texas with wet weather during the late fall and winter months, which could top off Brazos basin reservoir levels that have been dropping due to returning drought conditions. But the same weather phenomenon could also bring too much of a good thing, with potential flood conditions also a possibility in upcoming months.

The National Weather Service Fort Worth Office’s Climate Prediction Center projects that the El Niño conditions will continue into the spring.

What is El Niño? It is a weather pattern which begins in the Pacific Ocean and results in changing wind patterns and water temperatures. These weather patterns don’t just stay in that area, but move to other places, and affect the weather in the United States.

Climate experts say the current El Niño pattern is one of the largest ever observed, and El Niño is expected to get stronger in the coming months.

What will the impact be for the Brazos Basin?

The Pacific Jet Stream is expected to bring wetter conditions than usual to North and Central Texas, along with cooler winter temperatures. Interestingly, the NWS reports that outbreaks of extreme cold weather are actually less likely during strong El Niño winters, with fewer days of freezing temperatures. So while the weather may be cooler, extremes are less likely.

It is the increased cloud cover and precipitation that should result in lower than usual daytime high temperatures.

Texas experienced a wetter than usual spring this year, but the heat and dry weather of July and August allowed the drought conditions to return to the Brazos basin and other parts of the state.

If El Niño brings significant rainfall, as expected, it will end the ongoing “flash drought.” A flash drought is one that develops quickly but does not last long. Also, because the wetter weather is expected through much of the 2016 spring, that could prevent or delay drought conditions from returning later next year.

Flooding is always a concern, and can occur even during periods of drought, the NWS reports. During a prolonged wet period, however, the likelihood of flooding greatly increases because of saturated soil.

This past spring, the rainfall filled depleted reservoirs. This fall and winter, with most reservoirs remaining close to full, “the runoff from heavy multiple rain events would likely surge lake levels back into their flood pools,” the NWS warns.

Since data has been collected on El Niño patterns, there are El Niño events that can be classified as strong, and only two of these (1991-92 and 1997-98) were extraordinarily wet. However, those two seasons did not have much freezing precipitation. Two years that did have more freezing precipitation than normal were the 1965-66 and 1972-73 seasons, which interestingly, did not have higher precipitation levels overall.

State climatologist’s forecast

State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said that we can’t predict with certainly what this El Niño season will bring, but we can be pretty sure of some wet weather.

“Most El Niño events produce above normal rain across Texas, especially from late fall to early spring,” he said. “But the two strongest El Niño events in history were associated with near-normal to slightly below-normal rainfall in Texas. It may be that there’s a sweet spot for El Niño and Texas rainfall, and the strongest El Niño events overshoot the mark. The fourth-strongest El Niño (since 1895) was the 1991-1992 El Niño that helped produce extensive flooding along the Brazos River in December 1991. About the only thing that seems possible to rule out at this stage is the possibility of being substantially drier than normal over the next nine months,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

“Because Texas is near the southern edge of the jet stream on average, storminess increases during El Niño and decreases during La Niña. In general, the chances of wet weather in the winter increase across the southern United States and decrease a bit in the northern United States. Temperatures in the southern United States tend to be a bit cooler than normal during El Niño, and warmer than normal in the northern United States.”

How certain is the impact of an El Niño pattern?

“In some places the effect is more reliable than others,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “In Texas the effect is especially reliable, but even so, it only accounts for about a third of the year-to-year weather variations we experience. Since 1950, Texas as a whole has never had a November through March significantly drier than normal during an El Niño.

“An El Niño winter is typically cold, wet, and cloudy. The best overall adjective would be ‘yucky.’ But think of all the food that’s going to be grown next spring that will have a good solid start thanks to the wet weather over the winter.”

Brazos basin status and forecast

Despite a hot and dry summer that lingered into early fall, the unusually rainy spring resulted in full reservoirs in the Brazos basin. While reservoir levels have declined some as a result of the recent hot, dry conditions, they are still “in pretty good shape,” said Brad Brunett, water services manager for the BRA.

“Reservoirs typically lag behind the onset and ending of drought conditions,” he said. “Following a wet period when lakes fill up, it may take several months of dry weather before the effects are seen in lake levels starting back down. Toward the end of a drought when rainfall starts increasing, it takes a while before enough runoff is generated to start positively impacting lake levels. Because of the rain earlier this year, we’re in good shape heading into fall, and that should be the case heading into next summer, too.”

If El Niño brings heavy rains, what will that mean for the basin?

“If we experience higher than normal rainfalls, there’s a good chance we’ll have to pass more flood water through BRA reservoirs, and the (US Army Corps of Engineers) reservoirs may be up in the flood pools again,” Brunett said.

“The good news is that we should be in great shape as far as water supply heading into the summer months.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Fort Bend Ramps Builds Richmond Resident a New Porch and Ramp

3 10 2015

Article about good folks doing good works in Fort Bend County.  This article was written by Katie Stamy, and published in the Fort Bend Herald on September 24, 2015.

Linda Marin, 52, of Fort Bend County suffered from a stroke several years ago, paralyzing her left side and keeping her from doing what she loves most, spending time outdoors. Marin’s stroke left her homebound. The only way she could go anywhere was with the assistance of her husband, Romera Marin.

That was until Saturday when Fort Bend Ramps built Linda a ramp outside of her Richmond home and Pecan Grove residents presented her with a motorized wheelchair. Sixteen volunteers attended to help with the construction on Saturday and were able to rebuild the family’s porch as well as construct a new ramp in eight hours. Shereen Sampson, a Pecan Grove resident heard of Marin’s situation, posted on the Pecan Grove Facebook page, and was able to raise $600 for the woman. With the money raised, the motorized wheelchair was purchased and the remaining $225 was donated to the family.

Fort Bend Ramps

Mike Funderburke with Fort Bend Ramps, Richard Hyde with Fort Bend Ramps, Robert Gully (seated) from Pecan Grove, Mike Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Lawrence Jackson from with Fort Bend Ramps, Carson Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Shereen Sampson from Pecan Grove, David Davenport with Fort Bend Ramps, Christie Glaser from Pecan Grove, Walter Armatys with Fort Bend Ramps, Carrie Brown from Pecan Grove, Reesa Ramos from Pecan Grove, Ron Glaser from Pecan Grove, and Randy Shulze, with Fort Bend Ramps, assisted in the building of the new ramp for Linda Marin. Photo by Shereen Sample

According to Sampson, the smile on Linda and her family’s face was the most beautiful gift. “Part of what made this so great for the whole family was that (Romera) was having to bring (Linda) up and down the stairs,” said Sampson. “It got to the point that she didn’t want to leave at all.” Lazarus, the 13-year-old son of Linda and Romero, spent Saturday helping the team build the porch and ramp along side his father and grandfather, said Sampson.

For lunch, residents provided the builders with lunch including burgers, chicken, casseroles and cookies to show their appreciation.
The team began at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and finished at 4 p.m. “Fort Bend Ramps has it down to a science,” said Sampson in regards to the construction. “It was tremendous to watch them work. They have so many people, they have their own generator, and no mistakes were made.

“They normally just build a ramp but the porch was so unstable that they did that as well.” Carrie Dannemann Brown, Pecan Grove resident, also brought the family lawn chairs to have on their new porch. “(Linda) loves to be outside, that is one thing she talked about many times,” said Sampson. “That’s why this was so needed. She can go outside by herself now.”

“I think a lot of people assume that social workers are able to help every single person in need, but that is not the case,” she added. “I think there are so many other people in need that we need to keep our eyes and ears open for so we can help.”





Fort Bend County Still Among the Fastest-Growing Counties in the United States

29 04 2015

FBC mapThe primary purpose of this blog is to focus on emergency management.  Of course, we want to pay special attention to Fort Bend County and its efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for its citizens and businesses.  The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management coordinates disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities to provide the safe environment noted above.  So, you might ask, why does this blog sometimes feature articles on economic development and population growth?  Because the construction of more housing, the locating of more businesses, and the arrival of new families has a direct effect on emergency management activities in the County.

Our County is now the 10th largest county in Texas having experienced a 57% rate in growth over the last decade. The efforts of our elected officials and the business community in Fort Bend County have caused this expansion which has created more jobs, more tax dollars, and dynamic business centers to create opportunity and diversity like no other place in Texas. Day in and day out, our population of almost 700,00 enjoys a fantastic environment for working and going to school and playing in a County which is the envy of most others, not only in the State of Texas, but in the nation.

On March 26, 2015, The Texas Tribune published an article about the growth of Texas’ population and the clear trend that the suburbs in metropolitan areas are demonstrating the quickest growth.  The article was written by Alexa Ura.  The reporter indicates that three of the State’s counties ranked among the fastest-growing areas in the United States based on recently released demographic information released by the United States Census Bureau.  Ura writes that “Fort Bend County, home to about 652,000 people in 2013, grew by 4.7 percent and ranked as the sixth-fastest-growing county. Southwest of Houston, Fort Bend has been called the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. because its population comes the closest to having an equal division of the nation’s four major ethnic communities — Asian, black, Hispanic and white. The county comprises several Houston suburbs, including Sugar Land and Richmond.”  Additionally, Lloyd Potter, the State of Texas demographer estimates that “Fort Bend County would eventually outgrow the suburb label given the rate of its population increase.”

However, this creates a challenge—— to paraphrase from familiar scripture—– “though we are blessed in Fort Bend County, much is required to make sure that our beautiful landscapes, historic landmarks, and stable community is not devastated by natural or man-made threats.”  Fort Bend County, through the leadership of County Judge Bob Hebert and the Commissioners Court, recognizes the need to improve the quality of life in our County through economic development, but also the charge to, not only protect the safety of our citizens, but also to instill confidence that Fort Bend citizens can go about raising families, conducting business and living their lives without abnormal fears from those who wish us harm, or the unpredictability of natural disasters.

 





Internship Opportunity at Fort Bend County OEM

24 04 2015

Fort Bend County OEM is looking for some summer help.   Today, the Department posted the position of Planning Intern.  The position is designed to be filled for about 12 weeks during Summer 2015.  This position will provide professional support to the operation of the Emergency Management Department in a temporary capacity. The position supports full-time staff by assisting with homeland security and all-hazards planning projects, and assists with development of plans and procedures necessary to achieve compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

More information:  Job Posting





More About April Showers in Southeast Texas

22 04 2015

The National Weather Service issued a Public Information Statement this afternoon indicating that Southeast Texas has experienced above normal rainfall through April 19th of this year.  The month of April has been wetter than a normal month across this region.  Though we have experienced rain from time to time all month long, a bulk of the rainfall, according to the National Weather Service, has fallen since April 10th.  One of the rain gauges used by the National Weather Service is located at Sugar Land Regional Airport.  So far in April, that gauge has measured 8.67 inches of rain. The year-to-date total for the gauge at the airport is 17.85 inches; or an amount that is over 5 inches above normal.  It is too early to know if this trend will continue through the year and provide more consistent rain to Fort Bend County.