Business Matters Winter 2018

Page 1


Community rebuilds after flooding


Tri Point Construction & Randolph Law Firm


Humble & Pacific Pharmacy

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table of

contents 06 12 16

2017 Citizen of the Year has a servant’s heart

Merle Aaron became “consoler-inchief” during a tough time

Generation Park:

Introducing new businesses to Lake Houston’s footprint with development

Home Grown

Tri-Point stays true to core values for steady expansion

Home Grown

18 20

Randolph offers one-stop-shop for Lake Houston Area legal services

Recovering after Harvey

Government, businesses, nonprofits and neighbors pitch in for recovery

Follow the Leader


Three local residents who have become community assets through involvement

On the Cover

2017 Citizen of the Year Merle Aaron Photo by Angi Lewis Photography

Lake Houston Business Matters is a quarterly publication of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. It is distributed to Chamber members and area businesses. Digital copies are available online at


Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce 110 West Main Street, Humble, Texas 77338 (281) 446-2128 |

CHAMBER LEADERSHIP Chair of the Board Corinn Price Insperity Chair Elect Sam Schrade DNA Studios President & CEO Jenna Armstrong, IOM Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce


Editor in Chief Morgan McGrath – Contributing Writers Tom Broad – Jerry LaMartina – Jennifer Summer – Graphic Designer Angie Davis – Photographers Angi Lewis Photography – – (281) 224-1542 Hope Photography – – (281) 324-1534


MetroMedia, Inc. David Small – 4210 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Suite 314A Fairway, Kansas 66205 | (913) 951-8413 To advertise, contact Kathy Anthony (913) 951-8428,

The Chamber is not responsible for advertisements included in this magazine. The information in this publication was compiled with care to ensure a high level of accuracy. Nonetheless, Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and MetroMedia cannot guarantee the correctness of the information provided or the complete absence of accidental errors. For changes or additions, contact the Chamber at (281) 446-2128. No article may be reproduced without permission of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. 4 | Lake Houston Business Matters



t’s a new year, and I think it is fair to say we are all looking forward to starting fresh in 2018 as we continue our efforts to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Businesses are continuing to bounce back with several re-openings scheduled in the first quarter of 2018. As we begin to dust ourselves off and move forward, I want to challenge everyone to make a point to shop local. Even if a business has re-opened, the uphill climb they face will be ongoing for years. Businesses that did not receive physical damage also struggle with a weakened local economy and need the support of their home community more than ever. The best thing we can do to help our community recover is to patronize our local businesses. Businesses selling goods and services in our area stimulate the economy and put paychecks in their employees’ pockets. Our businesses’ ability to provide jobs and supply goods and services to our area is crucial, especially in the years following this natural disaster.

When you shop local, remember to thank the business for being in our community. Their resilience and determination to operate in our community following the disastrous floods should not be overlooked. Successful local businesses increase property values and increase the commercial tax base, which funds public schools and enhances the overall quality of life in our area. Onward, Jenna Armstrong, IOM President & CEO, Lake Houston Area Chamber

Including Kids Kindred Rehab Hospital

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of the

HAS A SERVANT’S HEART Merle Aaron became ‘consoler-in-chief’ during a tough time BY TOM BROAD | PHOTOS BY ANGI LEWIS PHOTOGRAPHY

6 | Lake Houston Business Matters

Winter 2018 | 7

umble Mayor Merle Aaron thought he was there to watch the Chamber salute Lake Houston’s small businesses. They were, but the packed room at the Golf Club of Houston was also there to learn who would be the recipient of the 2017 Haden McKay MD Citizen of the Year — Humble Mayor Merle Aaron. As the November luncheon drew to a close, Chamber Board Chair Jerry Martin revealed that Mayor Aaron was selected as the 50th member of this exceptionally unique and distinctive group. Mayor Aaron was so surprised when Martin announced his name that Aaron could only utter a quiet but genuine, “Thank you,” after he made his way to the podium through the standing and applauding crowd. The Chamber has been selecting a Citizen of the Year since 1967. It was rechristened the Haden McKay MD Citizen of the Year award in 1985 in honor of the family physician and former longtime Humble mayor. Dr. McKay died in 1996. “In the name of Dr. McKay, this award recognizes Lake Houston residents who provided selfless public service on his or her own time,” said Jenna Armstrong, president of the Lake Houston Area Chamber, “not in the regular course of earning his or her living or advancing professionally.” Mayor Aaron will quickly tell you, in no uncertain terms, he doesn’t deserve this honor. “I could name at least 500 people who deserve it more than I do,” Aaron said. “All the first responders and volunteers who went into the flooded areas of Humble, for example, and rescued so many people affected by Hurricane Harvey. I met people from Louisiana, Georgia, from all over Houston and right here in Humble who came in to help.” “It is amazing how good people are,” he said. “These are our citizens of the year.” And the mayor insists he’s not interesting enough to talk about. “I don’t have a college degree,” Aaron said. “I always worked with my hands.” Those hands, though, have accomplished some remarkable things. Next time you land on a Bush Intercontinental runway between concourses A and B, think of Mayor Aaron. He supervised the crew that poured those runways back in the 1960s when the airport was just a gleam in Houston’s eye. “I was the middle child in a family of five boys and four girls and grew up in Edinburg, less than 20 miles from the Texas-Mexico border,” the mayor recalls. “I was the first in my family to graduate from Edinburg High School. I worked construction and moved my family up here from the Lower Valley in the early 1960s when there were only trees where the airport is now.”


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Angi Lewis Photography

Winter 2016 | 9


Humble was so rural, and all the airport construction was bringing in so many workers, that the Aaron family moved into a trailer. After pouring concrete all over Houston — including the original Interstate 10 — and in Dallas, too, the mayor eventually landed a job with the Marriott Corporation. Working for Marriott, Merle Aaron honed his mechanical skills. He earned all kinds of construction and maintenance certifications. At night, he took computer classes at Lone Star Kingwood College. He eventually earned the top HVAC license. Marriott wanted to promote him and send him to Cincinnati. By that time, the Aaron family had deep roots in Humble, so Aaron decided it was time to take all that mechanical education and start his own company. In 1978, he opened Aaron Mechanical, a family-owned and operated residential and commercial HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) company. It was the mechanical business that eventually led the mayor to politics. Aaron Mechanical had water bill and permitting issues 10 | Lake Houston Business Matters

with the city of Humble. Rather than fight it from the outside, Aaron decided to run for Humble City Council to help come up with solutions. In 2005, Aaron semi-retired and turned Aaron Mechanical over to the experienced hands of his son, Merle Aaron Jr. That gave him the opportunity to run for Humble City Council and, eventually to succeed Donnie McMannes as mayor. “Under Donnie’s leadership, we were able to pay off a lot of debt and set in motion the changes you’re seeing in Humble,” said the mayor. “Without any debt, thanks to Donnie’s leadership, we can pay cash to fund the opportunities we face.” Mayor Aaron has brought a fresh perspective to the mayor’s role, City Council Member Norman Funderburk believes, placing a stronger focus on vision and long-term planning and identifying the needs of the City. “It’s critical that City Council, along with our mayor, guard against complacency and status quo in Humble,” says Funderburk. Humble’s investment in infrastructure has been significant. “Since he’s been mayor, Merle has placed a premium on

Photo contributed by the Aaron Family

refocusing our efforts into the core services we should provide — public safety, improved roads and drainage, and establishing the necessary capacities to meet our future utility needs,” Funderburk said. Good business relationships are important to the mayor. “I want to make sure that the City is a good partner with our Lake Houston Chamber and that we have good relationships with Kingwood, Atascocita and the County,” Aaron said. “We’re especially proud of Memorial Hermann [Northeast]. Their growth is so positive for our community, and we’re equally pleased with our schools.” Funderburk, a past Citizen of the Year, has known Merle and Linda Aaron for more than 30 years. “Merle has a servant’s heart,” Funderburk said. “He cares very much for our community, is strongly committed to providing our residents with the best quality of life and he has the core values you want in a mayor — honesty, integrity and always treating others with dignity, respect and sensitivity.”

Linda Aaron grew up in Edinburg, too, just a few blocks from Merle, but they didn’t know each other until a friend introduced them. She calls the mayor her best friend. “We do everything together,” Aaron admits. “And that includes hunting and skiing and by the second year that we were skiing, I had to tell her that she was a much better skier than I would ever be.” The Aarons have three adult children, Debbie Taylor, Janet Spellman and Merle Aaron Jr., eight grandchildren and 14 greatgrandchildren. “Our children and their spouses all graduated from Humble High, most of our grandchildren have graduated from Humble ISD schools and now our great-grandchildren are growing up in Humble ISD schools,” Linda said. Equally important to the Aaron family is First Baptist Church of Humble, their place of worship for 55 years. “All of our kids and grandkids were raised at First Baptist and now we have great grandkids growing up there,” Linda said. “Merle is deacon, Bible study teacher, Awana Leader for the children and has held many other leadership positions.” Merle and Linda have skied Colorado and New Mexico, rafted down the Rio Grande, hunted together, enjoyed the bright lights of New York City and probably have visited most of the 50 states but, before he hangs up his mayor’s gavel, the mayor and Linda have one more spot to visit on their bucket list — Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “During the [Hurricane Harvey], I got a call from the mayor of Cuyahoga Falls,” Aaron recalls. “He told me they’d seen the devastation from Harvey and they wanted to adopt Humble.” A couple of Cuyahoga Falls’ police officers drove one truck and their city attorney drove a second truck from Ohio to Humble, both trucks packed with bleach, blankets, mops and cash. “And then the mayor flew down to help us clean up,” Aaron said. “Linda and I are planning a visit to Ohio and we’re going to drop by Cuyahoga Falls and thank Mayor Don Walters for all his city did for us.” Hurricane Harvey was a particularly moving time for the Aaron family, especially as Linda saw her husband taking a major role in leading and healing his community. “I saw how hard he worked, trying to fulfill the needs of the people and the City, opening up the Civic Center, talking with people who’d lost everything, making sure everything got done in a timely manner, hugging them, crying with them,” she recalls. Council Member Funderburk agrees. “It was never more evident than during our recent experiences with Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding resulting from the Lake Conroe releases,” Funderburk said. “Mayor Aaron worked tirelessly and aggressively to have contractors mobilized as quickly as possible, and sooner than most others, to begin the debris removal process. It was a strong priority to have those painful reminders of our residents’ losses removed so recovery could begin.” “When you ask me if I have a role model or someone I look up to,” Linda said. “I say, Merle. I see the love of Jesus in him and he is my best friend.” Winter 2018 | 11


12 | Lake Houston Business Matters


The Next Frontier continues development of 4,000 acres of land, introduces new businesses to Lake Houston’s footprint

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long the frontage road of Beltway 8 sits 4,000 acres of land where several tall buildings and multi-use developments continue to blossom, which previously could only be traversed by horseback or a helicopter. The land, covered with dense brush and trees, is now home to Generation Park, a master-planned commercial park. The official groundbreaking for Generation Park was held in May 2014 and ever since that momentous occasion, significant development and progress has ensued.



The northeast side of Houston has always been important to the McCord family. McCord Development, Inc., the developer of Generation Park, first started acquiring land along the Beltway 30 years ago. “My father (Rick McCord) was involved in the development of the Summerwood community which is contiguous to the parcel of land where Generation Park is now,” Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development said. “We purchased the land along the Beltway 30 years ago because we saw the potential and the natural beauty of the land.” McCord also touted the close proximity to downtown Houston, Bush IAH Airport and the 4,000 acres being the last large parcel of land in the northeast side available for development. The Lake Houston Area and northeast region continued to develop after Summerwood was completed, thus it became the perfect time to begin plans to build Generation Park. The northeast region was often overlooked by developers, which left McCord Development the opportunity to pioneer their investment and be the last large development along the Beltway in the Lake Houston Area. “The long-term potential of the Lake Houston Area is unprecedented,” McCord said. “With our development of Generation Park, we wanted to be good stewards of the land and be a positive impact on the residents.” Since the groundbreaking ceremony in 2014, numerous businesses have jumped at the chance to be a part of burgeoning growth in the Lake Houston Area contributing to more than $100 million of development around the intersection of Beltway 8 and Lake Houston Parkway.

14 | Lake Houston Business Matters

Generation Park

The Generation Park plan includes a combination of office space with retail and industrial spaces with residential plans included in the mix. “Generation Park provides a dignified place for businesses,” McCord said. “We aim to provide a business hub and center of gravity for Lake Houston so residents don’t have to go downtown for work or for entertainment such as dinner or retail.” In regards to industrial companies such as TechnipFMC and GHX Industrial, LLC, they have constructed facilities and call Generation Park home. They also currently have several deals signed with companies, which they could not disclose just yet due to contract negotiations, but McCord is excited about continuing to add various businesses to Generation Park, building their footprint in the Lake Houston Area. According to information provided by McCord Development, “Lockwood Business Park, located at 13300 Lockwood Road, encompasses 25 acres in total and broke ground in March 2017. GHX’s new facility will span 10 acres in the business park, opposite TechnipFMC’s 173-acre, multi-million-dollar campus. The 143,500-square-foot facility will include 121,000 square feet of warehouse and shop space and 22,500 square feet of office space. Next to TechnipFMC’s campus, San Jacinto College also purchased 57 acres for a new campus.” Additionally, McCord Development and Apache Industrial Services relocated their headquarters to office space in 250 Assay Square, which sits in Redemption Square, the hub of Generation Park, and will feature a fitness center, daycare center, luxury apartments and multiple hotels all on site. As Generation Park developed so did the Westlake Marketplace. The anchor, Kroger Marketplace, was one of the first to open as Old Navy, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, ULTA, PetSmart, Michael’s, Burlington, Dick’s, MOD Pizza, Chickfil-A and Whataburger — just to name a few — all followed suit. The few obstacles McCord foresees as development moves forward is what they are constructing is new to the submarket and building a multi-use economic center that is not like anything else in the area. “We have a lot of irons in the fire,” McCord said. “We want Generation Park to be the economic center for the Lake Houston

Area. With the apartments expected to open and construction on the hotel beginning in January 2018 as well the recent completion of Lone Star College-Kingwood’s Process Technology Campus; we bring a high-end lifestyle district to the Lake Houston Area. We have a lot of different things still in development and will serve the area with the best opportunities we can.”

The Future

While it is hard to measure the actual economic impact of Generation Park, the initial development of the multi-use development spurred exponential growth and businesses in the Lake Houston Area, which will only continue as time passes. “Our theme, ‘Live, Work, Play,’ encompasses our Lake Houston community as a whole,” McCord said. “This community is a diverse melting pot ranging in ages anywhere from 25-75, so we want to create a something for everyone in Generation Park.” In the future, McCord is currently working on a contract with a local restaurant to open in Generation Park as well as several others, retail, a bank and hotels. They don’t plan to disclose any additional information until all of the details are final. Just recently, Generation Park put together a presentation to submit to Amazon in a bid for the company to open a second headquarters in the development. They launched a website, sent a letter along with a wellthought out proposal to Amazon’s Office of Economic Development and encouraged the decision makers to make a trip to Generation Park’s campus to see for themselves the

development and why it would make a great location for their second headquarters. They launched a website and sent a letter along with a well-thought out proposal to Amazon’s Office of Economic Development and encouraged the decision makers to make a trip to Generation Park’s campus to see for themselves the development and why it would make a great location for their second headquarters. Unfortunately, on January 18 Amazon announced in a press release that Generation Park was not selected as a finalist for Amazon’s second headquarters. There were 238 communities that sent bids to Amazon for consideration. However, Austin and Dallas are both still in the running, so there’s still a chance that Amazon will be bringing 50,000 jobs to the state of Texas. “The Houston area is full of the entrepreneurial spirit, which is what we continue to strive to promote at Generation Park,” he said. Generation Park will continue to grow as more and more new businesses make the move to the Lake Houston Area. They’ll also continue to prove that they are the perfect development for first class business, retail and residential options for Lake Houston and surrounding communities. “We’re in this for the long haul and we’re just getting started,” McCord said. “We love what we do.” In the end, the story for Generation Park and its development as well as the economic footprint for the Lake Houston Area is one that continues to develop and will be the story of the region’s growth and opportunities. Winter 2018 | 15


Highlighting successful Lake Houston Area entrepreneurs

BUILDING ON PRINCIPLES Tri-Point stays true to core values for steady expansion BY JERRY LAMARTINA | PHOTOS BY HOPE PHOTOGRAPHY

Bobby Daniel started working in construction right out of C.E. King High school in Houston, and he has stayed with it all these years. “I really enjoyed using my hands and building things,” Daniel said. “I felt a lot of gratification from seeing things manifest from my labor.” Daniel is 47 years old. He was born in Franklinton, Louisiana, moved with his family to Houston when he was 10 and grew up in East Houston. He was 35 and living in the Kingwood area when he

16 | Lake Houston Business Matters

started his own company in 2005, Kingwood-based TriPoint Construction Inc. He’s the company’s co-owner and operations manager, and his wife, Susan Daniel, also is coowner. “As my career evolved and I got into upper management with large construction companies, my workload became much larger and my capabilities had grown,” Daniel said. “During this process of managing a lot of work across the Gulf Coast region, I realized I was capable of doing this for myself. I was mainly going out and meeting with clients,

estimating the project and managing it through completion. I knew that I was capable of doing it, and I bet on myself.” His bet paid off. Tri-Point works in the commercial, industrial, municipal and retail market segments. He holds to three core values, which make TriPoint stand out from its competition: commitment, performance and quality. “We’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” Daniel said. “We always perform at a high level

and in a professional manner, and we deliver what we promise. And we always give and produce a quality product. We never walk away from the job and leave the client with anything they can be unhappy with. We give them something they not only like but are proud of.” Tri-Point has posted growth of 20 percent to 30 percent every year for nine of the past 10 years, and between 30 percent and 40 percent last year because it expanded in Texas and into Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska. “Our business model is developing relationships with large companies and becoming a preferred contractor,” Daniel said. “We are a relationship-based construction company. We don’t just run around bidding whatever jobs are out there to increase volume. We cultivate those relationships within large companies and perform at a high level to help our clients, whatever state they may need help in.” The challenge of his business is what motivates him in his work. “I love the process of being involved in something that’s conceptual and then creating something that people appreciate and are proud of,” Daniel said. The Lake Houston Area has supported Tri-Point in that goal, and most of its roughly 40 employees live in the area. “It’s a very family-oriented community,” Daniel said. “It almost has a small-town feel with a large population. People tend to want to help each other when they know they’re from the same community.” The company recently finished building a 7,000-square-foot office building on three acres, which will serve as Tri-Point’s new home office, located at 8810 FM1960 Bypass West in Humble. The key thing Daniel wants people in the Lake Houston Area to know about Tripoint is it’s “a company with high integrity.” “Our core values speak for themselves,” Daniel said.

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Highlighting successful Lake Houston Area entrepreneurs

‘L.A. LAW’ to TEXAS LAW Randolph offers one-stop-shop for Lake Houston Area legal services Jonathan Randolph always knew he wanted to be a lawyer, but he never liked the stigma that went with the profession. “Back in the day, I watched ‘L.A. Law,’ and what intrigued me as a 12-year-old was the banter involved in it and winning the arguments,” Randolph said. After graduating from the South Texas College with a law degree, Randolph was recruited by a Kingwood law firm for litigation work. A Woodlands firm recruited him to run its litigation department, at better pay and benefits, but it required a one-hour daily commute.

18 | Lake Houston Business Matters


He and his wife had two young children at the time, and he decided he wanted to spend more time with them. Randolph decided to open up his own practice, The Randolph Law Firm, PLLC in the Lake Houston Area in 2009. Later, a friend of Randolph’s who was a certified public accountant bought a building in Humble and had an idea: why not have other professionals in the same building — a lawyer, an insurance agent and a financial adviser — so when his CPA clients come to see him, he can also refer them to these other professionals?

Randolph loved the idea, and his wife encouraged him to do it, so he moved his firm to his friend’s office in the summer of 2016. His one-stop-shop approach to practicing law makes his firm stand out among his competition. He loves his work because it enables him to balance his professional and family life. “I’ve been a litigator for the past 12 years or so, and I’ve seen a lot of nightmare situations,” Randolph said. “So I market myself as a litigator with a passion for helping individuals and small businesses do their planning to avoid litigation.” The Randolph Law Firm’s main practice areas are business law planning, residential and commercial real estate, estate planning and administration, and litigation. Randolph prides himself most on his integrity and honesty. “My approach is: here are the things we can do to protect you,” Randolph said. “The four areas of law I practice have so much overlap and they all fit together nicely. We focus on the totality of the circumstances and plan for worst-case scenarios.” Randolph was born and raised in Beaumont, and moved to Houston in 2002 to attend college. He moved to Kingwood in 2008 after his best friend from law school and his wife moved there. “I loved [the Lake Houston Area], and I decided to buy a house here,” Randolph said. [This area] is wonderful. What I like best about it is the community.” Randolph truly loves his profession in that he gets to help people with their problems every day. “I call myself a professional problem solver,” Randolph said. “I work with puzzles, so I get to help everyone who comes into my office improve their situation. It’s also my legacy for my kids: work hard, be honest, do what’s right, and things are going to be fine.”

Hope Photography

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RECOV Harvey after

Government, businesses, nonprofits and neighbors pitch in for recovery BY JERRY LAMARTINA & MORGAN MCGRATH • PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY SKIES PHOTOGRAPHY

More than 16,000 homes and more than 3,300 businesses were affected by the rainfall and flooding of Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017 in the Lake Houston Area alone, according to the Small Business Association. According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Harvey was the “most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in United States history,” with some areas receiving record-breaking rainfall of up to 60 inches over six consecutive days in 41 Texas counties in the declared disaster area, from Corpus Christi to Houston to the Texas-Louisiana border. Now, six months after the storm, millions of Texans have started to rebuild their lives and their businesses, but the effects from Hurricane Harvey will be felt for many years to come. “After the hurricane hit, I initially did not realize the significant impact it was going to have on my business,” said Sophie Macey, owner of Bayou City Interpreting,

20 | Lake Houston Business Matters

LLC. “It wasn’t until the rains left, and the waters receded, that I fully understood what this meant for my business. Since schools were closed for several days, this meant my contractors would not have any income for the days missed. It meant that the districts would not be issuing checks for work that had already been provided. It meant my brand-new company would be knocked down, before it even had a chance to stand up.” After the storm, businesses and residences alike didn’t know where to turn. Mark Mitchell, president of the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership, had to act fast. A large part of Mitchell’s efforts centered on helping get information to business owners about legislation, grants and financing resources designed to help them survive the storm and thrive again. Mitchell, in partnership with the Lake Houston Area Chamber, conducted seminars in September, October and November to provide information about available resources and how to access them, including the SBA,

VERING LiftFund, Federal Home Loan Bank and local charities. “Receiving the loan from LiftFund was a true miracle in my eyes,” Macey said. “I had applied for grants, and unfortunately was denied. Just when I thought all hope might be lost, and with payroll just around the corner, LiftFund came through and saved the day. Literally. I received my loan the day before payroll was due. It felt incredible to find a company that truly believed in me, and saw to it that Harvey would not win.” On Sept. 29, the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 legislation was signed into law. It included provisions of a bill sponsored by Texas Rep. Kevin Brady (R-District 8) that provided tax relief for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. “The tax benefits and employee-retention credits provided are industry agnostic — restaurants, large manufacturers and anything in between,” Mitchell said. “If you paid your employees even though they couldn’t get to work, if you were able to send your employees to

secondary locations that weren’t affected, or if you used your employees to help with cleanup or reconstruction but you were closed, then you get a tax credit. Some companies fit all three.” The tax credit applies equally to all three scenarios, he said, and the tax credit is capped at $2,400 per employee. Businesses must prove they were in the disaster area and closed as a result of Harvey but still paid their employees. The storm’s aftermath and Lake Houston residents’ responses confirmed one of Mitchell’s long-held opinions about his city. “One of the things I’m really proud of about the Lake Houston Area is how neighbors got out and helped neighbors,” Mitchell said. “Our entire staff got out and volunteered, and there were couples and families going door to door to see if people needed help. People came from hundreds of miles away to provide support, and they came from Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and many other states.”

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Back To Business Campaign Immediately after the storm, the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce knew that the businesses affected by the flooding would need assistance. The LHA Back To Business program was born.

The program is focused on helping businesses who were affected by Hurricane Harvey recover and/or reopen. According to FEMA, 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster. The Chamber’s goal is to significantly lower that percentage in the Lake Houston Area. They also aim to instill confidence in residents about the business community’s resiliency and encourage them to help restart the local economy by using businesses in the Lake Houston Area. 22 | Lake Houston Business Matters

The Chamber contacted every business in the area that had to close their doors because of the flooding to offer them help in many ways, including recovery resources like getting permits filed with the proper entities, referring them to the Small Business Administration or LiftFund for business loans, or the Lake Houston Area Relief Fund. The Chamber also offered up office space in the Chamber board room and office supplies and office furniture donations that had been donated from the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Organization Management. Chamber staff also served as a conduit connecting businesses to local government services and helping them navigate the recovery process. As businesses are re-opening their doors, the Chamber has made a point to spread the news of their re-openings on social media using the hashtag, #LHABack2Biz. These posts have been and continue to be very well perceived by the Lake Houston Area community. Currently, our business community is well over the national average of retention after a natural disaster, exceeding 70 percent. As our community continues to recover, the Chamber plans to check up on local businesses on a monthly basis to provide assistance and resources for each stage of recovery and ensure that the economic climate in our area gets back to where it once was. For more information about the LHA Back To Business program, please visit or contact the Chamber at (281) 446-2128.

Recover Lake Houston: #PleaFor3LakeHouston Initiative

During Hurricane Harvey, more than 30 inches of rain fell in the Lake Houston Area, but that wasn’t the reason for the significant flooding in the area. In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, without warning or notice, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) released water from Lake Conroe at nearly 80,000 cubic feet per second. It washed silt, sand and debris from nearby sand mining operations into the river and Lake Houston. This caused multiple choke points along the river and resulted in a devastating loss of capacity for the river and the lake. Water was forced over the banks. Overnight, hundreds of calls were made for emergency evacuations as homes, businesses, nursing homes and schools began taking on water. The floods damaged more than 16,000 homes and 3,300 businesses in the Lake Houston Area alone and so far, the State of Texas has issued no plans regarding funding for either short-term or long-term remediation and/or prevention of future catastrophic flooding for the Lake Houston Area. The Lake Houston Area Long Term Recovery Task Force was formed by the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce to create a plan to help REBUILD the community and PREVENT future catastrophic flooding. They formed the campaign, Recover Lake Houston, in hopes that they can bring Winter 2018 | 23

Citizens Bank

Aaron Mechanical

24 | Lake Houston Business Matters

light to issues that would affect the Lake Houston Area in future flooding events. The first initiative of the Recover Lake Houston campaign is #PleaFor3LakeHouston, wherein three IMMEDIATE action steps have been identified by the committee: Remediation, Reduction and Representation. 1.REMEDIATION through full funding for dredging the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston and stricter regulation enforcement of legal and illegal sand mining operations along the river. 2. REDUCTION of the pooling level of Lake Conroe from 201 feet above sea level to 198 feet 3. REPRESENTATION on the San Jacinto River Authority Board — three governor appointed interim board members representing downstream communities to serve until legislation is passed to address the issue. The Chamber has asked the entire Lake Houston Area community to send a prewritten letter to their elected officials in hope it will get their attention to help remediate our flooded area. Houston City Council Member Dave Martin signed on in full support of our campaign, asking to set the goal of 20,000 letters sent from Lake Houston Area residents to their elected officials. This was followed by support from Dan Huberty State Representative of District 127; Lyle Larson, State Representative and Chair of the Natural Resources Committee of District 122; and Sen. Brandon Creighton of District 4. The City of Humble also passed a resolution unanimously in support of the Plea for Three initiative on Dec. 14, 2017. It is of utmost importance that the entire Lake Houston Area community come together to help prevent future flooding in the area. At this point, if nothing is done, the next storm or heavy rainfall will flood the Lake Houston Area. For more information and to easily send an email to all the state officials, go to, or contact the Chamber at (281) 446-2128.


HELP OTHERS DURING AND AFTER HARVEY While Hurricane Harvey was wreaking havoc on Lake Houston Area residents and businesses, those who were able stepped in and helped wherever they could. While we can never tell all those stories, the following are just a few examples.

Providing relief: The Lake Houston Area Relief Fund

The day Kingwood flooded from Hurricane Harvey, Corinn Price started thinking about how she could help her fellow residents. Price is director of community involvement for Insperity, a Kingwood-based human resources outsourcing company. Insperity formed an employee funding program in 2004, “and I thought if we could do something similar communitywide, we could help a lot of people,” Price said. Price called Jenna Armstrong, president and CEO of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce, and Millie Garrison, executive director of Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM), and the Lake Houston Area Relief Fund was born. Insperity pledged $1 million to the Fund, which has since then raised $1.6 million. HAAM administered the fund. The Fund was able to assist more than 400 residents and more than 50 businesses in the Lake Houston Area. The community’s reaction to the storm’s devastation was incredible,” Price said. “We all feel very blessed to be here. It’s a very closeknit community.” Corinn Price

Feeding the need: The Hometown Chef Catering Co.

Tiffany and Julio Avila, husband-andwife owners of The Hometown Chef Catering Co. in Lake Houston, quickly saw the need to help after Hurricane Harvey and cooked up a plan. They came to their kitchen and worked with the Chamber to provide Julio and Tiffany Avila free meals to local church shelters, police stations and fire stations for almost a week after the storm hit. “A lot of areas around us were flooded,” Tiffany Avila said. “We also went to some of the police and fire stations, and we organized with the East Montgomery County Improvement District to provide meals for another two months. We did it free for the local community right after the hurricane, but the District paid us for 400 meals a day, which we dropped off at people’s houses in our catering vans. The community pulled together, used their resources and gave of their time and effort.”

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Vaughn, Walgreens help after Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Lake Houston Area, Terry Vaughn took action. Vaughn is district manager of pharmacy and retail operations for Walgreens in the Lake Houston Area. Vaughn helped set up a shelter at the Civic Center when flood waters ravaged the surrounding areas. About 150 people came with Terry Vaughn what they could carry. Most had left their medications at home, so he and other Walgreens employees delivered medications to patients. A 24-hour Walgreens in Vaughn’s district was the only Walgreens between there and the Gulf of Mexico that stayed open throughout the hurricane. “Emergency rooms as far away as 100 miles were sending people to us,” Vaughn said. Vaughn and his team provided hepatitis A and tetanus vaccines to first responders and helped with rescue efforts. “We really did try to take care of as many people as we could and look out for one another,” Vaughn said.

Island of assistance: Chick-fil-A Fall Creek

Duane Johnston, owner/operator of Chick-fil-A Fall Creek, and his wife, Erica Johnston, marketing director, are fortunate that their business and their home are in a part of the Lake Houston Area that was relatively unaffected by Hurricane Harvey. “The phrase was coined that we became an island — dry, with flooding all around us,” Duane Johnston said. “The only thing we had was chicken, so we called our leadership team who we knew could get to our restaurant safely, and we got to work.”

Duane Johnston (far left) with members of the Humble Police Department.

Center Point Energy


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They first brought food to first responders and then to those running shelters. They delivered over 300 sandwiches that first day, got help from friends and ended up providing 3,000 sandwiches. “It was a beautiful picture of community coming together to serve,” he said. “I’m proud to live and work in this community that is always looking out for one another instead of just looking out for themselves.”

Minuteman Press

Community Resource Credit Union

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Nicholas Stander • Owner of Stander & Company ver the course of his career, Nicholas Stander has worked at small, closely held businesses and big, publicly traded companies, so he’s familiar with the characteristics of both. Stander is originally from St. Bernard, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans. He moved to Houston in 2001 after graduating from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in management and a dualfocus MBA in management and finance. In 2013, he and his wife, Emily Stander, founded Stander & Company, a business services firm designed to support entrepreneurs. The company offers tax services, bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, commercial insurance, personal insurance and consulting. “We strive for a partnership with each of our clients to help their businesses succeed,” Nicholas Stander said. “We saw an opportunity to bring to entrepreneurs the best of both worlds. There’s a happy medium of taking a big-company structure but having the flexibility of a small business.” The Standers have three children: Caroline, age 12; Samuel, 9; and Patrick, 4. In January 2013, their middle child, Sam was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. DMD is a 100 percent fatal, genetic muscular disorder characterized by progressive muscular degeneration and weakness. The month following their child’s diagnosis, the


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Standers started a foundation called Sam’s Soldiers and have organized community events to raise money to help find a cure for the disease. So far, they’ve raised $130,000. In addition to the foundation they started, the Standers also participate in or support the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors; the St. Mary Magdalene school board and church; Humble Area Assistance Ministries Finance Board; Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy – Duchenne Research; Women of Achievement; and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. The Lake Houston Area’s “feeling of community reminds me of home,” he said. “The area has brought us in to the fold and made us a part of the family. We are in it together and hope to do our small part to make the area great.” Stander likes to spend time with his family in his spare time and play guitar, woodworking and lots of reading. He loves his work because he loves what entrepreneurs do. “Our passion is for entrepreneurship, and we get to be a part of it each day,” he said. “Small business is an absolutely critical part of the local economy and we are lucky enough to help to make it thrive in our community. How much better could it get?”


Noel Cardenas • COO of Memorial Hermann Northeast fter spending more than 30 years in the military, Noel J. Cárdenas searched for a job that aligned with the values that became important to him during his long years of service to this country. In August 2015, Cardenas became the vice president of operations for Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital. “As I was transitioning from the military when I retired, I was looking for a health care system that had similar values and focus toward patients and serving them,” Cardenas said. “It’s been a good and smooth transition because my beliefs and values are very close to the values I got in the military and my upbringing: service to others, integrity and honor.” Cárdenas is a distinguished military graduate of the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and he received a master’s in health administration from Baylor University. Cardenas spent more than 27 years on active duty in the U.S. Army’s medical service corps, advancing through the ranks and retiring as a colonel. He had three combat stints in Operation Desert Storm and two tours in Iraq. He also spent three years with the Texas National Guard. From his military service to his health care service, Cárdenas keeps clear goals in mind. “As I’ve transitioned to Memorial Hermann Northeast, the main thing I want is for our patients to have a positive, memorable experience and to trust us,” Cardenas said. Cárdenas is involved in numerous local organizations, including as a Greater Lake Houston YMCA board member and the Greater Lake Houston American Heart Association Heart Walk chairman. He is also currently in the Leadership Lake Houston program, facilitated by


the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. Cárdenas is 52. He was born and raised in Weslaco, Texas. He and his wife, Cristi Cárdenas, have been married 28 years. The have two sons, Andrew and Noah, and a daughter, Kristian — all three “Army brats,” he said. His desire to work in health care started as a young child. “One of my uncles was a doctor and another was a pharmacist,” Cardenas said. “My deepest passion is taking care of people and serving them. I learned that from my dad.” With his roots in Texas, there is truly no other place he would want to settle his family after his military service. “I love Texas, and I’ve grown to love [the Lake Houston Area],” Cardenas said. “The most important piece is the people. The biggest thing that made me realize it was after [Hurricane] Harvey and the devastation in the Houston area, and to see how the community has come together and the outpouring of help for one another. It really reminded me a lot of the military life, where regardless of where you were assigned in the U.S. or overseas, it was family taking care of family.”

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Michelle Bonton • Principal & Founder of The Rhodes School ative Houstonian Michelle Bonton knew when she was a middle schooler that she wanted to start a school of her own. Bonton’s inspiration came from actress Cicely Tyson’s portrayal of Chicago schoolteacher Marva Collins in the 1981 movie, “The Marva Collins Story.” “Out of the detours of having a child prior to finishing high school, dropping out, coming back and then going to college, I became a teacher, a school counselor, an assistant principal and a principal,” Bonton said. In 2007, Bonton founded The Rhodes School, a fine arts magnet charter school with art, dance, drama and classical music as part of its core curriculum. The school’s foundational principles are scholarship, leadership and citizenship. The tuition-free school’s flagship campus is in Humble with additional campuses across the greater Houston area. “The mission of the school is to produce critical thinkers who have the ability to lead, to be academically well prepared and have strong character,” Bonton said. “There’s a lot of conversation with the kids and the parents about personal responsibility, the role you must play in your own success and how that success is related to the success of all.” The students do a lot of community performances so that they may “understand that their gifts and skills have an economic value,” Bonton said. “We teach them how all these different art forms have principles related to each core subject area.” Bonton received a bachelor’s degree in professional


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writing from the University of Houston-Downtown and a master’s in counseling from Prairie View A&M University. She is currently working on a master’s degree in school leadership at Stephen F. Austin State University and plans to start a doctoral program in education policy at Lamar University. Bonton is a member of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce’s Public Affairs Committee; a volunteer with the East Harris County Empowerment Council; and a 23-year member of Living Word Fellowship Church, where she is a women’s ministry leader, Sunday school teacher and special events coordinator. She also is a former youth Bible study teacher at her church. Bonton is a former member of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce, a former public policy analyst for Fox News Houston and a former volunteer education policy specialist for Texas Legislative District 142 during the 83rd legislative session. Bonton has three children, Richard, 34, who’s running for the District 142 seat in the Texas House of Representatives, and Brandon, 32, a naval officer and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; Ashley Miller, 29, a speech language pathologist; and seven grandchildren. Bonton and her husband, Ellis Bonton, have been married for 32 years. In her spare time, Bonton loves “to read and study the word of God and spend time with my husband.” “I am called to positively impact the lives of children,” Bonton said. “It is my purpose in life and my passion, starting with my own kids.”

Memorial Hermann

Kingwood Medical Center