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Lake Houston

WINTER R 2019

BUSINESS MATTERS Citizen of the Year:

JESS FIELDS Owner of Rosewood Funeral Home

CITY OF HUMBLE Laying the Groundwork for Future Development

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table of

contents 6

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR Jess A Fields, Sr.

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 LakeHouston.org.

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

CHAMBER LEADERSHIP

12 14 18

CITY OF HUMBLE Making strides for incoming developments

COMING SOON Park development in Precinct 2

NEW MUSIC SCENE IN THE LAKE HOUSTON AREA

Chair of the Board Sam Schrade DNA Studios Chair Elect Terry Vaughn Walgreens President & CEO Jenna Armstrong, IOM Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce

EDITORIAL STAFF Editor in Chief Morgan McGrath – mmcgrath@lakehouston.org

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HOMEGROWN

26

CITY OF HUMBLE

28

K&S Sportswear

Diversifying its revenue stream

IN THE KNOW Economic Development Partnerships

ON THE COVER Jess A. Fields, Sr., President and CEO of Rosewood Funeral Home, is the 2018 Haden McKay MD Citizen of the Year.

Contributing Writers Tom Broad — broadtom@hotmail.com Steve Hale — shale@metromediapublishers.com Director of Production Ryan Moore – rmoore@metromediapublishers.com Photographer Angi Lewis Photography - angi@angilewis.com (281) 224-1542

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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


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FIELDS OF DEVOTION

Jess Fields, Sr., joins father and brother as Citizen of the Year BY STEVE HALE PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE FIELDS FAMILY

Jess, Sr., and Varda Fields 6 | Lake Houston Business Matters


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Two defining characteristics invariably come to the forefront when the conversation turns to Jess A. Fields, Sr., President and CEO of Rosewood Funeral Home and Rosewood Memorial Park Cemetery—the man is a community servant in the truest sense of the term, and back in the day the guy sure could throw a football. It so happens these days Jess Fields is being talked about a lot in the Lake Houston Area and in civic, faith and business circles across the Houston metro. The Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce announced Fields was formally recognized as the 2018 Haden McKay MD Citizen of the Year during the organization’s Annual Awards Extravaganza presented by Chick-fil-A Wilson/Beltway 8 in January. Fields was caught off guard when the Citizen of the Year announcement was made at the Chamber’s November luncheon. Quite likely he was the only one in the room who was the slightest bit surprised. Humble native and Humble High School graduate Jess Fields is widely acknowledged as the personification of the award’s namesake, family physician and longtime Humble Mayor Dr. McKay who died in 1996. The award’s intent is to recognize Lake Houston residents whose service to community is sincere and selfless. “I know Jess cares very deeply for the greater Humble community and particularly for the youth of the area, so I’m not surprised,” said older brother and former Congressman Jack Fields, Jr. “When you step up in the community and take on leadership roles as a volunteer, that’s what makes America great. Jess is representative of the greatest in America.” Such powerful accolades for the award recipient have added significance coming from Congressman Fields in no small part due to their being close-knit bothers who grew up together, played sports together and for many years worked together in the family business. Now they share an exemplary accomplishment along with their father. Jack Fields, Sr., who took the reins of the Rosewood business from his parents shortly after World War II, received the Citizen of the Year designation in 1972. Jack Fields, Jr., was recipient of the award in 2001. Like father, like sons. The third Fields to receive Citizen of the Year distinction is testament to the family’s commitment to serving others. “I can tell you Jess was thrilled,” said his wife, Varda Fields, of her husband becoming Citizen of the Year. “To him this was really about honoring his father. That meant more to him than

anything else.” Robert Sitton, himself a Citizen of the Year recipient and past chair of the Chamber, said Jess Fields being the third of the same family to receive the award should not be construed as a legacy gift. In his estimation, the scope of Fields’ civic engagement and business acumen over the past several decades is a singular accomplishment and this latest distinction might well be considered a “lifetime achievement award.” “Each of these men in their time brought something totally different to the table,” said Sitton. “The award is well deserved by all three.” Fields has no pretenses about his following the lead of his father in terms of both the success of the family owned business and his commitment to service. “I had a wonderful teacher in my dad,” acknowledged Fields. “I used to see him go to school board meetings, to Chamber meetings, to Rotary meetings. He said to always remember our community is one of the most important things we do. First God; second family. But our community is so very critical in our everyday lives. As a young boy I learned about serving.” Fields has absolutely lived up to such family influenced expectations. Certainly his involvement with the Lake Houston Area Chamber has been prolific. He has served as chairman of the Chamber and in that capacity orchestrated and led efforts to remodel the Chamber building. For many years Fields accepted the lead role in the Chambers’ membership drives. He is an advocate and supporter for the Lake Houston Area Economic Development Partnership. That’s just for starters. The breadth of service organizations, youth groups, not-for-profits and professional associations Fields has been and, in most cases, continues to be involved with in a leadership capacity is far beyond the norm for anyone considered a public servant. Just try to mention this partial list of Fields’ community endeavors in one breath: Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Humble Rotary. Pasadena Rotary. The Rose Cancer Clinic. Texas Invitational McDonalds Basketball Tournament. Board of Regents of the Texas Chiropractic College. Northeast Hospital Board Authority. Texas Cemetery Association. Texas Funeral Commission (appointed by Gov. Rick Perry). YMCA. Humble High School Alumni Association. Humble ISD Education Foundation. Pasadena ISD Education Foundation. The Pasadena ISD recently named Fields its 2018 Distinguished Citizen of the Year, which was expected to also be formally bestowed in January. The Humble FFA as

WHEN YOU STEP UP IN THE COMMUNITY AND TAKE ON LEADERSHIP ROLES AS A VOLUNTEER, THAT’S WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT. JESS IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GREATEST IN AMERICA.

JACK FIELDS, JR.

Winter 2019 | 7


recently as 2018 and the Pasadena FFA have both separately recognized Fields as a distinguished honoree, in no small part to his ongoing support for their respective organizations and his ongoing legacy for scholarship-oriented purchases at their respective annual livestock auctions. Fields has also given the Lake Houston Area a voice in regional and state-level discussions. For nearly a decade he has represented the area as a director on the Harris County Sports Authority where, among many contributions, he helped negotiate a new contract with the Houston Astros and worked to help the city obtain its first professional soccer franchise, the Dynamo. He now plays an active role in efforts to bring World Cup Soccer to Houston in 2026. Fields’ involvement with the Sports Authority is in line with an inherent enjoyment for athletics. The aforementioned talent with a football comes from the time Fields threw touchdowns in Turner Stadium in the late ’60s and early ’70s and attended Baylor University on a football scholarship. Injuries (three knee surgeries before his second year at Baylor) curtailed his playing time, but did absolutely nothing to obscure his legendary status as one of the greatest passing quarterbacks and multi-sport standouts to come out of Humble High. 8 | Lake Houston Business Matters

“Jess had the attitude it didn’t matter how far we were behind we were going to win the game,” said brother Jack, who as a senior at Humble played center and snapped the ball to his younger brother. “He was very calm and could execute under pressure. He was fearless. The guys absolutely loved him. If Jess hadn’t got hurt he would have taken our team to the state championship.” Fields does not shy away from acknowledging his football days, doing so to emphasize his college education was financed by a football scholarship and hard work. At the time the Fields family did not have the financial capacity to put two sons through college. He and Jack both earned money for college by going door to door across northern Houston selling plots in Rosewood Cemetery. “Through all that I learned God had something bigger and better in store for me than football,” Fields said. Fields came back to work in the family business after receiving his BBA in Management at Baylor. At that time the business was the cemetery only. The family developed their first funeral home in 1980 and then acquired Humble Funeral Home in 1987. Jack Sr. passed away in 1990 and Jack Jr., having changed his career path after his years as congressman,


sold his ownership interests in Rosewood to his brother in 2002. Fields has been the driving spirit responsible for the ongoing growth of the family business. Rosewood is comprised of four funeral homes — Humble, Porter, Pasadena and the newly opened Atascocita location ― along with two cemeteries and a separately owned and operated cremation facility. More than 70 people are employed by the Rosewood enterprise. Fields oversees what is widely considered the largest independently owned funeral operation in Texas and one of the largest in the nation. “Jess is one of the smartest business minds I know,” said Jack Fields, Jr. “In terms of spirit he is one of the most gentle, caring people you could ever meet. In his business caring and compassion are important. He is with families at their worst hours, giving condolences and encouragement and being a friend.” Barbara Knox, Senior Vice President at Rosewood and Fields’ personal assistant for more than 25 years, considers him a man of vision whose willingness to help others comes naturally and is repeatedly demonstrated in spontaneous acts of kindness and passion. “He is a visionary type of businessman who understands what he wants to do and then talks to his staff about how we’re going to get there,” said Knox. “I respect him. The staff respects him. And he has trust in the staff to take care of the business and to move things forward during the times he is involved in the community.”

Fields is unable to downplay the amount of time and commitment he devotes to the Lake Houston community. Facts are facts. But he considers such involvement an investment both for the business and for his personal sense of civic consciousness. “When you’re having fun and you’re doing the right thing, you don’t really think about how much time it’s taking,” said Fields. “You’re thinking it’s a pleasure serving others. Fields is a man of devout faith and is active in his church, the Second Baptist Church Kingwood. He considers the Rosewood business to be a “higher calling” and the service provided to residents of the community he loves to be a true ministry. “I’ve always viewed the business as my ministry,” acknowledged Fields. “Maybe if I hadn’t got involved in this business I might have been a pastor. As we have grown Rosewood, we’ve expanded our ministry to help and serve families in need.” Fields gives no indication whether eight years from now in 2027, when Rosewood observes its 100th anniversary as a Lake Houston Area business, what his role will be. To date he’s been in the business for 40 years and is enjoying time with Varda and four grandchildren. He has two sons, Jess Jr., and Jay, the former who has joined the family business. “It’s always been [mine and] my family’s goal, when we are in a position to help someone in any way, we’re going to go the extra mile and make it happen,” Fields said. “We live in such a great, vibrant community. It’s been such a pleasure living here, working here and having fellowship in this area.”

Winter 2019 | 9


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LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT The City of Humble is open for business BY TOM BROAD

S

ometimes it’s the things you can’t see with the biggest impact on a city. “We’re investing in what you don’t see, almost $100 million over the last 10 years,” Merle Aaron, Mayor of the City of Humble said. That $100 million has gone into basics – streets, drainage, utilities. “Frankly, we’re laying the groundwork for future development,” Aaron said, “and that’s quite a shift for Humble 12 | Lake Houston Business Matters

as we contemplate where we want our City to go next.” Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe estimates that there are several thousand acres of undeveloped land within the City’s limits. “This land is ready for development because of the core improvements we’ve made,” Stuebe said. As they update and improve their infrastructure, City officials also understands the importance of working with local businesses. After Hurricane Harvey, for example, the City


worked closely to help established Humble businesses re-open their doors. “At least 60 businesses within city limits were affected by Hurricane Harvey,” recalls Mayor Aaron. “We worked with them, helped them go through the permitting process, streamlined the process and waived fees as we assisted them in rebuilding and reopening their businesses.” The City also is appreciative for businesses with roots in Humble. “With the presence of Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital, we’ve really become a health care mecca for Lake Houston,” Stuebe said. “We’re proud to have Memorial Hermann in our community. In addition to the exceptional health care they bring to Humble and to Lake Houston, they have provided the spark to create what we call a medical cluster that is being developed within Humble, attracting first-rate medical professionals and facilities that ultimately benefit the entire region.” By making all those infrastructure improvements, the City is confident it can attract and retain additional industries as well. With the help of the Lake Houston Area Chamber and the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership, for example, Humble has nominated CDI Energy Products as an enterprise project through the Texas Enterprise Zone Program. CDI is an Humble-based designer, manufacturer and processer of high-quality, high-performance seals and

components for the oil and gas industry. Companies must be sponsored by a City and by receiving enterprise zone designation, CDI would be eligible to receive State sales and use tax refunds. “This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” says Mayor Aaron, “and while we’re competing with other cities making similar requests, we’re confident that we’ll be successful.” Stuebe said, in addition to the infrastructure improvements, the enterprise zone designation is “…an excellent tool in our economic tool box that will encourage private investment and create jobs in our area, perhaps 100 new jobs.” In his research, Stuebe discovered that the average wage threshold for companies to qualify for the Texas EZ Program is $67,000 per position and CDI should meet that criteria based on their engineering and high-tech processing positions at the facility. Humble as well as Lake Houston will benefit with those types of wages existing, in addition to new jobs. “Now that we’ve worked with the EDP on one designation, we can work with them on future possibilities,” says Mayor Aaron. “This is the perfect time to think about the future. With our infrastructure pretty much in place and the improvements we’ve made and continue to make in our zoning laws, we can take a deep breath and decide where we go next. Humble is undergoing a renewal. We’re rethinking about what we want to be. Where we want to be.”

Winter 2019 | 13


ATASCOCITA PARK Preserved greenspace groomed to fit community for generations STORY BY STEVE HALE PHOTOS PROVIDED BY HARRIS COUNTY PRECINCT 2

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s long as just about anyone can remember – and per maps dating as far back as 1944 – there‘s been a scenic, two-and-a-half acre pond hidden in the back woods of Atascocita. That pond is about to get some longoverdue attention. The neighborhoods of fast-growing Atascocita will soon have access to a 20-acre natural park featuring trails, a playground, covered picnic shelter house, dog parks and a picturesque pond with big Cyprus trees and unique views. A boardwalk along the main trail will traverse the pond, giving walkers, joggers and cyclists a chance to gaze across water and grounds perpetually protected from future residential of commercial development. “I’m extremely excited because it’s nice to be part of something you know is going to be around 100 years,” said Kyle Kelley, parks director at Harris County Commissioner Precinct 2. “To be among the first who gets to put their hands 14 | Lake Houston Business Matters

on it, that’s really cool.” Harris County Precinct 2 recognized the need to preserve greenspace in Atascocita and led the effort to the purchase the site in early 2017 before rising property values made the cost prohibitive. The county acquired the property — located just south of the intersection of West Lake Houston and Will Clayton parkways — for $5.2 million. An additional $4.2 million will be spent building infrastructure and the first two phases of what is by design an evolving, multi-phase project influenced by community input. Residents have already had a say in Atascocita Park’s design and features. An online survey gave clear indication the community wanted the property to include a dog park. Precinct officials responded accordingly, purchasing an additional 1.8 acres at the southwest corner of the site. The dog park will have designated parking and separate areas for small and large dogs.


Kelley said weather — most notably a hurricane named Harvey — has delayed development of Atascocita Park but in doing so will result in phases one and two be completed at approximately the same time. His expectation for a park opening, weather permitting, is July 2019. The amenities of Atascocita Park are framed in the natural features of the property. Some trees were cleared to make way for a half-mile, concrete main trail and various feeder trails, but steps were taken to save as many trees as able. Kelley said people “are going to be blown away” by a 12,000-square-foot playground comprised of both modern equipment and an area for natural play features. A covered picnic area will comfortably accommodate 15 tables. In addition to the boardwalk, viewing decks will provide different perspectives of the pond. Restrooms will be housed in the building that also serves maintenance and storage purposes. Atascocita Park will have primary parking for 126 cars, but its location will make it accessible by foot to hundreds of residents as well as students and staff at nearby Atascocita High School. Kelley said input from across the precinct has been positive and enthusiastic. “I feel fortunate to get to work with a commissioner who has been very instrumental in making sure we get a park up here and to do things the right way,” Kelley said. “We’ve listened to the community and built this park based on its needs. We don’t know what phase 3 is going to look like and won’t until we get a feel for the park and how it flows and get more feedback. That’s really important. This park is for the people.”

Winter 2019 | 15


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A FUTURE FILLED WITH PERFORMING ARTS IN THE HEART OF HUMBLE There’s an exciting new vibe in the heart of Humble STORY BY TOM BROAD PHOTOS PROVIDED BY CITY OF HUMBLE

O

ne day, in the not-so-distant future, folks throughout Lake Houston planning a night out will check first to find out what’s going on at The Bender. That’s the dream of Jennifer Wooden, director of The Bender which, officially, is called the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center, the refurbished and revitalized former Bender High School near Historic Downtown Humble. Wooden is working hard to make her dream come true. She’s shaped a full season’s schedule of programs for 2019 that she expects will mesmerize and entice Lake Houston to spend an evening or two a month at The Bender. 18 | Lake Houston Business Matters

Built in 1929 as Charles Bender High School, The Bender was renovated, refurbished and refreshed with a lot of love and care under the direction of former Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes and the Humble City Council. It now is the performing arts center for Humble and the entire Lake Houston area. Close to 7,000 guests have oohed and awed at the art deco lighting, the wood-stained columns, and the original hardwood floors on the stage – and at the diverse performances on that same stage. “I’ve made an effort to diversify what we offer at The Bender,” says Wooden. “Oldies music, current music, classical. I have a passion for dance, so I’ve brought in those groups as well.”


Wooden also listens closely to what her audience is asking for. “I’m always looking for new performers, but it’s nice to bring back the performers that people love,” Wooden said. “That’s why we’re bringing back popular performers such as Rob Landis, the Fab 5 and Kenny Neal, but I love to have our audience give suggestions, too.” The number of people attending Bender performances is growing. It’s not uncommon for most seats to be filled for many performances. “I just love to be in the crowd at intermission,” Wooden said. “People are in awe of the performers and The Bender, too. They always say they had no idea this jewel was in the middle of Humble.” However, Bender is not the only up-and-coming scene in the City of Humble. Music On Main was born from a long-time vision of downtown Humble resident and owner of CLJ Risk Management, Chelsey Hall. Chelsey, who has a passion for music, and owner of Key Realtors, Gwen Key Willis, who enjoys community events, joined forces to transform the vision into a free outdoor concert for the Humble area to enjoy. From March through December, every 2nd Friday of the month, Music On Main showcases local artists and bands to perform at Uptown Park. It is a family friendly event where people can bring their lawn chairs, listen to live music and dance the night away.

The City of Humble, local businesses and Humble residents have shown continuous support which have helped Music On Main grow in attendance month after month. Wooden is expecting Lake Houston audiences to be especially in awe when The Bender hosts The LaBamba Show in March featuring Ritchie Valens Tribute Artist Sting Ray Anthony and other remarkable shows and displays. “Student art this year will be displayed in The Bender Lobby, and one unique program coming in 2019 is The Humble Voice, a take-off of the popular television show,” Wooden said. “The winner will perform with the celebrity singers at the Humble Rodeo.” “We live by our mission,” says, Wooden, “inspired by the power of the arts, we engage, entertain, challenge and enrich the lives of everyone in our community through live performances from classical to contemporary.” And Wooden throws down a challenge to Lake Houston residents and businesses, “Visit us once. You’ll love us. You’ll be back.” For the full line-up of performers at the Bender Performing Arts Center, go to www.humblepac.com. For for upcoming concerts and announcements, or to submit your music for consideration to perform at Music on Main, visit www.facebook.com/livemusiconmain.

Winter 2019 | 19


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The K&S Sportswear team, from left: Sarah Miller, Rachal Rodriguez, Brittney Mittag, Katy Weirich and Steve Weirich

Family drive and community ties define K&S Sportwear BY STEVE HALE PHOTOS BY ANGI LEWIS PHOTOGRAPHY

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Y

ou normally hear tales about parents convincing their adult kids it’s time to move out of the house. Here’s one about adult kids helping the parents move out of the garage. Such is the overly simplified story of K&S Sportwear LLC, an Humble-grown business started by an enterprising couple who gratefully— if not a bit unexpectedly – has handed the reins to a daughter with equally energetic business acumen and deep roots in the Lake Houston community. Katy and Steve Weirich started K&S Sportswear in 1995 when both had careers but fostered doubts about sustaining themselves financially in their retirement years. A bit of research combined with roll-up-the-sleeves perseverance resulted in the formation of K&S Sportwear, a screen printing, embroidery and promotional products company serving Humble, Atascocita and neighboring communities. K&S has customers across Houston, the state of Texas and beyond. From modest beginnings in a makeshift office in a spare bedroom and then to the more spacious garage, the Weirich’s literally hit the streets to make K&S Sportwear known. The couple handed out business cards to anybody and everybody and used local networking resources to connect with prospective customers. Quality product, meeting deadlines and attention to detail resulted in satisfied customers, positive referrals and an ever-expanding business. On top of it all, the Weirichs enjoyed the work. “This is a fun industry to be in,” said Katy. “Every customer who walks in the door has a different and customized request. It’s not like we’re doing the same thing over and over. It’s fun and unique and we get to help a lot of people with really special projects.” Now another member of the Weirich family is running the show. Daughter Brittney Mittag, who literally grew up with the business, manages K&S Sportswear along with her longtime friend, Sarah (Otis) Miller. As natural as the transfer from family to family might seem, Steve and Katy were not expecting Brittney to join the business after her graduation from Humble High School in 2004, earning

a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in 2008 and then embarking on a career in the corporate world. “About the time we were looking for an avenue for what we were going to do with the business, Brittney approached us and said she would like to take it over and run it,” said Steve. “Brittney and her husband, Jeremy, have done a great job of it. Shortly thereafter, Sarah fell into our laps. She and Brittney have been lifetime friends so it’s been a natural progression. We’re just blessed. It’s been a winwin for everybody.” Brittney’s homecoming with K&S Sportwear coincided with the company’s 20th year and mutual agreement a change was in order. The time had come to move beyond the garage. “Our growth strategy started by recognizing we needed to move out of Dad’s and Mom’s house if they were ever going to somewhat retire,” Brittney said. “Then it was to establish a presence - a physical presence - in the community.” Brittney said moving to a storefront location proved a boon. Increased visibility from the busy thoroughfare raised awareness of the company and has resulted in walk-in business the residential address could not accommodate. Still, the key to success at K&S Sportswear is less about the physical location as it is about the inherent emphasis on customer service. “If you treat people nicely and with respect and offer competitive pricing, they’re going to come back,” Brittney said. “The other part of it is Sarah and I grew up here. We played sports. We went to the local schools. Business is all about making contacts.” K&S Sportswear provides customized and logoed apparel for customers across the Houston metro ranging from schools, corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The Weirich family’s connection to and familiarity with area colleges and schools, particularly Humble ISD, has resulted in approved vendor status with a solid core customer base. The business’s deep-rooted connection to Humble schools was on full display in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Winter 2019 | 23


Steve and Katy Weirich, founders of K&S Sportswear

K&S Sportwear was at the point of a “Humble ISD Strong” T-shirt sales fundraiser. K&S ultimately presented a check for $33,000 to the Humble ISD Education Foundation Harvey Relief Fund. “Humble ISD Strong was a huge undertaking and we learned a lot,” Brittney said. “It was our way of giving back and it was something we were really proud to do.” Brittney and Sarah continue the Weirichs’ longstanding involvement in the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce as well as other area chambers. They consider Chamber involvement a value to both their business and the community. Brittney is a member of the steering committee for the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs and Professionals (YEP) group. Steve and Katy do come around the store from time to time, but their retirement gig is settling in just fine and the business is obviously in good hands. They’re especially pleased the legacy of quality and solid customer service remains the foundation of K&S Sportswear. Plus, the company’s name ensures they continue to be “connected” to the company. By the way… the reason the “K” for Katy came first when determining the name of the company? “We’ve been married for 35 years,” Steve laughed, “so you figure it out.” 24 | Lake Houston Business Matters

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26 | Lake Houston Business Matters


SALES TAX PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN CITY REVENUE Humble looks to diversify its revenue stream BY TOM BROAD

W

hen asked why the City of Humble is increasing property taxes, City Manager Jason Stuebe responds, “The question to ask is, why was our property tax so low in the first place?” Currently, the City of Humble “lives by the sales tax,” in the words of Humble Mayor Merle Aaron, and, again in his words, “…the sales tax just isn’t sustainable for Humble’s future.” Mayor Aaron points to the possibilities of another recession, a future Hurricane Harvey and online shopping that all have an impact when a city’s revenue to provide services is dependent on the sales tax. “We are unique in that our property tax is too low. To meet the demands that our citizens expect and deserve, and because we’re a small city, we need to think outside the box,” says Mayor Aaron. The City has been increasing Humble’s property tax incrementally over the last three years, according to Stuebe. “Frankly, we have a rather large population over age 65 which is exempt from our property tax,” says the Mayor. “so, we haven’t heard much criticism. It is a result, we think, of being honest and transparent about what is necessary.” The City understands that the sales tax will continue to play a role in providing revenue, Stuebe says, but Humble also needs to diversify its revenue stream. “The average city property tax is $300 to $350 a year,” Stuebe says. “Compare that to what you’re paying for your cable or cell phone bill over a year’s time and you can see that paying for city services is a bargain. In addition, we’ve kept our sewer and water bills low. No other city can offer the deal that we offer.” Stuebe believes that Humble residents and businesses understand the city isn’t doing “strange” projects but concentrating on core services. “Citizens accept and understand the need for raising property taxes in order to provide those core services of safety, infrastructure and transportation,” Stuebe said. Helping Humble’s current industries and bringing in new industries and jobs, Stuebe believes, is the best way to find new revenue streams for the city. “By looking ‘outside the box,’ we’re pursuing additional ways to supplement sales tax revenue,” says Stuebe. “Nominating CDI Energy Products as an Enterprise Zone is one way. If we are successful, that could add more than 100 new, well-paying jobs to Humble as well as a big boost in new property taxes.” Winter 2019 | 27


IN THE KNOW

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIPS WRITTEN BY MORGAN MCGRATH EDITED BY MARK MITCHELL

I

In an increasingly more competitive business environment, companies are constantly looking for ways to increase revenues and reduce operating costs. They have tough decisions to make in terms of how they stay competitive and maintain or grow their business. If a company needs new equipment to increase manufacturing capacity or has a need to hire more employees to 28 | Lake Houston Business Matters

expand the services they oďŹ&#x20AC;er, they must ask several questions like: does our company have the financial ability to purchase new equipment? Will this investment result in higher profits for the company? Should we finance the new equipment, or capitalize it internally? The list goes on. However, the majority of small to medium size companies are not aware of certain tax credits and business


incentive programs that are designed to allow their companies to offset some of their costs to grow. Unfortunately, many of these companies don’t take advantage of these incentives to their benefit. This is when the local economic development partnership comes in. Every state in the country offers some type of tax credit or business incentive that promotes cost offsets to companies while encouraging job creation and the addition

of new tax base. Most counties, cities and townships across the country also offer some form of economic development incentives to encourage and aid companies in maintaining or growing current operations and/or retaining existing jobs and creating new ones. The Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership was founded as a separate entity by the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce in 2012 in response to area leaders’ call for a formal economic development program focusing on the local and regional economy. The mission of the LHEDP is to facilitate new, world class employment opportunities and capital investment in the Lake Houston Area by collaboratively working on retaining, expanding and attracting commercial, industrial, manufacturing, distribution, logistics and professional service businesses. Last year, the CDI project became the first planned economic development deal in the City of Humble. Mark Mitchell, president of the LHEDP, was able to assist CDI in evaluating the viability of various incentives for opportunities that exist at a federal, state, county and municipal level and determining which ones were most appropriate for the company to pursue. Incentives can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a millions of dollars depending on the size of the project. This can mean the ability to stay competitive in a changing business climate or actually accelerating growth plans that increase capital spending and the creation of more new jobs. Incentives are typically tax related and require fulfilling eligibility criteria which can include specific industry classifications, corporate entity structure, minimum job creation levels, and capital spending minimums. In turn, the businesses that do take on projects with and EDP, usually result in boosting the economy and workforce in the area, which equals growth all around. LHEDP engaged with CDI in the planning process in early spring of 2018. This project has the potential for a $35 million expansion and increase of 100-120 new jobs for the Lake Houston Area. What’s next for the CDI Project? CDI still has a number of steps they must complete at a state level to secure and maximize the potential benefits available and the LHEDP continues to help the company in the process. The LHEDP was proud to partner with the City of Humble in helping move this project forward. The Lake Houston Area is poised for great planned growth over the next several years with developments like Generation Park and Air Parc 59 underway. The LHEDP helps existing companies in the Lake Houston Area as well as for companies looking to establish a new presence within the local community. If your company is interested in expanding in the area, contact Mitchell at (281) 446-2128 or mmitchell@lakehouston.org. Winter 2019 | 29


Angi Lewish Photography full


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Fresh campus, great education!

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Check out LSC-Kingwood’s renovated campus! In January, Lone Star College-Kingwood reopened five of its six buildings that were flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. The Library will reopen in March. The renovated campus has state-of-the-art equipment and technology that offers students a quality education. The college still offers over 60 areas of specialization including computers, education, engineering, fire science, healthcare, marketing, process technology, and more. Classes are available at the main campus, the LSCAtascocita Center, and the LSC-Process Technology Center. LoneStar.edu/Kingwood • 281-312-1600 • Affirmative Action/EEO College

Profile for Lake Houston Area Chamber

Winter 2019 Business Matters Magazine  

Winter 2019 Business Matters Magazine

Winter 2019 Business Matters Magazine  

Winter 2019 Business Matters Magazine

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