Legislators take fact-finding tour of Bay Area Houston

As the legislative tour of Bay Area Houston drew to a close, the crowd headed to the Houston Rodeo for an evening of fun, some stopped here for a photo on arrival at NRG Stadium. They are, from left, Fay Picard, Dr. Greg Bonnen’s district director; BAHEP President Bob Mitchell and Membership Director Harriet Lukee, Eliza and Rep. Dennis Paul; Cheryl and Rep. Wayne Faircloth; Kerri and Sen. Larry Taylor; Marie and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock; Rep. Ramone Romero; Kim Bonnen; Kathryn McLaurin of John Space Center and Kristyn Weaver, Sen. Taylor’s district director.

As the legislative tour of Bay Area Houston drew to a close, the crowd headed to the Houston Rodeo for an evening of fun, some stopped here for a photo on arrival at NRG Stadium. They are, from left, Fay Picard, Dr. Greg Bonnen’s district director; BAHEP President Bob Mitchell and Membership Director Harriet Lukee, Eliza and Rep. Dennis Paul; Cheryl and Rep. Wayne Faircloth; Kerri and Sen. Larry Taylor; Marie and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock; Rep. Ramone Romero; Kim Bonnen; Kathryn McLaurin of John Space Center and Kristyn Weaver, Sen. Taylor’s district director.

The Bay Area Houston/Galveston region has so many wonderful attributes, it’s difficult to paint a true picture when you’re away from home. You really have to show them.

The area exemplifies the type of business environment that attracts companies from all over the world. But in a state that covers 268,580 square miles, it’s difficult for anyone to full comprehend what any given region has to offer and the significance of those assets to the State of Texas.

So five of our area legislators – Sens. Larry Taylor and Sylvia Garcia and Reps. Greg Bonnen, Dennis Paul and Wayne Faircloth — hosted a fact-finding tour of the region March 5-7 that included state legislators, their chiefs of staff, legislative aides and guests.

The almost 60-member delegation participated in the trip that was coordinated by NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

As the Bay Area ranks third in the nation in boating, first stop after a reception hosted by Courtyard by Marriott was the Aquarium, where the Kemah Boardwalk and the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association hosted a dinner for the travelers, giving them a look at the quality of life and this region’s recreational and entertainment venues — often a deciding factor in any move, whether by a company or a family.

It’s all about space

Next, the legislators and their guests were given a personalized tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, including a look at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, briefings on the International Space Station, the Commercial Crew Program, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

They also visited NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where astronauts from across the globe train in a pool. No ordinary pool, the NBL tank is 202 feet in length, 102 feet wide, and 40 feet 6 inches deep, and contains 6.2 million gallons of water. The day concluded with a dinner at Space Center Houston, where the Houston Airport System presented a program on the future Houston Spaceport.

Galveston tour

Galveston, well known for its recreational amenities, is also the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston which was the first stop for a UTMB overview, followed by a tour of the Galveston National Lab, which provides much needed research space and specialized research capabilities to develop therapies, vaccines, and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases.

Closing out the Galveston tour, the group was given a presentation on Texas A&M at Galveston by USA Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Bill McClain. Dr. Bill Merrell, the TAMUG Marine Science chairman, then gave a brief overview on a hurricane storm surge protection system, a coastal spine, which has come to be known as the Ike Dike concept.

Col. Len Waterworth, TAMUG executive professor in the Department of Maritime Administration, followed with a detailed presentation. Sen. Larry Taylor and Rep. Joe Deshotel co-chair Texas’ Joint Interim Committee on Coastal Barrier Systems. BAHEP has been working with Merrell for over four years garnering support for a storm surge protection system.

To date, more than 30 cities and organizations have endorsed such a system for the region.

Tour has significance

This fact-finding tour was the first biennial tour that will coincide with each Texas legislative session. The Bay Area Houston/Galveston region’s sizeable economy impacts the entire state.

When bills need support to get to the floor of either chamber or when they come up for a vote, it’s crucial that legislators know the economic profile of a region well enough to make informed decisions that will affect all of Texas.

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