Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton speaks of Texans’ Opportunity to Lead

June 1st, 2019

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, right, congratulates Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton for an outstanding speech at the BAHEP meeting.

By Kathryn Paradis

Without the aid of PowerPoint or notes of any kind, not even a few words scribbled on his hands, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton delivered a dynamic, passionate speech to members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership during its General Membership Meeting at the Clear Lake Hilton.

He spoke about The Opportunity to Lead, but his speech was about much more than leadership. First, however, it would be good to know a little of Sitton’s background. He is a mechanical engineering graduate of Texas A&M University. Elected Texas Railroad Commissioner on Nov. 4, 2014, to a six-year term, Sitton is the first engineer to serve as Railroad Commissioner in more than 50 years. In 2015, he was named one of the 40 most influential leaders under 40 in the Houston area. With nearly 20 years of experience in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, Sitton is considered a leader in his field. He, no doubt, knows a little something about leadership.

He began by speaking of the tradition of the Aggie Muster, which he had attended the previous evening. He said that Aggies learn from the first day on campus about the importance of believing in something more important than themselves.

“The thing that makes Aggie Muster such a special tradition for us is that it is one of those examples that show how we as a society recognize service,” Sitton said. He later spoke of his own three children who are 10, 13 and 15 years old. He asked, “In the world that we live in today, at what point in our kids’ lives do they begin to learn the lesson that if you want to be successful in this world, you’ve got to make it about people other than yourself? What is it about your life that will echo beyond yourself?”

“When I talk about the opportunity to lead, it always starts with the opportunity to serve.” He explained that this is an historical point in time for Texas saying, “This state produces nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil per day, which is 5 percent of the world’s crude. Texas produces about 24 or 25 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. That’s close to 5 percent of the world’s natural gas. We refine along the Gulf Coast a little over 6 million barrels per day of crude oil. That’s 6 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Out of the Port of Corpus Christi, we export more crude oil than all of the other U.S. ports combined. We have over 30,000 miles of pipeline in the state. In the last five years, Texas has gone from a strong energy player to arguably the most dominant force on the planet. Energy requires massive industries to produce it effectively, and the State of Texas does it better than any other place on Earth.”

Sitton went on to ask, “Now, what do we do with that? We talk about the opportunity to lead, and opportunities come in a lot of different ways. We in Texas have the opportunity to leverage this position in energy like we haven’t done in a generation. We are changing the landscape in the world. The question is what do we do with that? How do we capitalize on that opportunity?”He said that the world is hungry for affordable, reliable energy that is produced safely, and Texas can provide that better than anyone else.

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership honors George P. Bush

March 4th, 2019

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush holds the Quasar Award he was presented at the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s 26th annual Quasar Banquet at South Shore Harbour Resort. With him are, from left, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, 2019 BAHEP Board Chairman Todd Caliva and the 2018 Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer.

THE BAY AREA’S Movers and Shakers were out in force as the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership honored Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush with its Quasar Award for all his help on the proposed coastal barrier system to protect coastal communities and businesses from storm surge.

San Jacinto College Chancellor and 2018 BAHEP Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer introduced him to the black-tie crowd of nearly 600 that filled up South Shore Harbour Resort’s Crystal Ballroom, after which Bush called the coastal barrier system, or Ike Dike, “a project that is long past due” and one that will need the backing of everyone. “I’m committed to this project,” he promised the crowd.

Afterwards, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell joined them on stage to introduce the 2019 BAHEP Board Chairman Todd Caliva, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, which started out life as Clear Lake Hospital.

But there was quite a number of missing faces from the Johnson Space Center, which was closed due to the government shutdown. “This is the first time in 25 years,” Mitchell said, “that the JSC center director has not attended this event,” adding that JSC Director Mark Geyer sent his best wishes.

Dozens of elected officials were in the crowd including Congressman Randy Weber, State Sen. Carol Avarado, State Reps. Dr. Greg Bonnen, Ed Thompson, Mayes Middleton and Dennis Paul, Harris County Judge Lina Hildago and Constable Phil Sandlin and Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark and their mates.

Plus, a number of mayors – Pat Hallisey of League City, Julie Masters of Dickinson, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Mark Denman of Nassau Bay, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Jon Kenney of Taylor Lake Village – and mayor pro-tems – Andrea Wilson of Webster, Don Matter of Nassau Bay, Todd Kinsey of League City, Jay Martin of La Porte and Teresa Vazquez Evans of Kemah – and their spouses.

City councilors joining the celebration included Dave Martin, David Robinson and Jack Christi of Houston, William King III, Bruce Henderson and Wally Deats of Dickinson, Steve Rockey and Carl Gustafson of Friendswood, Laura Davis and Jeff Larson of Seabrook, Robin Collins of Kemah, Steve Gillett of La Porte, Greg Gripon, Andy Mann and Larry Millican of League City, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena, Jonathan Amdur, Ashley Graves, Bryce Klug, John Mahon and Matt Prior of Nassau Bay, and Martin Graves, Beverly Gaines and Edward Lapear of Webster, along with City Managers John Baumgartner of League City, Wayne Sabo of Webster, Jason Reynolds of Nassau Bay and Gayle Cook of Seabrook.

Others introduced included UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Ira Blake, Texas A&M Galveston Vice President Col. Michael Fossum, San Jac Board Chairman Marie Flickinger, CCISD and DISD Superintendents Dr. Greg Smith and Carla Voelkel, Pasadena ISD Vice President Nelda Sullivan and Port Houston Commissioners John Kennedy and Clyde Fitzgerald.

The aerospace industry was well represented with Lockheed Martin VP and Orion Program Manager Dr. Mike Hawes, Boeing Space Station Program Manager Mark Mulqueen, MEI Technologies CEO David Cazes, Barrios President Robert McAfoos, Jacobs VP and GM Lon Miller, GB Tech President Gale Burkett, Leidos Division Manager Nan Hardin, Cimarron Software CEO Jeannie Crowell and President Darren Crowell, MRI Technologies President and VP Debbie and Tim Kropp, KBRwyle President Vernon McDonald and VP Genie Bopp, Oceaneering VP and GM Mike Bloomfield and astronaut Bonnie Dunbar in the mix.

League City Chamber President Steve Paterson and Chairman Rebecca Lilley were in the crowd as were Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy DeWease and Chairman Brian Freedman, Amoco Credit Union President Shawn Bailey, attorneys Joe Barlow, Craig Saunders, Chris Gregg, Dick Gregg Jr. and Dick Gregg III, Space City Films President Marc Havican, Moody Bank CEO Vic Pierson and VPs Brent Cockerham and Craig Barker, MaximGroup CEO Ron Masters, Norman Frede Chevrolet GM Joan McKinney, San Jac Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford, My Flooring America President Mike Furin, Col. Len Waterworth of Texas A&M Galveston and BayTran President Theresa Rodriguez.

Other well known faces spotted mingling in the crowd were Emmeline Dodd and Gene Hollier, Jack and Marcy Fryday, John Martinec, Carol and Bob Robinson, Harv Hartman, Beth and TJ Aulds, Amy and Paul Dunphey, Lynda Guidry, Karen and Mark Keesler, Jeannie Kranz, Harriet and Jon Pilgrim, Debbie and Dr. Peter Wuenschel, Al Saylor and Gwen Griffin, Jim and Jane Sweeney, and John Wilkins, whose pretty wife, Shari, sang the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem we have probably ever heard.

2018 in review

February 1st, 2019

Good for some, bad for others but certainly a year to remember

By Mary Alys Cherry

The year 2018 will be remembered in various ways across the country. A good year for some. But for others, not so good.

Certainly not by the residents of eastern North and South Carolina, or those in Panama City and Mexico Beach, Fla., whose lifestyles were ripped apart by hurricanes; or California residents who lost their homes, cars and most everything they owned to fires. Or in nearby Santa Fe, where 10 lost their lives in a shooting at Santa Fe High.

For the Bay Area, 2018 was a year of change – especially at NASA, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, along with the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station and plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon this coming July.

Added some new faces, too. NASA Headquarters welcomed a new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, a new deputy administrator, Jim Morhard, and a new chief financial officer, Jeff DeWit, in 2018.

The year also brought several changes at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. JSC Director Ellen Ochoa retired in May and Deputy Director Mark Geyer became center director. Soon thereafter, Vanessa Wyche was named deputy director. Six new flight directors also were selected – Allison Bolinger, Adi Boulds, Jose Marcos Flores, Pooja Joshi Jesrani, Paul Konyah III and Rebecca J. Wingfield.

CREW INTRODUCED

A cheering crowd filled Teague Auditorium to nearly overflowing as JSC Director Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined the new NASA administrator, who flew down from Washington to introduce the “Commercial Crew” – the nine astronauts who will fly on American-made commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station and return to American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired.

The nine who will crew Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

Then the administrator returned again in the fall with Vice President Pence and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a tour of the center.

SEVERAL HONORED

The year got off on a happy note with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named recipient of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s Quasar Award, followed by retiring Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot being presented the National Space Trophy by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation.

Among the many coming in for honors this past year were two Space Center Rotary past presidents — Scott Rainey, who was elected Rotary District 5890 governor for 2020-2021; and Suzie Howe, a former district governor, who was presented the Distinguished Service Award for raising $3.7 million for Rotary.

Lunar Rendezvous was back for its 53rd annual festival, selecting Gene Hollier as king and Sabrina Curran as queen while volunteers raised $126,000 for college scholarships and help for area non-profits at the festival events.

A few months later, the Clear Creek Education Foundation raised $75,000 at its annual gala, while honoring League City Mayor Pat Hallisey as Citizen of the Year, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell with the George Carlisle Distinguished Service Award and eight others.

And, the American Heart Association raised $220,000 at its annual Go Red for Women Luncheons while the Assistance League of the Bay Area was busy providing new school clothes for 2,725 needy students.

CCISD ‘EXEMPLARY’

The Clear Creek School District got an A or Exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for the school year and tightened up school security even more after the deadly shooting at nearby Santa Fe High.

Work on the rebuild of both Clear Lake High and Clear Creek High was finally completed as Clear Creek ISD made plans to add a new school in League City, Florence Campbell Elementary. Other projects include the $19 million addition of 18 classrooms at Stewart Elementary in Kemah and $16 million in improvements to Clear Lake City Elementary.

The University of Houston-Clear Lake added two new buildings as its enrollment continues to grow, while College of the Mainland passed a $40 million bond to construct new buildings and upgrade others on its Texas City campus.

San Jacinto College is also enlarging its three campuses as it enrolled a record 30,509 students this past school year.

MEDICAL CHANGES

We lost a hospital and gained a hospital.

Our beautiful Bay Area Regional Medical Center in Webster shut down with 900 employees laid off – but quicker than you could blink your eye, UTMB in Galveston stepped in and leased the building for 15 years. The “UTMB-Clear Lake Campus,” as it will be called, is expected to open in a month or two after a year’s absence from the medical scene.

And, it will not be the only hospital getting a name change. The facility, which we used to know as Houston Methodist St. John Hospital, is now called Houston Methodist Clear Lake.

Down in Texas City, Mainland Medical Center completed a $5 million expansion of its Emergency Department, adding 6,200 square feet of space and 13 new private patient rooms.

Damages to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston last January were estimated at $7.8 million – a huge amount when you consider that there was very little fire damage. The damages were from smoke which enveloped the entire multi-story building.

COASTAL SPINE

As thousands of area residents continued to recover from the waters of Hurricane Harvey, rebuilding their homes and lives, Gov. Greg Abbott came to visit, bringing $153 million for storm debris removal costs for League City, Friendswood, Dickinson and several other areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has taken Dr. Bill Merrill’s Ike Dike idea and is currently working on eventually building a Coastal Spine to protect the Galveston Bay area and other parts of the coast. Hearings have been held in Seabrook and Galveston to get residents’ comments and ideas. When the final study is completed in a year or two, the plans will be sent to Congress for funding.

Harris County overwhelmingly passed a massive $2.5 billion flood mitigation bond to help prevent future flooding, while Exploration Green, which had already helped save many Clear Lake City homes from flooding during Hurricane Harvey, had its grand opening April 28 and continued its work.

Both Norman Frede Chevrolet and One Stop Tents and Events celebrated their 50th anniversaries this past year, while South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center celebrated its 30th anniversary and The Clothes Horse in League City celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Costco, the world’s second largest company behind Walmart, came to town, opening a large store in Webster.

SAD NEWS

Sadly, we lost some outstanding citizens. President George H.W. Bush, 94, and his wife, Barbara, 92, who have made Houston their home for many years, died this year, as did Bob McNair, who brought the Texans to town; and four astronauts, including 2 of the 12 men who walked on the moon. Among those “slipping the surly bonds of Earth” were moonwalkers John Young, 87, and Alan Bean, 86; Bruce McCandless II, 80, who died in late December of 2017, still famous for his floating in space photo; and Don Peterson, 84, who made the first spacewalk from the Space Shuttle.

For some, 2018 will be a year they will hope to forget.

Former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Clear Lake was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted on 23 counts of illegally diverting $1.25 million in campaign donations for his own personal use in a series of illegal acts that prosecutors called “a white-collar crime spree.”

Also, Galveston County Constable Jerry Fisher of League City recently found himself on the wrong end of DWI arrest.

And, amid all the ups and downs of the world and many Bay Area changes, the Webster Presbyterian Church, where two famous astronauts – Buzz Aldrin and Sen. John Glenn — once worshipped, celebrated its 125th anniversary Dec. 2.

HomeTown Bank of League City Senior Vice President Elected to Chair the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce

January 30th, 2019

Bill Provenzano

HomeTown Bank of League City Senior Vice President, Loan Officer and Branch Manager Bill Provenzano has been elected to chair the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Provenzano holds the unique distinction of having chaired two chambers of commerce in the area: He was chair of the Friendswood Chamber of Commerce while Vice President and Loan Officer and at our Downtown Friendswood Branch, then became active in the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce when he was promoted to his current position in League City in 2015.

He has also served as president of the Friendswood Rotary Club, where he remains active, and he is on the Small Business Committee of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

“The youngest of six siblings and native Houstonian,” Provenzano said, “my parents taught us to treat others the way we want to be treated and to always give back to our community.  I am proud to work for a Community Bank that allows me the opportunity to participate and support the local communities we serve.”

HomeTown Bank has 7 local branches: two in Galveston, two in Friendswood, Alvin, League City and the newest location- Pearland. Please visit www.htbna.bank for more information on HomeTown Bank.

Rice U group finds fault with Ike Dike proposal

December 1st, 2018

By Mary Alys Cherry

Ten years after the storm surge from Hurricane Ike devastated the Galveston Bay area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Oct. 26 for what is considered a more ambitious version of the proposed Coastal Spine or Ike Dike, as the project to protect the region.

The Corps proposes building a 70-mile-long coastal barrier to protect the Texas coastline from future storm surge, at a cost of somewhere between $23 and $31 billion – considerably higher than the original projection, which was for a smaller project.

Four days later on Oct. 31 Moody’s Investors Service gave its stamp of approval, noting that the proposed system would protect a region that contributes 24 percent of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is home to the largest manufacturing center in the United States along the Houston Ship Channel and to one fourth of Texas’ population.
Now the federal agency’s plan has come under attack.

Just as most of the area population was glad that at long last, something was going to be done to protect us came headlines that the folks over at Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evaluation from Disasters Center were questioning the Corps of Engineers’ proposal, charging that the Corps’ information was out of date.

This did not sit well with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, who worked for several years with UTMB Galveston Prof. Bill Merrell, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and others trying to get the coastal spine project approved and financed.

“I think it is very unfortunate,” Mitchell said, “that Rice SSPEED Center has elected to attack the work that the Corps of Engineers has done in support of the ‘coastal spine’ and its ‘tentatively selected plan.’ There is a process that we go through in the form of hearings and written testimony that allows organizations and individuals to ask for clarification or to present ideas and changes they may think are important. “Rice SSPEED Center, in my opinion, should follow the process like the rest of us and try to be part of the team and not adversarial. This is not the time to see who can yell the loudest but a time to work together.”

Instead of being glad to finally see the federal agency come up with a plan to protect the area, SSPEED officials questioned the proposal, just as they had done after UTMB Galveston Prof. Bill Merrell proposed building the Ike Dike in 2009. Back then, instead of protecting homes and businesses in Galveston and the Bay Area communities with an Ike Dike to stop storm surge, the Rice SSPEED Center felt it was more important to protect industry along the Houston Ship Channel than those homes, schools and businesses in the Galveston Bay area. Finally, when they found everyone else favored the Ike Dike/Coastal Spine concept, SSPEED officials dropped their proposal.

But once the Corps of Engineers released its proposal, SSPEED officials found fault with the study. They said the proposal was incomplete as it did not account for the recent stronger storms and that the Corps information was out of date – assertions that were quickly disputed by the Corps. In addition to the Ike Dike, the Rice group proposes building a midbay seagate to protect the Houston Ship Channel and Harris County from storm surge. Their suggestion is much the same as their earlier proposal. And, just as before, they want to protect industry; and they don’t appear to care what happens to Kemah, Seabrook, Nassau Bay, Dickinson, El Lago, Taylor Lake Village, Clear Lake City, Friendswood, Santa Fe, Alvin, Pearland, Texas City, La Marque, League City, Webster and Galveston.

The Houston Chronicle also was upset with their actions, pointing out in an editorial that protecting the coastal region from the devastation suffered during Ike and Harvey “is far too important to let a fight over the path forward leach away the project’s necessary momentum before it ever has a chance,”

“It’s worth cheering that we’ve arrived at wide support for the coastal spine project, a system of floating gates intended to ward off storm surge….When was the last time officials from Houston, Harris County, the coastal region and the State of Texas have all been on the same page about spending (billions) in mostly federal dollars to help this region? How about never?”

“Critics and supporters of the Ike Dike should take care to help steer but not divert the ship that is finally on course to becoming reality,” the Chronicle added.

We agree. We’ve waited far too long for some action, and the Army Corps of Engineers has worked more hours than they can probably count to get this far. The SSPEED officials should submit their thoughts at one of the public hearings just like everyone else, instead of trying to make headlines and disrupt the process.

A series of six public meetings have been scheduled in November and December by the Corps for public comment on the proposal with the first held Nov. 27 in Port Lavaca. Others are planned in Seabrook, Corpus Christi, Port Isabel, Winnie and Galveston.

The Seabrook meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 18 at the Bay Area Community Center in Clear Lake Park from 5:30 p.m. to 9. The Galveston meeting will be on Wednesday, Dec. 12 in the Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Blvd., also from 5:30 p.m. to 9. For a complete list or information on how to submit public comment, visit the Army Corps of Engineers website, http://coastalstudy.texas.gov/get-involved/index.html

A final study is to be released in 2021 before sending it to Congress for funding.

State of Counties Address draws large BAHEP crowd

November 1st, 2018

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, from right, welcomes Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, TXU Energy Business Director Jason Schultz and Tiger 21 Chairman Rick Gornto to the State of the Counties Address Sept. 27 at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett probably grow tired of giving speeches, but one attending Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s State of the Counties Address Sept. 27 at Lakewood Yacht Club would never know it.

Both reeled off things foremost in the public’s mind, and, interlacing their remarks with a sprinkling of humor, provided BAHEP members with a quick look at the projects and problems at hand.

Judge Emmett spoke first, expressing his pleasure over the passage of the $2.5 billion Harris County flood bond referendum, noting that having the money on hand is necessary to getting matching federal dollars for Harvey improvements, going on to stress that “we need more accurate flood plain maps.”

He also discussed indigent healthcare, a cost borne by property owners that will probably be even more costly in the future. “We’ve got to get away from the county jail being the largest healthcare facility in the county,” he said, explaining that we’re turning a lot of bad kids into bad criminals instead of trying to rehabilitate them. “They get out of prison but can’t get a job because they have a prison record,” he said, “and eventually end up back in jail.”

Judge Henry reeled off a number of headline-type facts for the crowd, including the news that a Coastal Spine study by the seven-county group is due next month. Other items of interest:

  • Work on the expansion of State Highway 146 will begin in January 2019.
  • A total of 20,000 Galveston County homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
  • The Highway 646 overpass will be destroyed in January 2019.
  • Friendswood is growing with a big new development under way.
  • Galveston is getting a third cruise line and a record number of tourists this summer.
  • League City’s population is now approximately 120,000.
  • La Marque is the county’s fastest growing city, because of a big new development.

Area mayors attending included Pat Hallisey of League City, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Mike McNamara of Clear Lake Shores, Mike Foreman of Friendswood, Louis Rigby of La Porte, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook and Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, along with State Rep. Dennis Paul, Councilmen Dave Martin of Houston and Larry Millican of League City and Mayor Pro-tem Amanda Fenwick of Clear Lake Shores.

JSC director Geyer speaks of America’s space leadership role today, in the future

October 1st, 2018

By Mary Alys Cherry and Kathryn Paradis

Knowing the human tendency to overlook the value of many outstanding things in our daily lives – things that become “old hat” – Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer reminded Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership members of the great value of the International Space Station, which has been circling the Earth for the past 18 years.

“Station is an incredible international achievement,” he said as he opened his address, “and I want to talk about the different pieces that make ISS so special. People may not be aware of the details surrounding the amount of utilization that is happening every day on Space Station.

“There are payload experiments – things we are pushing the envelope on – on how to live and work in space, which is really going to be important when we go to the moon and on to Mars. A Mars journey could take three years or longer. We’re learning about how the human body behaves and how it changes. We’re learning how to mitigate those things through exercise and nutrition. There’s an incredible amount of work that goes on every day; plus, we get some cool pictures!”

It also has helped the United States and Russia become space buddies, he explained.

Their space friendship began back at the turn of the century when the first international crew, commanded by American astronaut William M. Shepherd, arrived on a Russian Soyuz that launched on Oct. 31, 2000. Since that day, he said there has always been an American onboard Station.
“Station brings a symbol of national leadership in the world. We lead the rest of the world in space. I had a chance to meet with the U.S. ambassador in Russia when I was over there for a launch. He told me that as difficult as relationships are with the Russians, Space Station is the one thing, the one positive thing that we are doing together. That’s important.”

Then he cautioned, “Another thing to remember is that if the United States doesn’t lead in space, there’s another county that cannot wait to lead in space, and that’s China. We know that they are making efforts to do that.”

After briefly talking about the commercialization of space, he took the crowd into the future — the commercial opportunities the ISS offers and plans to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s to launch the Orion spacecraft on 21-day missions past the moon and back. And, how JSC will continue to be a key part of the integration of that program.

And, what about new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine? “He is extremely personable and very open, Geyer says. “He really likes to meet with teams and talking with the interns. He’s trying very hard, listening to people. I love working for him; he’s a great guy.”

Geyer, who was introduced by BAHEP Chairman and San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, began his NASA career in 1990 at JSC and has been here ever since. He has witnessed much during the ensuing years – both triumph and tragedy. His presentation left many with the feeling, however, that the best is yet to come both for NASA and for Johnson Space Center.

Senate panel hears BAHEP president on importance of International Space Station funding after 2024

August 1st, 2018

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell

The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership has been an avid supporter of NASA, and specifically of the missions of the NASA’s Johnson Space Center, for decades. Elected officials and the media often consult with BAHEP President Bob Mitchell to share his expertise in regard to the aerospace industry.

In May 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz, chairman of the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation invited Mitchell to provide testimony before his subcommittee regarding the International Space Station.

Given just five minutes to state his support for federal funding for the ISS beyond 2025, Mitchell testified before the subcommittee on June 6, 2018. Following is his testimony in full.

Chairman Cruz, Ranking Member Nelson, distinguished members of the committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to testify on the important topic of the International Space Station.

I serve as the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a member-driven, 501(c)( 6) nonprofit economic development organization located just outside the gates of the Johnson Space Center in Bay Area Houston. We have over 268 members, which include a diverse mix of businesses in aerospace, medical, life sciences, petrochemicals, and maritime.

We also are proud to work on initiatives that contribute to the economic growth of the 13 cities and two counties in the area around the Johnson Space Center. Although aerospace companies make up a fraction of our membership, the entire business community understands and values the contributions of NASA and the space community in making all of our lives better.

The ISS is a critical element of the work performed in Houston at the Johnson Space Center and the backbone to maintaining a number of key elements of our success in human spaceflight: the astronaut corps, mission control, countless technical resources, and world-class researchers. The Johnson Space Center offers an unparalleled national capability that has been built over decades of experience. The loss of or weakening of its capabilities would have dramatic implications to our outcomes in deep space exploration.

The Return on Investment (ROI) on the ISS can be calculated in many ways. It is difficult to quantify the exact dollar value of many of these returns, but the overall impact is undeniable. The International Space Station – by its design and enactment – has established the foundation for sustained generation of technology that improves life on earth.

Each year, spinoffs like new drugs, materials, and scientific technology become licensed and begin generating new revenue streams for companies large and small.

Beyond the ability to show an ROI, the International Space Station positions us to tackle the challenge of deep space by buying down cost and risk now to give missions to the Moon and Mars a head start. The station is a critical, inexpensive test bed for exploration hardware that needs to work perfectly on its first live mission. It allows us to test, tweak, and perfect life support systems, radiation abatement methods, and other advanced materials. These breakthroughs will eventually make it from the launch pad into our homes and businesses across America.

Through engagement with the Russian space agency and 13 other ISS partners, the U.S. has led an era of peaceful collaboration and exploration that has provided stability in space leading to the current level of space commercialization.This commitment to the ISS — uninterrupted for the last 25 years — has provided more than just a destination in space. The ISS has cultivated:

  • A cultural learning lab for diplomacy, education, and inspiration
  • A learning lab for technology applications – testing performance machines, materials, and humans in space
  • A science lab for comparing terrestrial knowledge in a new frontier of weightlessness
  • A lab for exploring both our earth and outer space in preparation for the next exploration endeavors

I think it is important to take a detailed look at the overall ISS budget, which is often cited at $3 billion per year. What is misleading about that estimate is that the Commercial Crew and Cargo programs are funded out of those funds, along with overhead costs at the centers housing the programs and other expenses. The real ISS budget is a fraction of that total cost, ranging from $1B – $1.5B/year. Saving this much each year will have a minimal impact on our overall exploration efforts in terms of a funds transfer. Commercial alternatives would likely cost significantly more than sustaining the ISS, essentially creating an entirely new development program, while providing a fraction of the existing capabilities.

If the U.S. government terminates its support of the ISS in 2025, and we step away from ISS before an equivalent long-term engagement is created, there will be a disruption in the space program and the emerging commercial space industry.

Not very long ago, NASA’s Constellation Program was cancelled at the same time as the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program, which had a profoundly negative impact on America’s leadership position in space.

I sincerely hope that we all learned a valuable lesson from this and trust that you will not allow history to repeat itself! My position is that the U.S. government should commit to the ISS for as long as it is safely feasible to do so.

However, as we succeed, others look to follow. As you have probably seen, just last week China invited other nations to partner with them on their space station. They realize, as we do, the power of these partnerships and the leadership and the technology that can be gained from them.

As we question our commitment to the future of ISS, the Chinese space program is actively seeking to leverage this moment in time to provide an alternative path and platform for our traditional international partners in space. This has very serious implications for our national security, trade and technology partnerships and leadership if this is not managed carefully. At the end of the day, the ISS program is the culmination of all of the reasons we are so passionate about the entire space program – it represents America’s future in global leadership, education, innovation, healthcare, and our quality of life.

Thank you for the invitation to speak on this topic, and I look forward to your questions.

Reid Ryan offers inside look at the Astros

June 1st, 2018

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, left, and Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer welcome Houston Astros President Reid Ryan to the BAHEP luncheon at South Shore Harbour Resort.

By Kathryn Pardis

Baseball runs deep in Reid Ryan’s family. His dad, Nolan, pitched for 27 years and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Nolan was with the New York Mets when they won the World Series in 1969. Now, Reid, as president of Business Operations for the Houston Astros since May 17, 2013, personally knows the euphoria that comes with that level of success.

The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership invited Reid to speak at its May luncheon, to share his thoughts on the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, and there was definitely a level of anticipation in the air even before he took the stage wearing his bedazzling World Series ring. And, he quickly filled the room with laughter when he said the most in demand “person” from the Astros organization is the Commissioner’s Trophy at No.1. Astros Mascot Orbit is No. 2, trailed by José Altuve at No. 3!

The mantra for the Astros this year is Never Settle, he said, making it very clear that the Astros are not satisfied with just one World Series Championship. And, with their wonderful camaraderie, that might not be so difficult.

“They are great players, but they are even better human beings. When you have guys that like each other, that root for each other, the sky’s the limit. These guys have the common denominator that they don’t want to be good, they want to be great. José (Altuve) is making our players better, and Justin (Verlander) is making our pitchers better. Talent raises talent.”

Seabrook Mayor Thom Kolupski, center, and Councilman Joe Machol are happy to see Amanda Fenwick, mayor pro-tem of their neighboring city of Clear Lake Shores at the BAHEP luncheon.

 

Webster City Manager Wayne Sabo and City Secretary Crystal Roan, right, join City Councilwoman Beverly Gaines at the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership luncheon at South Shore Harbour Resort.

Special treat awaits the BAHEP Board

May 1st, 2018

Long Star Flight Museum CEO Doug Owens, right, welcomes Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell and BAHEP Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer to the Flight Museum’s new home at Ellington Airport.

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s Board of Directors were in for a treat when they met for their April meeting. Instead of gathering at the BAHEP office, they met at the beautiful new Lone Star Flight Museum, which moved here last fall from Galveston.

And, as the meeting got underway, Flight Museum CEO Doug Owens, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, traced the history of the Flight Museum, education programs, future plans and invited board members to attend the May 5, 2018 Flights of Fancy Gala at the museum when six who made significant contributions to aviation will be inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame – Capt. James Lovell, Congressman Sam Johnson, Azellia White, Brig. Gen. Noel Parrish and Thomas and Paul Braniff.