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Economic Outlook Conference 2021 Recap; The Woodlands Area Major Employers in 2020, Community Update by The Township, National and Economic Update

By: Rachel Norton
| Published 04/14/2021

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THE WOODLANDS, TX — The 35th Annual Economic Outlook Conference took place April 14, hosted by The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce. Held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, it featured economic experts who shared valuable information in regard to current events and the future of our local, state, and national economy.
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THE WOODLANDS AREA IN 2020
Local statistics gathered by The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership

MAJOR EMPLOYERS BY SECTOR:
Consists of 84 Companies and 38,660 Employees
Healthcare | 28.0%
Education | 18.1%
Energy | 11.2%

MAJOR EMPLOYERS (NON-RETAIL)
1. Conroe Independent School District | 4,487 Employees
2. Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center | 2,927 Employees
3. Wildcat PPE | 2,415 Employees
4. Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital | 1,647 Employees
5. CHI St. Luke’s Health - The Woodlands Hospital | 1,600 Employees
6. ExxonMobil | 1,527 Employees
7. Lone Star College - Montgomery | 1,431 Employees
8. Alight Solution | 1,200 Employees
9. Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands | 1,188 Employees
10. McKesson Specialty Health | 1,040 Employees

MID-SIZE EMPLOYERS BY SECTOR
Consists of 62 Companies and 3,758 Employees
Healthcare | 23.9%
Professional & Business Services | 16.8%
Energy | 13.6%

MID-SIZE EMPLOYERS (NON-RETAIL)
1. GeoSouthern Energy | 99 Employees
2. The Broadmoor at Creekside Park | 98 Employees
3. MP2 Energy | 97 Employees
4. Merrill Lynch Wealth Management | 95 Employees
5. Arena Energy, LLC | 90 Employees

Though Wildcat PPE was included as the third Major Employer (Non-Retail) in The Woodlands Area, the business has since furloughed many of its employees. Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, said that this furlough is expected to be temporary and was a consequence of the federal change in leadership, which caused contracts to stop.

Click the links below to view further local statistics by The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership:
>MAJOR EMPLOYERS BY SECTOR
>MID-SIZE EMPLOYERS BY SECTOR
>POPULATION GROWTH
>TAX RATES
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COMMUNITY UPDATE
The following statements were made by Gordy Bunch, Chairman, The Woodlands Township

Overview:

• 'Everybody's asking about incorporation. We prefer the action of incorporation ... We're now coming out of the pandemic, we'll dust off what's left to be finished in that study and we will start with community forums this Fall.'

• The Woodlands Township has provided almost 100,000 free COVID-19 tests since October of 2020.

• In order to reduce expenses and prepare for an expected loss of revenue due this pandemic, The Woodlands Township was able to delay capital improvements in 2020. “We didn’t want to put all the residents into a position that increased taxes.”

• Hospitality was hit the hardest by the pandemic. Hotels tax collections were 3.9 million in 2020 compared to 9.2 million in 2019.

• Bunch said that The Woodlands Fire Department has been, “worked harder in the last 12 months than they have probably in the last 46 years in this community.” The Department received over 600 calls in three days during the recent winter storm.

• The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District is proposing to increase groundwater withdrawal rates, which in The Township’s opinion, will exasperate subsidence in our community. “We're actively trying to make sure that we build awareness about this.”

• In a normal year, tourism brings in nearly half a billion dollars in revenue to The Woodlands, and supports 4,000 local jobs. “We need this industry to rebound.”

• Congressman Brady is currently fighting in Capitol Hill for The Woodlands to be included in the recent stimulus bill. “If you look at the stimulus bill that just passed, that 2 trillion dollar package right now excludes The Woodlands from stimulus funding.”

The Woodlands was named the number one city to live in America by Niche.com.

Moving Forward:

• Aging neighborhoods in The Woodlands, some over 46 years old, need redevelopment. A lot of older homes are currently being repurposed and redeveloped. This is expected to continue as The Woodlands continues to age.

• The Township acquired 11 acres on Lake Woodlands several years ago. That property will potentially be turned into a museum and other facilities to expand Town Center.

• The Township has a memorandum of understanding with The Pavilion to build a Performing Arts Center adjacent to The Pavilion. They look forward to progressing this project once The Pavilion recovers from the pandemic.

• The Township is starting to make more regional advertisings within about a 250-mile radius of The Woodlands in an attempt to increase tourism.
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ECONOMY UPDATE
The following statements were made by Robert S. Kaplan, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Overview:

• GDP growth for this year is expected to be in the range of 6.5%.

• The unemployment rate is expected to drift down this year toward 4%.

• In terms of inflation, a, “pretty healthy surge in prices, metals, good products, semiconductors, food items, broad base,” is expected.

• Two unusual things about this pandemic: the solid level of household income and consumer spending.

• As vaccinations increase, it is expected that industries that were sluggish last year will see material improvement. For example, hotels, restaurants, and other industries within the service sector.

• “This pandemic has affected different types of workers in a very different way.” Those with a college education are likely to have a job, have the ability to work remotely, and are less likely to have lost their job. For the 46 million workers in this country with a high school education or less, it is much more likely that they lost their job or at a minimum lost their average income. They may not be able to work remotely, or even have access to dependable WiFi.

• Women have disproportionately left the workforce as a result of this pandemic in order to care for their children, who have not been able to return to school or access childcare.

• Texas has, 'workforce growth,' and is likely to have a higher population and workforce growth than the rest of the country. “We think over the next 20 to 25 years, we're on our way to 40 million people.”

• “While fossil fuels are likely to be a smaller and smaller percentage of US and global energy consumption, that's not to say that there isn't going to be tremendous demand for fossil fuels. We think there will be, not for the next few years, but for the next few decades. And in fact, it's possible that globally, we have not yet seen peak oil demand.' In addition, many companies are actively investing in wind, solar battery storage, and other renewables. “I actually think the energy business, writ large, will be a big opportunity still for Texas, and for The Woodlands and Houston for years to come.”

• Kaplan believes there will be plenty of jobs for future generations. He worries instead about the debt to GDP of the federal government. “We’ve got to find ways, I believe, to moderate that path, rather than leaving our kids and grandkids with the bill.

• Kaplan on trade and China: “It’s essential that we continue to have very constructive trade relations with Mexico, because it is the basis of integrated supply chain, which is to go [with] arrangements that allow the United States and companies here, not only to domicile in Texas, but to domicile in the United States, grow, take jobs, be globally competitive in this hemisphere, and those relationships allow us to take share from Asia. When you look at China, and Asia, generally, we're gonna have dual tracks going on. On the one hand, I do think it's in our interest to find ways to cooperate with China, it's a big market, we're less than 5% of the world's population. There's an enormous amount of growth in emerging markets in Asia, and China's a big opportunity. At the same time, there's going to be a lot of competition and tension with China, as there should be, on level playing field, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, and there's going to be frictions. I think we're going to have to do both. What I worry about, and what you don't want to see is us thinking we can decouple from China, because I can tell you China is not decoupling from the rest of the world, but they're getting more integrated with the rest of the world. And so I think the United States, it’s not in our interest to be decoupling from the rest of the world, I think we've got to compete and continue to fight on these issues I just referred to … and continue to build this hemisphere that was a competitive trade hemisphere. Ultimately, I think that and working well with our allies in Europe and elsewhere, will make us more formidable in fighting these battles with China.

• Kaplan on immigration: The US workforce is aging, which means potential GDP growth is slowing. “we would do well to study the Canadian immigration system, which is more skills based and employer based. What I mean by that is they go out and interview employers to find out what jobs are open and backward integrate, [it] informs their immigration policy. I believe in the years ahead, it's a sensitive topic, we're gonna have to have sensible immigration reform, and maybe study the Canadian system, because we do need to find ways to grow our workforce.'

Moving forward:

• An increase in COVID-19 vaccinations will allow small businesses and those within the service sector to reopen. This will help bring the groups that were more severely impacted by the pandemic back into the workforce.

• Working with mayors, business groups, and nonprofits to bring WiFi into areas that currently lack it, is also important.

• Ensuring access to affordable childcare is pivotal in women returning to the workforce.

• The Fed is actively talking to community leaders about increasing the awareness of job opportunities for skilled workers, as well as creating the training and courses needed to obtain said jobs.

• With an increase in population, comes shortage of land, housing shortages, material shortages, and stress on infrastructure. Texas will need more roads, bridges, infrastructure generally, and there is also a need to improve our education system and health care access. A need for residents to be able to commute to work while living in the less populated areas is being discussed. “We're thinking about what the state is going to look like if these projections come to pass.”
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NATIONAL UPDATE:

Follow this link to watch Congressman Kevin Brady's National Update speech. The United States Representative announced that he is retiring from Congress at the completion of this term.

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OTHER TAKEAWAYS

• Caldwell Companies announced a new development coming soon: Chambers Creek, a premier 55+ community in Willis, Texas.

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