Katy Area EDC forecast: More growth

18 Sep 2018

Business Growth

By: Karen Zurawski - Houston Chronicle

It’s mid-September and Katy Area Economic Development Area Council is adjusting to its new home in the Grandway West Business Park.

Lance LaCour, who’s led the nonprofit the last 13 years as its CEO/president, said the Class A office with just over 2,000 square feet is more effective in terms of space and operations. The arrangement also offers more stability - a longer term lease compared to the year-to-year lease it had from the Katy Independent School District to occupy the former Brazos Valley Schools Credit Union near Interstate 10 and FM 1463.

It also opens up more opportunities to work with the University of Houston-Victoria at Katy which shares space in the same building off the Grand Parkway North near Franz Road. LaCour already serves on the University of Houston-Victoria President’s Regional Advisory Board.

His term on the Texas Economic Development Council expires in October. The council in 2016 recognized the Katy group for Economic Excellence recognition and in 2014 with the Community Economic Development Award.

LaCour, at 53, has 27 years experience in the field of economic development. After earning his undergraduate degree in political science and then his master’s degree in economic development, he got his first job in economic development after completing an internship in Mississippi. He spent 15 years in Mississippi and Alabama before coming to Katy. When he first came to Katy, he remembers conversations that identified Katy as that city halfway to San Antonio.

“We’re now on a lot of companies’ radar screens. I think that will continue,” he said. “Katy Independent School District is a key factor. It’s rated a top school district. That plays a big part in bringing more people to Katy and bringing more quality projects to Katy.”

After Hurricane Harvey threw a wrench in the implementation of the “Katy Area 2020” strategic plan, it is now called the Katy Area 2021 strategic plan. Visit http://www.katyedc.org/About-Us/Strategic-Plan.aspx for more information. The plan maps out four areas of critical work for the EDC: Marketing and business development, competitiveness, leadership and effective organization. Target industries include headquarters, energy services, research and development facilities and data centers. The Katy Area EDC more than 200 members and an annual budget of about $850,000.

LaCour is optimistic that Saudi Basic Industries Corp. might move forward next year on its project. The Middle East's largest petrochemicals maker announced plans to build a Katy headquarters for its Western Hemisphere operations. Spec buildings also are under construction and LaCour talks of new industrial development up and down the Grand Parkway.

Said LaCour, “It’s going to be a good year. We’re pretty excited about it.”

Where did you grow up and where did you go to school? I grew up outside New Orleans. I went to Holy Cross High School. I went to Louisiana State University for two years and then finished undergraduate studies at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Graduate studies continued at The University of Southern Mississippi.

What does your role as CEO/President involve? Basically I lead the organization as the chief administrative officer, human resources officer. I’m the project manager. I do just about everything in terms of the organization. A vice president works with existing businesses and membership development. I’m the chief recruiting officer. I have a research person. I help lead much of the community strategic plan. I’m the chief bottle washer.

What are the boundaries of the Katy Area EDC? Our boundaries are the Katy Independent School District boundaries. It’s pretty much the same area - 180 square miles.

How do you measure success? How we implement and accomplish our strategic plan projects. How we’re able to make them happen. Recruiting businesses, helping businesses to expand, helping facilitate the tools that help businesses and people, helping businesses create jobs.

What do you consider its most significant achievement? The Geico project. We actually won a Texas Economic Development Council Community Economic Development Award. Katy competes in the largest population category (over 250,001 and above) with large metropolitan areas such as San Antonio and Austin that usually win that award. The GEICO Insurance Claims Center is an office employer project. (The $8 million project with 1,000 jobs also earned honorable mention recognition from Site Selection Magazine — a publication for CEOs, corporate real estate executives and facility planners — for top North American Deals of 2013.) That project was a a hallmark project. They have 800 employees now. Eventually they will have 1,500.

What is the greatest challenge? The greatest challenge is mobility — making sure we have mobility in the Katy area because growth creates congestion. Mobility requires significant public infrastructure and that’s something that’s in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Attracting businesses to an area is competitive. How do you avoid hard feelings or having someone say you favored another project over theirs? We present what we have available. Companies make the decision where to locate. Our job is to make sure they have the best information on what’s available in the Katy area. Some competition may exist among the three counties — Harris, Fort Bend and Waller — that make up the Katy area. It depends on where the companies want to be. Some companies want to be located close to Houston. Some companies want to be located in a rural setting.

What does the move of the EDC office mean for your operations? It’s a more long-term situation. We have a five-year lease. Our previous lease was year to year. We were offered a deal we couldn’t refuse. We wanted to have a little more high profile facility. We were offered a great deal. Another positive to the location is the closeness to the University of Houston-Victoria at Katy. We will be able to work together. This past summer we had two interns from the University of Houston-Victoria at Katy. One got an economic development job recently because of the internship.

How do you view the future of Katy? Katy is going to continue to grow and grow in a positive way. I see more office-type employers, research and testing and data centers — the target industries. Our goal is to facilitate all Katy Area 2021 goals, tactics and objectives. The Katy Boardwalk will be a game changer for the area and create new high quality restaurants and shopping opportunities.

When not working, what do you like to do? I’m co-chair of the Katy Triathlon at Cane Island. It looks like favorable weather. (The event is Sept. 23. Visit www.kathtriathlon.com for details.) I was part of a two-person relay in last year’s event. I bike. My son is working toward his Eagle Scout designation and I’ll help him. I play racquetball and I like to offshore fish.

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