Just shy of four months ago, Lake Houston area residents were scrambling to collect their personal belongings as floodwaters continued to rise in homes and business due to affects from Hurricane Harvey.
The Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce has reached out to affected residents and business owners, working to find ways to help with funding, communicate with the public about business re-openings and finding a way to prevent the flooding issues from happening again.
The president of the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce, Jenna Armstrong, as well as representatives from the Lake Houston Family YMCA, Memorial Hermann Northeast and Humble ISD, shared updates on the progress of rebuilding after Harvey during the Summer Creek BizCom Dec. 14 at White Lightning in the Fall Creek area.
“Our Lake Houston area community is home to 7,500 businesses,” Armstrong said. “According to statistics on the damage to the Lake Houston Area from Hurricane Harvey, 3,300-plus businesses were identified by the Small Business Administration as damaged by floodwaters or storm-related damage, which is almost 40 percent of our businesses, a staggering statistic. 300-plus businesses closed and approximately 80 percent did not have flood insurance. They weren’t in a flood plain so they weren’t required to have this insurance.”
Armstrong cited a decline in the workforce as employees were displaced and for those displaced, finding a residence in the area as a few of the complications businesses are facing when they reopen. The chamber recently launched Back to Business LHA to shine a light on businesses re-opening their doors. These efforts are a way to encourage residents to shop local and encourage businesses to re-open.
So far, 104 businesses have re-opened, 27 businesses opened at temporary locations, are partially operating or moved sales online, there are 57 confirmed openings in the next year and 24 businesses have closed their doors for good.
“Through the Lake Houston Area Relief Fund, started by Insperity and the Tribune Newspapers, with the help of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, we have been able to donate $1.6 million to residents and businesses in our area, which is amazing,” Armstrong said. “The best thing we can do right now is to shop locally and help support our businesses that were damaged and help other local businesses sustain, this will help our community rebound, rebuild and thrive.”
After Hurricane Harvey damaged Kingwood High School, students were moved to Summer Creek High School to attend classes until the school re-opens in March.
“Summer Creek High students attend classes from 7 – 11:25 a.m. and then we dismiss; then Kingwood High students attend classes for the latter portion of the day,” Brent McDonald, principal at Summer Creek High School, said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we did know that if you don’t have a positive attitude, a positive outlook and can-do attitude, we couldn’t accomplish anything. Our kids are adapting much faster than some of the adults. I am proud to say we are succeeding. We have the highest grades than we have had in the past; this has been a very positive impact for both the Summer Creek and Kingwood High students.”
In other business, Dru Gutierrez from Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner’s Office shared an update on recent infrastructure projects, including the addition of a dedicated right turn lane at the intersection of West Lake Houston Parkway and the Sam Houston Tollway for drivers turning west onto the roadway.