Program Chair Deborah Rose emceed her last Atascocita BizCom. Photo by Tom Broad

- Statewide business survey disclosed at Atascocita BizCom -

Lake Houston businesses are adapting to the economic realities caused by the pandemic. The area, in fact, is enduring COVID-19 better than most of the 800 businesses throughout Texas that responded to a survey.

“We’ve got a high number of retail and hospitality businesses that should have made us more vulnerable to the pandemic,” said Mark Mitchell at the Partnership Lake Houston’s Atascocita BizCom held virtually Nov. 5. Instead, the survey highlighted Lake Houston’s resiliency, especially in terms of employment.

The reason for the area’s spirited resistance compared to other cities? Mitchell credits the number of adversities that Lake Houston has endured and tackled, including Hurricane Harvey and other recent flooding.

“Harvey made us stronger,” Mitchell said, “and the results of this survey will help us design programs for future challenges.”

Mitchell is chief economic development officer for Partnership Lake Houston. The partnership participated in an August survey conducted by Texas A&M Corpus Christi to learn about the impact of businesses reopening amid the pandemic. More than 800 businesses in 17 communities throughout Texas participated, including 100 Lake Houston-area businesses.

Among the take-aways from the survey, 13% of Lake Houston’s businesses expect to reduce staff, and the average PPE stimulus loan was $42,000, while the average among the 800 businesses surveyed was $50,000.

“Perhaps our businesses are smaller or our needs were less,” Mitchell said.

The greatest concern of the businesses who responded was the potential for a third COVID-19 wave.

Mitchell complimented Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen and her Humble ISD team for successfully and safely managing the pandemic throughout the district.

Fagen reported at BizCom that there are few COVID cases as she discussed elementary, then middle and finally high school outcomes.

“We’ve had a handful of cases in our 29 elementary schools, and the same with middle schools,” she said. The high schools were in great shape, too, although high schoolers are more likely to be social and most likely to transmit.

“It’s not happening,” she said.

COVID cases reported at the schools were due to community spread outside of the schools.

“I’m proud of the number of students we now have on campus,” Fagen said. “Some Texas districts have reported their attendance is down by 10,000 students. Our attendance is down less than 1%.”

Charts shared by Fagen showed daily attendance on Oct. 2 was 96.64%, compared to 97.31% a year earlier. Enrollment was 45,537 this year compared to 45,078 last year. Currently, 67% of students are enrolled in on-campus learning and 75% of students are on campus at least part of the day.

The district has 14 major projects underway, including a third gym and classroom addition at Atascocita High, new elementary multipurpose rooms at Eagle Springs and Oak Forest elementary schools, and new Middle School No. 10 at Woodland Hills Drive near Ridge Creek Elementary.

Atascocita High Principal Rick Daniels said the bond package approved two years ago by Humble ISD voters made a huge difference at his school. The 10 new classrooms will once and for all eliminate the school’s temporary buildings. Classrooms are built so they take students away from the main hallway, reducing crowding.

Jenna Armstrong explained the purpose behind the merger of the chamber and the Economic Development Partnership for what is now called Partnership Lake Houston. Armstrong, CEO and president, said the merger will streamline internal operations and provide members with greater value.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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