Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership: Future of southeast Houston's economy is bright

Dan Seal, executive director of special initiatives for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, spoke May 11 about southeast Houston's economy. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dan Seal, executive director of special initiatives for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, spoke May 11 about southeast Houston's economy. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Dan Seal, executive director of special initiatives for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, spoke May 11 about southeast Houston's economy. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Despite inflation, rising gas prices and increasing property values straining Houston residents’ wallets, the Bay Area’s economy is in a great spot, said Dan Seal, executive director of special initiatives for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, which promotes economic growth in Clear Lake, League City, Friendswood, Pearland and other southeast Houston communities.

During a League City Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast May 11, Seal shared six game changers that make Houston stand out in comparison to other cities across the nation for both residents and businesses.

First is population growth. More people are moving to Texas than any other state, Seal said.

Body count is the best determinant for future needs for real estate, and while residents may not be thankful for a booming population while sitting in traffic, more people means more growth, he said.

“We are literally directly in the path of predictable growth,” he said of southeast Houston.


About 10% of people moving to Texas are coming from California, which has seen its first population decline in over a century. Texas is a popular destination due to cost savings for businesses, the lack of personal income tax, low cost of living and its central location between the east and west coasts, among other reasons, Seal said.

A second game changer is inventory management. Warehouses that had just enough inventory during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic are now building more warehouse space to have a surplus of inventory for any other future emergencies. There is about 7.3 million square feet of warehouse space being built in the Houston region today, Seal said.

Additionally, companies are looking to have vendors closer to home, which is bringing operations back from overseas, he said.

“Local-for-local inventory supply chains should really benefit this area,” Seal said.

In February, three new cranes were installed at the Port of Houston. These cranes—the largest in the port’s history—were brought in to handle projected growth, Seal said.

In fact, 2021 was the port’s best year with 52 million tons of cargo moving through the port. This beats out 2019—the year before the pandemic began—which saw 48.2 million tons of cargo, Seal said.

The third game changer is energy. Houston’s oil and gas industry affects 50% of the local economy, he said.

“Of course, it hurts at the pump,” Seal said, referring to rising gas prices. “[But] the high price of oil is benefiting our local economy.”

In March 2021, it cost $60 for a barrel of oil. Today, it’s over $100 per barrel. Due to this, the number of oil rigs is increasing—a 15% increase since January alone—which is always a great predictor of employment growth, Seal said.

Fourth on Seal's list of game changers is highways. The widening of I-45 from south of FM 518 to FM 1764 is almost complete. The widening of Hwy. 146 is ahead of schedule as well, Seal said, with an expected completion date of late 2023.

The region also has the expansion of the Grand Parkway through the area to look forward too, and that project could really boost the Bay Area’s economy with new opportunities for retail centers, Seal said.

The fifth game changer is aerospace. NASA’s federal budget continues to rise. This year the budget is about $24 billion—a high-water mark not seen since the Apollo era, Seal said.

At the Houston Spaceport, Collins Aerospace is under construction. The 116,000-square-foot facility on 8 acres will bring about 250 new jobs to the area. Likewise, Intuitive Machines is building a 125,000-square-foot facility on 12.5 acres that will bring 250 jobs.

Axiom Space will break ground May 11 on a 400,000-square-foot facility on 23 acres that will bring 800 jobs. Axiom will build a private space station that will eventually attach to the International Space Station. Once the ISS is decommissioned within about a decade, the Axiom modules will be able to separate and attach to each other to remain in orbit, Seal said.

“Aerospace is really booming,” he said.

Within the Houston Spaceport is the EDGE Center, which is an educational facility in partnership with San Jacinto College to train up the next generation of aerospace industry workers. The center’s curriculum was designed by aerospace companies, and students graduating from the center are getting jobs in the aerospace industry, Seal said.

“The students are learning what the companies need them to learn,” he said. “It’s very, very exciting.”

Finally, the sixth game changer is tourism. Webster will be the home of the second Great Wolf Lodge in Texas. The 400,000-square-foot facility will break ground on 30 acres this year, bringing 350 new jobs to the area and offering residents entertainment, lodging, an indoor waterpark and a convention center, Seal said.

The cruise industry in Galveston is doing well, too. Royal Caribbean is building a 161,000-square-foot cruise terminal at Pier 10 at the Port of Galveston, and it along with Carnival and Norwegian are all active with new cruise ships inbound, Seal said.

Compass by Margaritaville is coming to Seabrook, and Riverview is a residential and entertainment development coming to League City. On top of that, 7,800 new homes are in various stages of development in League City, and the region is ready for the growth, Seal said.

“I can’t think of a better place anywhere in the world to be than right here,” he said.
By Jake Magee

Editor, Bay Area & Pearland/Friendswood

Jake has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper. Today, he covers everything from aerospace to transportation to flood mitigation.