Houston Northwest Chamber finalizes long-term improvement plan priorities

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The Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce has finalized the goals for its community improvement plan and launched an eight-week capital campaign Sept. 15 hoping to raise $3.14 million to fund those projects.

Chamber President Barbara Thomason said the plan includes $1.65 million for safety and security, $883,000 for economic development and $610,000 for community image and marketing. Thomason said the funds raised by the campaign this fall would be spent gradually in the next four years.

Although the first steps of the plan will probably be seen at the center of the chamber’s service area—along FM 1960, Louetta and Spring Cypress roads—Thomason said the plan will be implemented across the entire service area, which stretches from Hwy. 290 to east of I-45 and from inside Beltway 8 up to north of FM 2920.

Safety and security improvements prioritized by the plan include the creation of a public safety program with a public safety director and an advisory council. Thomason said the chamber has examined similar programs in the Greenspoint and Westchase districts and could borrow from their best practices.

The area’s public safety program could conduct business security audits, contract law enforcement to patrol commercial areas of the region and deliver educational programs to the community. Thomason said the chamber hopes to see a 10 percent reduction in commercial-related crimes year over year, including burglaries of businesses, break-ins and assaults.

“We don’t think we’re any more crime-ridden than other parts of the county, but we want to be less crime-ridden than any other part of the county,” she said. “We want that reputation.”

The economic development portion of the improvement plan would emphasize business recruitment, retention and expansion.

The chamber’s board of directors met at the end of July to finalize the priorities set by a chamber task force and to announce community leader Anne Vallette as the campaign director. Thomason said the first draft of the plan was compiled last fall using input from community workshops.

The eight-week capital campaign to raise money for the plan launched Sept. 15. Thomason said the majority of the money for the plan is likely to come from businesses, with some individuals also contributing.

A consulting firm—Opportunity Funding LLC—met with more than 75 local stakeholders this year and reported to the board in March that the businesses could commit a combined $1.8 million. However, some stakeholders could not commit money until they saw more detailed plans and the firm did not meet with every local stakeholder, Thomason said.

Vallette said she feels confident they could raise an additional $1.4 million for the four-year plan as many local stakeholders have already agreed to donate to the plan, including Houston Northwest Medical Center, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital and Frost Bank.

“We are off to an amazing start,” Vallette said. “It’s only going to get better.”

Although the $3 million requested for the plan will fund projects in the next four years, Thomason said some improvements will require money after four years.

“There are plans for funding after that,” she said. “One of them could be another campaign, but there are some other sources that we’re seeking.”

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