Pearland City Council voted to provide the Pearland Chamber of Commerce with hundreds of thousands of dollars of city funds to manage the Pearland Innovation Hub, which supports small businesses in Pearland.

However, some City Council members opposed the funds due to concerns about the cost.

The gist

On May 13, Pearland City Council voted 5-2 to award $467,600 to the Pearland Chamber of Commerce as part of a 16-month contract for the chamber to manage the Pearland Innovation Hub.

Community Impact previously reported the Hub, which launched in May 2022, supports local entrepreneurs through local and regional entrepreneurship assistance programs, events, service providers and funding sources.

The Pearland Economic Development Corporation has managed the Hub since its launch, but an advisory board created by the PEDC recommended turning management of the Hub over to the chamber due to its “community connections and vested interest in seeing the [Hub] succeed,” according to agenda documents.

The transition will include transferring all web platforms and databases, and developing a fiscal year 2024-25 program of work, according to agenda documents.

As part of the contract, the chamber would hire dedicated staff to manage the Hub, Pearland Chamber of Commerce President Jim Johnson said.

“This gives us an opportunity to really dig in and provide some support for small businesses in our community,” Mayor Kevin Cole said. “My concern over this and what I hope [with] this transition to the chamber is that we can help people understand that the Innovation Hub doesn’t mean you’ve got to be some brand-new startup, tech company or something like that.”

The synergy between the chamber and the Hub would allow the chamber to leverage its connections in Pearland’s business community while also helping smaller startup companies the chamber wouldn’t usually serve, Johnson said.

“I think there’s not an organization in Pearland that talks to more businesses than the Pearland Chamber [of Commerce], so by having staff be able to say, ‘Hey, the chamber might not be a good fit for you right now, you need to talk to the Pearland Innovation Hub,’ it’s just ... an additional telling of that story in our business community,” Johnson said.

What they said

Council member Rushi Patel and council member Layni Cade voted against awarding the contract to the chamber.

“I think this is a money grab. When I look at it from a business point of view, we have sunk $700,000 into this deal,” Patel said.

Council member Chad Thumann said he supported the chamber’s mission to connect small businesses in Pearland with resources but plans to evaluate the chamber’s success in stewarding the program after a year.

“I think you’ve done a great job with the chamber, and I believe in you,” Thumann said. “I believe in the advisory committee, and I also believe in the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and their board, and the decisions that they made. I’m going to put my faith in all three of those, and we’ll talk in a year.”

What else?

The chamber hopes to hire the dedicated staff member to manage the Hub by June 1, Johnson said.