Missouri City City Council is moving forward this summer with its new economic development plan to promote redevelopment of existing commercial centers, create a stronger image for the city, recruit prospective businesses, support current businesses and invest in city resources.
Approved in April, the plan works in conjunction with the city’s 2017 comprehensive land-use plan and focuses on realizing the full potential along major corridors such as Texas Parkway and Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road, said Joe Esch, economic development director for Missouri City. By investing in its commercial growth, the city’s economy strengthens and its tax base grows.
In the upcoming months, the City Council faces decisions on how it wants to approach economic development, Esch said. Potential strategies include partnering with outside entities, redeveloping obsolete or underutilized spaces and offering economic incentives to business prospects.
“Any good organization is going to develop a set of long-term objectives,” Esch said. “The purpose of the plan is to provide policy direction and guidance to staff through a participatory process that says, ‘Here are the things that we see are opportunities, where would you like to go?’”
Growth in tax base
Growing the city’s tax base is important to a healthy economy, leading to more job opportunities and other benefits related to increased sales revenue, Esch said. It helps the council address financial needs.
The city has seen notable improvements in the tax base as commercial property values have nearly doubled from fiscal year 2005-06 to FY 2016-17, according to the city’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Commercial property value has grown from $621.8 million to $1.14 billion in that time frame.
This is in large part due to major investments from large industrial businesses, such as Niagara Bottling and Ben E. Keith, according to economic development consulting firm TIP Strategies. Much of that growth is taking place near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Hwy. 90A—the site of Lakeview and Park 8Ninety business parks, which were developed by the Trammell Crow Company as it acquired the land in 2007 and 2014, respectively.
Missouri City has been a good partner for the businesses, providing incentives, such as tax abatement agreements to stay in the community, and the location allows them access to the Greater Houston area, Trammell Crow Principal Jeremy Garner said.
“The reality is industrial real estate is an excellent way for a city to increase its tax revenue because you bring a lot of value with the property you develop without increasing or without burdening the city resources,” Garner said.
The business park developments have provided job opportunities and expanded green space for local residents.
Although the city is poised for success in many areas with its diverse and well-educated demographics, proximity to major employers and partnerships with other organizations like the Fort Bend Economic Development Council, the city also has several weaknesses, according to TIP Strategies officials, who presented the plan.
“An important outcome of the plan, if it is successful, is to alleviate the burden of taxes on Missouri City residents by bringing in new commercial and flex space investment, all the while maintaining or enhancing the current level of services provided by the city,” said John Karras, TIP Strategies senior consultant.
Areas for improvement
Aside from the business parks, Missouri City has other significant opportunities for advancing its economic development efforts, Karras said.
“You’ve got the area along the Fort Bend Tollway all the way down to the Hwy. 6 intersection, that’s really the biggest chunk of remaining land within the city that’s not developed yet,” he said.
City leaders should consider an investment project in that region to serve as a catalyst and attract more commercial opportunities, Karras said. For example, other communities have partnered with organizations to develop sports stadium facilities, establishing a hub for retail and dining.
There is also a strong market demand for flex space for manufacturing, warehouse and office operations, and developing flex space can allow Missouri City to position itself as an attractive location for companies, Karras said. Meanwhile, it is equally critical for the city to support and retain existing businesses.
“That’s why we really were focused on trying to make sure there’s daytime employment,” Karras said. “You’ll have more people along those corridors to support existing retail and restaurants and maybe even help create demand for new ones.”
The Texas Parkway thoroughfare, in particular, has faced challenges with vacant properties and declining businesses, according to TIP Strategies.
Revitalizing Texas Parkway requires capital investment, and the city should focus on recruiting national, well-known retailers and restaurants, said Danny Nguyen, former City Council member and commercial real estate broker.
Nguyen has helped bring businesses, such as Wingstop and Discount Tire, to Texas Parkway and recently purchased land near the City Hall complex, featuring a 65,000-square-foot shopping center, which Nguyen plans to renovate.
“It’s an old, obsolete building,” he said. “In the effort of attracting tenants, we cannot leave the building like that …only a complete change will make a difference.”
Nguyen is also considering a mixed-use project on 15 acres of land near the intersection of Fifth Street and FM 1092 with professional, retail and residential space. Nguyen said he is in the process of engaging other professionals to partner for the project.
Mayor Allen Owen said he supports Nguyen’s renovation project because of its benefits.
“That’s going to spur other developments that’s going to happen along Texas Parkway that we keep talking about for years,” Owen said. “We’re getting there, but we’ve got to have people that have some faith in the economics of Missouri City.”
Missouri City has resources for meeting its goals, including the partnerships with other entities, such as the Fort Bend Economic Development Council and Houston Community College, Esch said.
“An example of working with others to facilitate [projects]when you have limited resources is the HCC project,” he said. “The city worked very diligently with the various entities, including the George Foundation, the county, Johnson Development Corp. to locate that new building, which is the single greatest capital investment in decades along Texas Parkway.”
The council has expressed interest in developments in the Sienna Plantation community, which has significant capacity for new growth, Karras said.
“Drawing more connections between the rest of Missouri City and Sienna Plantation and encouraging more collaboration makes a lot of sense in the long run, especially since—with the exception of the property along Fort Bend Tollway—most of Missouri City is already developed,” Karras said.
Led by Rubicon Realty, the development of the Sienna Village shopping center exemplifies a successful asset to Missouri City, said Inna Gallagher, principal at Rubicon Realty.
“Most of our developments are within the Sienna Plantation master-planned community,” Gallagher said. “They add value to communities and support needs of their residents. As a result, more families move to Sienna Plantation and Missouri City, which creates a larger tax base and ability to provide better schools and other essential services that cities compete on.”
City staff is in the midst of forming proposals to strategically approach economic development, and more information is forthcoming as part of the city’s budget-planning process, which will be completed in the fall, Esch said. Funding will be decided when the budget is adopted as the general fund is the city’s main source for supporting economic development.
“The thing is it takes time to build an office market, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Esch said. “As the economy changes and things go by, situations evolve, but there is a strategic direction.”