The Greater Houston Partnership’s Board of Directors has approved adding Wharton County to the business organization’s economic development footprint. In an email, Wharton became the 12th county covered by the Partnership, which is the Houston area’s designated economic development organization.
Partnership officials said it would work closely with leaders in Wharton County to identify, recruit, attract and retain investment, companies and jobs for the benefit of the people of the county and the greater Houston region.
“We are excited to add Wharton County to our service region and support the area’s economic development and growth,” said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. “I got to know Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath a few years ago and was impressed by his team and his personal enthusiasm for expanding economic opportunities in Wharton County by growing connections with the broader region. Wharton County offers new placement opportunities for certain types of economic development projects, particularly distribution and logistics projects, as well as those tied to supply chains in Mexico and projects that must be in an attainment area for NOx (ozone). We look forward to working with county leaders to leverage this partnership for the benefit of all in the Houston region.”
Located 60 miles southwest of Houston, Wharton County is a strategic location for projects tied to the US 59/I-69 Superhighway and the accessibility to freight rail service.
Spenrath is one of several local officials on the City of Wharton Economic Development Corporation’s Advisory Committee. He spoke about what this means to the county, too.
“In recent years, Wharton County has facilitated critical infrastructure projects, as well as business expansions in the region,” Spenrath said. “By joining the Greater Houston Partnership’s service region, Wharton has the opportunity to leverage the business organization’s influence to accelerate the county’s economic development efforts. We look forward to working closely with the Partnership on driving our area’s growth.”
Partnership officials said they would work closely with WEDC, and also the City Development Corporation of El Campo in their efforts to recruit, retain and expand new and existing businesses in the area.
“Wharton is dedicated to growing our manufacturing and agricultural base,” said Joshua Owens, who was hired as WEDC executive director last month. “Joining the Greater Houston Partnership will enhance our ability to attract the right mix of companies and entrepreneurs. The City of Wharton has invested in expanding our transportation network, enhancing critical infrastructure, opening land for greenfield development, and reinvesting in our historic downtown.”
Owens replaced Chad Odom, who moved to Alabama to seek a similar economic development post. Owens told the Journal-Spectator he credits Odom and David Schroeder, who was WEDC’s first executive director, for helping with this Partnership opportunity.
In the email, Partnership officials said Wharton County’s recent economic development wins include the 540-acre Southwest International Gateway Business Park, a rail-served warehouse park in El Campo developed by Stonemont Financial Group. Kansas City Southern Railway is expanding rail infrastructure to support the project.
“El Campo is excited about joining the Greater Houston Partnership and the myriad of opportunities this relationship will offer our community and the broader Houston region as we work to attract companies to our area,” said Carolyn Gibson, executive director of the City Development Corporation of El Campo. “We are ideally situated for logistics as we sit at the intersection of I-69 and State Highway 71, with outstanding shovel-ready land with both highway and Class One rail frontage. This relationship will be a win-win for all involved.”
As the state-designated regional economic development organization, the Greater Houston Partnership said in the email that it works closely with partners across the area to submit regional responses to RFP’s (requests for proposals) from domestic and international companies looking to relocate or expand their operations. A formal relationship facilitates and promotes increased interactions related to these projects.
The Partnership has already been working closely with Wharton County Junior College, which has a campus in Sugar Land, as part of the organization’s UpSkill Houston program. UpSkill Houston is an employer-led initiative to develop programs and practices critical to ensuring the region has the skilled workforce needed to drive a strong, diverse economy.
Wharton County joins 11 other counties incorporated in the Partnership’s service region: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker and Waller counties.