Houston-Galveston Area Council Newsletter    February 2021
January Board of Directors Meeting
At its first meeting of the new year, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Board of Directors approved legislative principles ahead of the 87th session of the Texas Legislature. These principles were developed by the H-GAC Legislative Committee and outlined the regional issues that the agency should support, monitor, or oppose when evaluating state legislation.

Principles H-GAC will actively support include legislation that helps expand broadband service and economic development, increases transportation mobility and accessibility, strengthens the authority of regional 9-1-1 emergency communications districts, supports aging programs and addresses mental health needs, increases cybersecurity, and supports job programs and workforce development. It will also monitor legislation that impacts such initiatives and programs as coastal protection, disaster recovery, emergency evacuation, mental health funding, and child care.

The board authorized the Clean Vehicles program to enter into an advance funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for congestion management and air quality projects. The Clean Vehicles program aims to reduce emissions and improve the region's air quality by replacing or retrofitting older, high emission diesel and gasoline engines with cleaner, low-emission engines and by supporting the deployment of alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. Projects that would be eligible for funding would include retrofitting/replacing heavy duty truck engines, acquiring electric school buses and charging stations, and developing alternative fueling facilities.

The board adopted a resolution recognizing January as Parks and Natural Areas Month. H-GAC will host a joint virtual event honoring the winners of the Parks and Natural Areas Awards and the Water Innovation Strategies of Excellence (WISE) Awards on Friday, Feb. 5 at 9 a.m. Click here for more information.

Towards the end of the meeting, the board adopted resolutions honoring the services of retiring board member Dr. Cheryl Sterling, Missouri City councilmember, and David Leyendecker Jr. Leyendecker passed away in December 2020.
Next Board Meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 16

The next board of directors meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16. If there are any scheduling or location updates to this meeting, we will notify the public immediately. For more information on H-GAC's Board of Directors, past meeting agendas or minutes, or to find dates for future meetings, visit the Board of Directors website.
H-GAC Program Spotlight: Economic Development
At its January meeting, the H-GAC Board of Directors recognized the 2020 accomplishments of the Gulf Coast Economic Development District.

The Gulf Coast Economic Development District assists and advises elected officials in their decision-making by making recommendations on issues related to economic development. It also provides economic development loans for qualified business owners and local governments.

In 2020, the economic development district pursued several strategies to assist businesses and communities in recovering from the double-layered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil and gas downturn. It provided free webinars and a biweekly digest to help connect businesses and communities with federal CARES Act grants and other funding opportunities. It also tracked local economic impacts and produced data reports, giving business owners and local governments the tools they needed to strategize on recovery and take steps to increase resilience.
Program Contact: Jillian Donnatto
Title: Senior Planner
Joined H-GAC: February 2020
Contact Email: jillian.donatto@h-gac.com
Contact Phone: 713-993-4547
In 2021, the economic development district will build on last year's accomplishments to create a stronger, more connected region that provides equitable economic opportunity for all. Focus areas include building upon the Regional High-Speed Internet Strategy and the Starter Hubs Initiative, which aims to leverage peer-to-peer networks with local support systems to build regional entrepreneurial ecosystems that help launch, grow, and expand small businesses from within their communities.

For more information on Gulf Coast Economic Development District programs and initiatives, visit h-gac.com/gulf-coast-economic-development-district.
H-GAC Announces New Board Officers, Highlights Key Accomplishments, and Outlines 2021 Plans at Annual Meeting
H-GAC announced the election of the new officers to the 2021 Board of Directors, recognized the past year’s key accomplishments, and discussed 2021 plans at the agency’s annual meeting and general assembly, held virtually on Jan. 29.
Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath will lead as board chair. City of Dickinson Councilmember William H. King, III will serve as chair-elect alongside Galveston County Commissioner Kenneth Clark as vice-chair. 
2021 Board of Directors Officers:
Phillip Spenrath
Wharton County Judge
William H. King, III
City of Dickinson
Kenneth Clark
Galveston County
Additionally, H-GAC recognized its major 2020 accomplishments with the unveiling of its first-ever annual service video. The video serves as a companion piece to the agency’s annual report. The H-GAC annual report and service video can be viewed online at h-gac.com/about/annual-report.
2020 Annual Report
2020 Service Video
Carolyn Bilski Elected as Home Rule Cities Alternate on H-GAC Board of Directors
Carolyn Bilski, mayor of Sealy, Texas, was elected to serve as the Home Rule Cities alternate on the H-GAC Board of Directors at a special election held just before the annual meeting on Jan. 29.

Bilski fills a vacancy that was created from the results of the November 2020 municipal elections. She will be the alternate to Natalie Picha, mayor pro tem of the city of Seabrook.
Craig Raborn Joins H-GAC as New Transportation Director
H-GAC has hired Craig Raborn as its new director of transportation services. Raborn succeeds Alan Clark, who retired last fall after 37 years of service. He began his new role on Feb. 1.

As transportation director, Raborn will lead transportation planning efforts for the eight-county Houston-Galveston metropolitan planning area, which includes the counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller, and is home to 6.7 million residents. He will also help guide the Transportation Policy Council, the region’s transportation policymaking body, to establish future investment priorities and projects that support sustainable growth, increased safety and mobility, enhanced economic vitality, and superior quality of life. 

Read our press release for more information.
H-GAC Will Hold Virtual Parks and Natural Areas/WISE Awards Joint Event on Friday, Feb. 5
The combined Parks and Natural Areas Summit and Awards and Water Innovation Strategies of Excellence (WISE) Awards will be from 9-11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5. This event will be online.
The event will include the annual Parks and Natural Areas Awards recognition ceremony. These projects serve as models for planning and project implementation for parks and natural areas in the region. Projects will be honored in three categories: Planning Process, On-the-Ground Projects Over $500,000, and On-the-Ground Projects Under $500,000. 
H-GAC will also honor the winners of the WISE Awards, recognizing innovative strategies and projects in the Houston-Galveston region that serve as models for improving water quality.
Registration is required.
HGACBuy Hosts Open House Series in February
HGACBuy is starting the new year with a free virtual open house series. Vendors and members will be able to meet one-on-one in Zoom breakout rooms, establish or strengthen relationships with one another, and learn more about the HGACBuy Cooperative Purchasing Program. Open house sessions will take place on the following dates:

  • Feb. 15, 2021 | 10 a.m. - Job Order Contracting Services - Automotive Parts and Accessories for Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicles, Fire Apparatus, and Related

  • Feb. 22, 2021 | 10 a.m. - Marketing, Public Relations, and Event Planning Services

  • Feb. 24, 2021 | 10 a.m. - School Buses 

If you are an interested HGACBuy member, you can register for one or more of these sessions at hgacbuy.org/resources/hgacbuy-open-house.
Help Give a Voice to Older Texans by Filing for Candidacy in the Texas Silver-haired Legislature
Older Texans wishing to give a voice in the Texas Legislature for seniors in their area are urged to file for candidacy in The Texas Silver-Haired Legislature.

The Texas Silver-Haired Legislature is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization comprised of 123 elected representatives aged 60 and older who advocate on issues concerning older Texans. Persons wishing to serve in The Texas Silver Haired-Legislature must file for candidacy through the Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging by Feb. 26. Forms for candidacy can be found at h-gac.com or by calling 713-993-4535.

Read our news release for more information.
H-GAC Launches Regional Data Hub
In January, H-GAC replaced its GIS data downloads page by launching a new open GIS data portal called the H-GAC Regional Data Hub. Here you can discover free public GIS (geographic information systems) data downloads across eight different data categories, web-based GIS services and tools, and other GIS-specific resources from H-GAC's GIS programs. Questions and comments about the data hub can be emailed to dsgis@h-gac.com.
Texas Department of Transportation Announces Call for Projects - Transportation Alternatives
Ped Bike Facilities
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is seeking applications from rural and small urban communities for their 2021 Transportation Alternatives program for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Areas with a population of 5,000 or fewer are eligible for nonurban funds, and those with a population of fewer than 200,000 are eligible for small urban funds. Preliminary applications are due March 1, 2021. This is an exciting opportunity to advance your active transportation plans.  

For more information, visit TxDOT's website at www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/public-transportation/bicycle-pedestrian.html, or contact Dr. Ana Ramirez with the TxDOT Houston District at Ana.RamirezHuerta@txdot.gov
Workforce Solutions Releases December 2020 Labor Market Analysis
The Houston-Galveston region's unemployment rate dropped from 8.9% in November to 8.0% in December 2020. The unemployment rate is more than double the rate for the same month in 2019 (3.6%). Employers in the Houston-Galveston region added 10,600 jobs in December 2020, but 276,405 people remain out of work and looking for a job. 

According to economist Parker Harvey, “We have seen steady growth throughout 2020 in the warehousing subsector, which is likely driven by the move to more online shopping.” 

The full report is available on the Workforce Solutions website
H-GAC to Launch Livable Centers Call for Study Sponsors
H-GAC plans to release a call for study sponsors for the Livable Centers program this month. Sponsors are limited to local governments or other eligible entities. Please note: This is not a request for proposals from consulting firms. 
The objectives of the Livable Centers planning studies are to:
  • Help create quality, walkable, mixed-use places
  • Create multimodal travel choices
  • Improve environmental quality
  • Promote economic development and housing choice 

H-GAC seeks to identify and fund Full Livable Centers studies and, for the first time, Focused Livable Centers studies. Full Livable Centers studies will be scaled at a community level. Focused Livable Centers studies will focus on a smaller geographic area and/or specific issue (e.g., transit-oriented development, first/last mile connections).

The proposed study must be in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, or Waller counties. 

H-GAC and project sponsors have completed more than 30 livable centers studies, and 75% of those studies report that implementation expectations are on-track. Learn more about the program's progress in the 10-year evaluation report and summary.

More information about deadlines, specific application content, and pre-proposal meetings will be available on the H-GAC Livable Centers website. For question, please email LivableCenters@h-gac.com.
H-GAC is Hiring
Home to more than 7 million people, the Houston-Galveston region is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse regions in the country. Making sure the region remains one of the nation’s leading places to live, work, and prosper doesn’t just happen—it takes planning and partnerships.

If you are looking for a career where you can help make a difference in urban, suburban, and rural communities, the Houston-Galveston Area Council has exciting opportunities for you. For more information or to apply for a job, visit the careers page on H-GAC's website.