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Northwest Houston gears up for more growth

Community leaders in northwest Houston are taking a closer look at marketing as the Grand Parkway moves closer to completion.

Representatives from the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tomball Economic Development Corp. took a tour of the nearly completed Grand Parkway with members of the North Houston Center for Economic Development, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Harris County Precinct 4 representatives to see firsthand the opportunities for economic development as a result of the Grand Parkway.

"We are all so close (proximity), but they were just amazed at what we had to offer out here," said Bruce Hillegeist, president of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.

The purpose of the tour was to showcase economic benefits of the area of northwest Houston and the Grand Parkway to business leaders in and around Harris County, and see first-hand many of the available properties along the Grand Parkway.

Many of those properties are owned by Caldwell Companies, and NewQuest Development, Hillegeist said.

"This was a game changer for us," he said.

The Greater Tomball region has become a significant player in attracting business large and small, including Baker Hughes, which relocated to Tomball in 2012, and Packers Plus, which announced plans to relocate to the Tomball Business and Technology Park in 2016.

"The idea behind doing that trip was to get a little more of an understanding of the activity that's going on in the north Houston region," said Kelly Violette, executive director for the Tomball EDC. "We wanted to bring everyone together, and look at regionally what is going on, and the spine of it - being the Grand Parkway - and how that really connects us."

Debbie Howle, director for the North Houston Regional Center for Economic Development, said the tour was exciting from an economic development standpoint, but seeing the vast amount of land between U.S. 290 and Interstate 45 means the region will likely begin to see substantial development soon after the Grand Parkway officially opens to traffic in 2016.

"We try and imagine and we have seen maps with dots and the Grand Parkway on it, but to actually drive…and see all of the land that is now accessible for development, our metropolitan area is greatly expanded," she said. "It's just made our region so much bigger because of accessibility now. These were farm lands. They were out in the country, but they aren't now."

Segments F1, F2 and G of the Grand Parkway - between U.S. 290 in Cypress, and Interstate 69 north of Kingwood - include more than 33 miles of land that is already seeing some development in mixed-use or residential communities.

However, in northwest Houston, much of that land is untouched.

Howle said the accessibility will likely attract industrial manufacturers, or corporations looking to relocate their administrative teams.

"We receive a lot of inquiries through the Greater Houston Partnership or site selectors who are looking to find large parcels of land to develop.

Since there are few, if any, economic development organizations outside of the Greater Tomball area, a great many commercial developers could look more toward the Tomball region in an effort to obtain grant or incentive funding to help with infrastructure costs, as well as to provide direction with the Tomball City Council.

"The message was relayed over and over of this really being a game changer for us," Violette said. "I think this really opened everyone's eyes and brought us together as a region."