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Steady growth predicted in Spring, Klein, Tomball areas

Local chambers of commerce and economic development groups believe 2014 will be a strong year for communities in the Tomball, Spring and Klein areas.

The communities, which are bracketed between FM 2920, Texas 249, FM 1960 and Interstate 45, are in the midst of massive growth and development, which is being fed by the development of the Grand Parkway and the transformation of Texas 249 into the Tomball Tollway.

Tomball

In Tomball, the development has been steady, especially with mobility and the recent construction start of the Tomball Tollway in October.

The Tomball Tollway, funded by the Harris County Toll Road Authority, is being constructed between Spring-Cypress Road and Holderrieth Road at the Texas 249 bypass, but there are plans to continue into Montgomery County and ultimately to Navasota.

Bruce Hillegeist, president of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce, said it's an exciting time to be in the Tomball community and see the growth happening at such a rapid pace.

"It seems like weekly there is another company announcing expansion, or relocation to northwest Harris County," he said. "With ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, Southwestern Energy, that is what we see as the first wave. The second wave is the relocation of their vendors who want to be close to these larger companies."

In preparation of this anticipated shift, the Tomball Economic Development Corp. has worked since 2011 to obtain land and funding for a business and technology park.

On Dec. 16, the city council approved a contract with R&T Ellis Excavating Inc. to begin clearing the land at FM 2978 and Holderrieth Road in Tomball.

While the facility has yet to be constructed, there is a lot interest from a lot of companies, according to officials.

"The majority of the companies I meet with are oil and gas firms," said Kelly Violette, executive director of the Tomball Economic Development Corp. "Tomball is an attractive location for them because of the existing business base that we have, the growth of oil and gas companies in and around Tomball, including Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil and Noble Energy, and the transportation infrastructure improvements being made.

"Additionally, the fact that we have land available, excellent schools, and an exceptional quality of life make Tomball a highly desirable location for businesses."

While construction on the business and technology park is in the early stages, other companies in the Tomball area are already in the midst of change and adding to the economic strength of the area.

Since early 2013, Baker Hughes has been building the Western Hemisphere Education Center, which will be used to house and train students on oil field and oil platform operations worldwide.

The new facility, which mirrors the Eastern Hemisphere Education Center in Dubai, is the only one of its kind in the United States.

Other projects that will help foster that growth are the M-121 drainage project and the extension of Medical Complex Drive.

City manager George Shackelford said the city has been working to obtain right-of-way for the Medical Complex Drive project, which was part of the 2011 tax rate increase.

Once all of the right-of-way is obtained, the city will begin constructing another east-west corridor that will span between Texas 249 Business and Cherry Street.

Aside from a new corridor, there will also be opportunities for more development when the city obtains that right-of-way.

"This is going to open up a lot of land between Tomball Regional Medical Center and Cherry Street," Shackelford said.

Tourism in Tomball also has increased.

For years, the German Fest in March has served as a significant draw to tourism, but during the last two years the city has added a number of events.

Since 2011, Tomball has added festivals, such as Bugs, Brew & Barbecue, and only recently signed a memorandum of understanding to bring the Houston Railroad Museum to the historic Tomball Depot by the end of 2014.

"It's getting closer and closer," Shackelford said. "This will be a great addition down at the depot area."

Spring/Klein

While Tomball is seeing the effects of positive economic development, so are the communities of Spring and Klein.

Both of those communities, which fall under the business interests of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce and the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce, are reaping the benefits of positive growth.

Barbara Thomason, president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, said the business community, especially in the area between FM 1960 and Vintage on Louetta is taking an active interest in the growth potential of that area.

"I have the 30,000-foot view, and then I have a very specific list of projects," she said.

Earlier this year, the chamber launched Grow Northwest, one of several community initiatives designed to enhance the aesthetic value of the community.

The chamber also launched the Cypress Creek Parkway Property and Business Owners Association and provided assistance to the Old Town Spring Improvement District.

"We are at a crossroads in this community, so if we want to create a future ripe with promise, with plenty of high-paying jobs, with nice neighborhoods and an influx of young, educated families, we have to raise the bar and make some positive changes," she said.

These types of changes could be just around the corner.

In 2014, the ExxonMobil Corp. will unveil its 350,000-acre campus along I-45 in Spring and welcome more than 10,000 employees and their families to the area.

Last summer officials witnessed the groundbreaking of the new headquarters of Southwestern Energy in Springwoods, not far from the ExxonMobil campus.

Officials from the Spring-Klein chamber also are also looking forward to the positive economic impact these companies will bring to their areas.

Robin Favara, who chairs the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce, was among those chambers who traveled to Fairfax, Va. in May to meet with ExxonMobil employees, and was at the ground breaking of the Southwestern Energy complex in Springwoods.

"I personally believe the ExxonMobil campus is pushing a lot of that growth," Favara said.

"Southwestern Energy is bringing in a lot of people from different states, and they are also feeding that growth into the Spring-Klein area."

Favara said the Spring-Klein Chamber made a significant number of contacts while visiting with ExxonMobil families, and it is still getting phone calls about the school districts, parks, legal services and subdivisions.

"People are already moving this way. I think this is going to be a high growth area," she said.

http://ww2.hdnux.com/photos/25/45/40/5658637/0/622x350.jpg

Melanie Kania, left, Baker Hughes media relations specialist, along with Benchmark Houston Builders superintendents Brian Peterworth and Mike Rawlings check construction at the Baker-Hughes Western Hemisphere Education Center at the intersection of FM 2978 and FM 2920 in Tomball. The project is part of the economic development and growth in the area.