The Galveston Economic Development Partnership and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston today hosted the 2012 Developer Conference I at the Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis Resort.
GEDP Chair Johnny Smecca introduced GEDP President Jeff Sjostrom, who presented a brief overview of the organization. Listen
“The GEDP basically is in existence to expand Galveston’s employment and tax bases,” Sjostrom said. “We do that through facilitation and working with all of our public sector partners and the private sector.”
University of Texas Medical Branch President Dr. David Callender said that UTMB continues to be a vital part of the region’s economy. Listen
“It has great plans to grow,” Callender said, noting the activity on the campus related to Hurricane Ike recovery. “Those plans are driven by needs for better health and more health care for the state of Texas.
Port of Galveston Executive Director Mike Mierzwa reported on activity at the port, and preparations for the expanded Panama Canal, which he says now is predicted for completion in 2015, rather than 2014. Listen
“The Port of Galveston is not a container port,” Mierzwa said. “More than likely, with the exception of building a container facility on the west end…we are not going to be a container port in the future.”
He noted that the Galveston port and the Port of Houston are studying a possible container terminal on Pelican Island, but was not optimistic about anything soon.
“I would tell you that if there is anything going to happen with the Port of Houston and the Port of Galveston with a container facility on Pelican Island, it is unlikely that anything would happen until after 2020.”
Galveston City Manager Mike Kovacs reported that the recovery in Galveston is moving at full speed. Listen
“With all these great things happening, both at the port and with the parks and the beaches, and tourism and the university and all the things going on here, and the continuing commerce,” Kovacs said. “The challenge is for us to keep up with what’s going on with the private sector. Definitely we are in recovery.”
General Charles W. McClain, special advisor to the president of Texas A&M University at Galveston said Galveston is unique. Listen
“For a city of this size, I don’t know where you can find a major medical center, a branch of a Tier 1 university and the other educational opportunities that are here,” McClain said. “This place should be as well known for the educational opportunities here as it is for the tourism and the port and other things.”
Galveston Independent School District Superintendent Larry Nichols reported on improvements in the Galveston school system. Listen
“We’re better,” he said. “But we’re going to be good.”
Park Board of Trustees Executive Director Kelly de Schaun reviewed the successes of the tourism industry. Listen
“Galveston is alive, vibrant, dynamic and has an amazing diversity of opportunities for visitors and residents alike,” de Schaun said, noting that the park board is working to attract visitors who will stay longer in Island hotels and spend more money in the local economy.
A highlight of the conference was the presentation of the 2012 Developer of the Year to Tilman Fertitta.
“Mr. Fertitta is recognized based on these distinguished characteristics — economic impact, innovation and entrepreneurship and commitment to Galveston’s future,” Sjostrom said. “Mr. Fertitta was selected for his investments in Galveston — both those in the past and those in development for Galveston’s future.”