WHAT OPPORTUNITIES MIGHT BE FLOATING TO THE TOP-OR FLOATING AWAY
Looking at all the media reports from Houston, Alvin, Port Arthur, Rockport, Wharton, Conroe and Victoria, it is understandable that more than 150,000 homes were destroyed up and down the coast of Texas during Harvey’s double landfall as well as the inevitable and unavoidable controlled release of water from various reservoirs. Looking at a map of the devastation it is not surprising to see that Texas City suffered less damage than most coastal areas due to the Levee, the Texas City Dike – which did experience some damage – and five pumps and their operators that meant the difference between so many homes not taking on water and others taking on significantly less than might have been. Many of our neighbors did not fare nearly as well and we have a responsibility to care for and support those neighbors during what may well prove to be a very lengthy recovery. At the outset, citizens joined together for the sprint to assist those with urgent and immediate need. And neighbor to neighbor, we did that. We made sure that babies had diapers, pets were rescued, and families were provided with a warm meal and a safe place to lay their heads. Now we are moving into recovery and this will be the true test of our character. This will be a marathon of joblessness, limited housing, higher prices and virtually everything will be just a little harder, a little more frustrating and a great deal more difficult to navigate.
The simple fact is The Mainland will attract a large number of renters and buyers to the area over the next few (or many) months. This is an opportunity for revenue and for growth. This is a good thing. The question that bubbles up is – who’s revenue and who’s growth? The opportunity for outsiders to come to Dickinson, Santa Fe and Hitchcock, as well as other areas on The Mainland to scoop up below market homes to flip and sell or to buy out small business owners with not enough cash flow to recover from Harvey is a given. Is it possible that business models – restaurants, health care, etc. might also be attracted to less expensive commercial properties? Seems likely.
One side of the sword is that the same individuals wanting to relocate to a “safer” area will often be attracted to The Mainland and all it offers. The other side of the sword says that opportunists from other areas are going to come to the same conclusion and come streaming in to benefit from the good work that has been done and is still being done by local residents, civil servants, business owners and the community at large. Already we have seen it happen; investors, individuals, companies outside The Mainland, have seen the value of living behind a levee; having access to Galveston without the tourists, offering close proximity to Houston without the traffic, as well as significantly less per square foot in price.
It would seem that now is the time to gather together and commit to the importance of staying local – local insurance, local mortgage companies, local contractors, local real estate companies, local antiques, estate sales, advertisers, repair companies, ac, plumbing, electrical, landscaping; lawyers, doctors, restaurants, non- profits, health care. The internet can be a double-edged sword, giving us access to so much information yet leaving us vulnerable to misinformation and misrepresentation. Local businesses get up every day knowing that how they conduct business impacts their reputation one way or another. Locals do not disappear into the “webmist”. Locals are invested in their community. Their customers are their neighbors. They have sons and daughters, parents and grandparents that rely on the services provided by our mayor, our police and fire departments. Locals are our banks, our schools, our sanitation workers, our pump engineers. When we do not acknowledge the importance of honoring the commitment of all those people who get up every day and do their best to grow, maintain, honor, respect, challenge, and defend the good work that went before us that makes us who we are, we diminish our possibilities as a community and as a people.
None of this is to say that businesses outside our community should never be patronized. Our community thrives on working with and supporting our neighboring communities. This is simply to say that we are all stewards of our cities’ wellbeing and as such, should support and patronize our local businesses first. We need to be cognizant that with challenges come opportunities and the onus is on us to welcome new business and new residents by offering the services that are well established in our various communities first, before committing to the lure of a quick sale.