Scheiner a Panelist for The State of Montgomery County Event
19 Aug 2021
Staff News, Business News
The State of Montgomery County, hosted by Bisnow, brought regional stakeholders together for an update on major projects, creating a competitive advantage, and boosting the economy. Held at The Woodlands Towers at the Waterway on August 19, attendees heard from two panels of industry experts and local professionals. Danielle Scheiner, Executive Director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, was a featured speaker at the event for the panel on “Creating Foot Traffic in Montgomery County.”
The Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch provided opening remarks and introduced attendees to the first panel on “The Post-Pandemic Suburban Appeal – What’s Driving People to the Burbs?” With Elevation Land Solutions Partner and Region Manager Jon Unterreiner as Moderator, panelists included Montgomery County’s County Judge Mark Keough, Howard Hughes Corporation President Jim Carman, The Johnson Development Corporation Senior Vice President Bob Douglas, The Signorelli Company Senior Vice President Jeff Dewese, Caldwell Companies Partner Peter Barnhart, and Bold Fox Development Managing Shareholder Alex Kamkar.
Panelists began by discussing what makes Montgomery County so unique for developments and providing insights into why Montgomery County is the number one place to develop. Comments included partnerships in development working well together, beautiful amenity packages unique to the area, record sales in homes during the pandemic, and quick turnaround time for projects. Montgomery County is pro-business and pro-growth, with county tax rates that counterbalance rising home values. Our local leadership encourages growth the right way with consistency and transparency, which enables developers to make long-term plans and quality decisions. Panelists also noted that an absence of harsh measures on businesses during the pandemic encouraged people from other counties to come to Montgomery County because we remained open for business.
Panelists remarked that suburban development in Montgomery County will have a continued focus on quality of life, affordability of single-family homes, availability of high-speed data, and ease of mobility. Sustainability practices and figuring out how to do more with less in multi-function spaces are also key factors. Looking ahead, panelists agreed that land and home prices need to take a breather for us to continue to attract businesses and people for relocations, and we need to be able to pivot and change for needs that arise, such as the need for more senior communities and the integration of trails (number one in amenities) in master planned communities.
Attendees were then introduced to the second panel. In addition to Scheiner, and with The Strong Firm Founder and Managing Shareholder Bret Strong as Moderator, panelists for “Creating Foot Traffic in Montgomery County” included The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership CEO Gil Staley, Visit The Woodlands Chairman Bruce Rieser, Capital Retail Properties Managing Partner Eric Walker, and The Woodlands Mall Senior General Manager Ted Harris.
Panelists began by discussing the primary drivers for generating foot traffic, changes facing retail through the pandemic, and happenings with suburbia and downtown. Comments included creating walkability for shopping, bringing big businesses and events, specifically conventions for medical and sports tourism, and maximizing hotel tax and sales tax to help keep property taxes affordable. Panelists noted that Montgomery County is one of the few places in the United States where cities and townships are focusing on bringing smart retail like groceries, restaurants, and medical. Dynamic synergy is the driving force behind Montgomery County’s retail successes, as one panelist noted that when the tide rises, all ships rise. For The Woodlands Mall, it involves listening to their customer base for what they want and then offering it to them. After Covid-19, this meant indoor and outdoor space renovations, including turning an underused parking lot into a lawn for family-friendly events that also resulted in expanding restaurant offerings. Panelists agreed that creating destination shopping experiences is key.
For Conroe, Scheiner provided an update on the increasing diversity of the downtown area businesses and walkability around town. As the county seat for Montgomery County, government and law offices have traditionally made up the bulk of Conroe’s downtown. However, Downtown Conroe, a charming and historical hub, is in the midst of a renaissance. Conroe’s updated Downtown Development Plan set the stage for unique development with district changes that will increase walkability by establishing pedestrian experiences and include residential and commercial construction. Downtown Conroe now offers chef-driven unique, remarkable eateries and is home to craft breweries, wineries, and a meadery. In addition, our Convention and Visitors Bureau does a terrific job with live events and tourism opportunities, including getting Conroe certified as a Texas Music Friendly Community and a Film Friendly Certified Community. Developments along 105 on the waterfront of Lake Conroe, Margaritaville Lake Conroe, which actually opened during the height of the pandemic last year and remained sold out during occupancy restrictions, and the new hotel and convention center near Grand Central Park are all contributing to positive changes in Conroe.
“We are beginning to see more walkability starting to develop around town,” said Scheiner to the audience. “It’s very transformative and exciting.”
Scheiner also shared the idea of “coop-etition,” a phrase coined with Staley, as they have a great working dynamic.
“The Woodlands has a focus, and Conroe has a focus,” said Scheiner. “We are uniquely suited in that companies can house their regional or corporate headquarters in The Woodlands and their manufacturing headquarters eight miles up the road in Conroe with a regional airport right next door.”
Scheiner and Staley both touched on the all-time highs in requests for information and proposals for their respective organizations, and Scheiner also shared project updates, such as Conroe Park North’s recent expanded infrastructure now provides three direct-access points to I-45, making mobility even easier for our area companies.
“In particular, I’m very proud of a creosote site project that also improved mobility by extending 1314 north to Airport Road in Conroe,” shared Scheiner. “It was great seeing the work that occurred with that project across all levels of government.”
As the event was ending, panelists were asked what to watch out for as Montgomery County moves forward. They commented regarding the lack of labor pool for retail and how supply chains have been performing sub-optimally, and they reiterated that rising housing and land costs need attention. However, all panelists shared the same idea: Montgomery County is in a good place and needs to maintain focus to stay that way.