JOB CREATION IDEAS FOR COASTAL SOUTH TEXAS HEARD BY JOINT COMMITTEE
|The Joint Interim Committee on Cruise Industry Development meeting in Corpus Christi|
Economic development has always been a goal of the Texas Senate. To that end, one of the committees meeting this interim has been charged with studying whether the cruise industry might bring new jobs to the south Texas Coast between Calhoun County, just northeast of Corpus Christi, and Brownsville at the far southern end of the state.
Today, October 15, 2012, the Joint Interim Committee to Study Cruise Industry Development traveled to Corpus Christi to examine what impact that business could have on the Coastal Bend. Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Representative Todd Hunter held the meeting at the Port of Corpus Christi, which, since its opening in 1926, has been a major center for U.S. exports and imports.
Chairman Hinojosa opened the hearing, telling the audience that their purpose was to find ways the Texas Legislature could assist the local governments in helping such businesses to develop and how state regulations would affect cruise operators. He also mentioned that the state has a long history of partnering with the private sector to create new jobs.
David Teal of the Texas Travel Industry Association told the committee that tourism jobs are always desirable, as they are "good jobs, middle class jobs, jobs people can make a living at", and that many of these are in the cruise industry, which is growing at seven percent per year.
Mayor Joe Adame of Corpus Christi said the cruise industry and its support structures would bring diversity to the job market in the Coastal Bend, leading to further investment from other companies. "The City of Port Aransas is alive and well largely due to tourism", testified Keith McMullin, Mayor of Port Aransas. He told the committee that a developed cruise industry couldn't help but be a benefit to the area's economy. Alita Bagley, of the South Padre Island City Council, said that with up to 50 thousand tourists at a time in her city, the importance of tourism in south Texas could not be underestimated and that a thriving cruise industry out of the Port of Brownsville would create jobs though out the Rio Grande Valley.
County officials followed, Burt Mills, Aransas County Judge, Terry Simpson from San Patricio County as well as county commissioners Joe McComb from Nueces county and Sofia Benavides from Cameron County all confirmed that they too were ready to work with the state in pursuing development of the industry in south Texas.
Representatives from the local Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Corporations and the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau said that currently the vast majority of tourists to the Coastal Bend were from the larger cities of Texas and that a cruise industry presence would attract others from even farther away. Diana Probst, from the Rockport Chamber, testified that there are seasonal lows that a cruise industry would help to fill, and that the spin-off businesses would be important as well. Cathy Colomo-Riojas from the Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce agreed that the impact on the area's small businesses would be extremely positive.
Port Directors from both Brownsville and Corpus Christi testified that cruise ships would require the creation of a new infrastructure, not unlike that surrounding major airports, to support the crews, the cruise customers, and their needs. Public testimony followed.
The Joint Interim Committee to Study Cruise Industry Development is Chaired by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen and Representative Todd Hunter. Members include Senators Joan Huffman, Mike Jackson, Eddie Lucio, Jr., and Tommy Williams. House members include Gary Elkins, Ryan Guillen, Eddie Lucio III, and Connie Scott. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.