Diversity in Business Key to Life for the Future of Fort Bend County | Opinion
Going through the pages of this edition of Star of Fort Bend, it’s easy to get a feel for the size, scope and ambition of Fort Bend County these days.
Work is progressing at Stafford on a $ 19 million industrial project. In Richmond, a brand new 850,000 square foot Amazon order processing facility has just opened and will employ more than 1,000 people.
Business is booming in Fort Bend County, and the good news doesn’t end with just one newspaper edition, either.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been writing about a small local business that had big hits on ‘Shark Tank’ on TV and started working on the massive $ 120 million EpiCenter special events site and on solar projects galore, to name a few of the headlines.
All of these efforts deserve to be celebrated. Fort Bend County is at the forefront of places across this country, and we need jobs and businesses to help keep it that way for years to come.
One need only look at the sections of our online document – community, culture, education and business, and real estate, among others – to recognize the importance we place on business across the country.
But to borrow the theme of another story on our front page this week, I would ask readers to remember the importance of diversity in Fort Bend County, in every sense of the word.
Earlier this year, we wrote a detailed article on the state of Stafford’s finances. Long heralded by elected leaders, including the late Mayor Leonard Scarcella, as an unprecedented American achievement, growing numbers have started calling for a serious overhaul of the city’s no-tax policy, citing troubled economic forecasts .
I have covered cities of different sizes and shapes during my career as a journalist and have thus been able to interview town planners. The almost constant refrain I’ve heard during this time is that variety is the spice of life and a successful city.
Nor is it a criticism specific to a single municipality. Many cities across the country are struggling to diversify their tax base at both ends of the spectrum. Some municipalities remain stranded as dormitory communities and impose a growing tax burden on residents themselves.
And zero property taxes might make a brilliant slogan and a legitimate draw for tax-weary potential residents, but the concept only works when business is going well. With the pandemic and associated business closures across the country laid bare, it’s hard to balance a budget when you are completely dependent on sales tax revenue from non-existent sales.
Other cities in Texas without property taxes have not done as well in recent months. Kemah, a tourist destination tucked away on the west side of Galveston Bay, relies heavily on sales and beverage taxes to fund its operations, with more than 85 percent of its annual income coming from these funds, according to a Galveston County Daily News article.
In response to dire projections at the start of the pandemic after bars, shops and other businesses were closed, Kemah City Council made significant budget cuts, laying off several employees and leaving other positions vacant, according to the article.
In conversations with elected officials in Fort Bend County over the past few weeks, I have heard several people say that the area is suffering from a housing shortage. This is hardly a problem specific to this riding, or even to the region, but it is a problem that deserves attention.
The realtor.com website recently released a report that, based on the number of US citizens looking for housing, the country would need 5.2 million additional housing units to fully meet demand, according to a United States today September article.
Fort Bend County has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years and has become one of the flagpoles of what America might one day look like – a melting pot of cultures and ideas. This diversity is our greatest asset, and it’s something we need to keep in mind as we approach 2022 and beyond.
By all means, celebrate the commercial success that has occurred in Fort Bend County in recent weeks. But then ask yourself, “What comes next?” “