By Seema Hakhu Kachru
The Houston economy is perking up, getting stronger and paving the way for more companies to relocate or expand their operations as the city offers tremendous opportunities and a better quality of life.
Addressing a business luncheon Wednesday, hosted by Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH), the keynote speaker, Mr Jim Kollaer, Greater Houston Partnership president, said, ï¿½Economic Development is a quality of life, which is possible if you can work together irrespective of color or ï¿½dealsï¿½. Houston is as diverse as whole of America will be in another 50 years, which has helped make the city stronger than any other cities in the nationï¿½.
Commenting on the need to repeat the successes of the International Festival Kollaer said ï¿½Houston’s economic development health will depend on continuing to improve the Quality of Life factors of education, open space, housing, parks and wildlife over the next 25 yearsï¿½.
ï¿½The success of the future lies in the continued and expanded cooperation amongst the City, Harris County, the various chambers represented in the room as well as the other 30 plus economic development allies who continue the quest for more jobs and business growth in the regionï¿½.
Kollaer informed that over 250 Companies were exploring options for expanding or relocating their facilities here and listed factors they are typically looking for ï¿½availability of workforce, land or buildings, a high quality of life and incentives, better schools, sports and geographic diversity. Houston is strong in all these areas. We are really blessed to have many allies on which to draw to assist companies.
ï¿½Because of Governor Perryï¿½s enterprise fund, 42,000 new jobs are coming to Houston and we expect this growth to improve, he added.ï¿½
The luncheon focusing on ï¿½Economic Development in Houstonï¿½ and business opportunities both here and with India provided around 130 participants, both corporate and government leaders and members of several local minority Chambers of commerce, a forum to exchange ideas and build relationships.
Welcoming the guests in the beginning, Mr Jagdip Ahluwalia, IACCGH Executive Director said that the Chamber would continue to open up new opportunities to its members to work with other area Chambers and work in an enhanced network.
ï¿½Todayï¿½s event is special because it is probably Jimï¿½s last speech as President & CEO of the Partnership, who has served the regionï¿½s largest advocacy organization since 1990. During his tenure, he has advanced the Partnership from a fledgling organization to a business powerhouse that is well-respected around the country for its opinion and leadership on a range of issuesï¿½, Mr Ahluwalia said.
Commending the efforts of Consul General of India Mr S R Tayal, who was the special invitee, for the success of Houston International festival, showcasing India, Mr Ahluwalia said, ï¿½Mr Tayal has done immense work to make the festival a grand success, right from its conception, making of the book about India for distribution in schools, to the sale of tables at the Mayorï¿½s galaï¿½.
Richard Huebner, Executive Director, Houston Minority Business Council, the co-hosts of the event, introduced the keynote speaker Mr Jim Kollaer and commended him for his visionary role in shaping the city.
Dr Randhir Sinha, IACCGH president presented a souvenir and certification of appreciation to Mr Kollaer. While presenting the honor, Dr Sinha said, ï¿½Jim is certainly worthy of this honor. His foresight and leadership has enabled our city and region to be counted as a world-class place to live, learn, play and workï¿½.
Certificate of appreciation was also presented to Mr Naville Ravji of Tara Energy and to Captain Prasad Menon, founder IMC Maritime. Both IMC Maritime and Tara Energy sponsored the event.
Mr Naville Ravji, Tara Energy Principal & Head of Risk Management, spoke briefly about the company, which is a retail electricity provider, while accepting his certificate and thanked the community for their continued support.
Dedicated to foster economic development for Indo-Americans and business between India and the United States, the IACCGHï¿½s primary focus is to create networking opportunities to all local businesses enabling successful businessmen to share their experiences and expertise with small businesses and startups.
The chamber also provides training programs and ‘mentor’ programs to small businesses to enable them to move to the next level of growth. They also help in establishing links and relationships with the City, State and Federal legislature bodies.
The guest list for the luncheon included; Mike Rozell, Economic Advisor and Sally Lehr, Chief of Staff to Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, Richard Huebner, Executive Director, Houston Minority Business Council, Charles Foster, Chairman Asia Society, Saba Abashawl, Houston Airport Authority and leaders and members of area Chambers of Commerce and economic development agencies.
Co-hosting the local event with IACCGH was the Houston Minority Business Council.
Phyllis Graham, on behalf of Continental Airlines, gave away one business class ticket to Europe from draw of lots; and door prizes were given out to some lucky attendees courtesy Lufthansa.
Ms Cynthia Tauss, Gulf Coast Regional Representative, representing the office of the Governor Rick Perry proposed the vote of thanks.
She commended the Chamber for its constant effort to reach out to the business community and stated that the Partnership would work with the chamber in every area of development, be it clean air, transportation, education or commerce.
It was revealed at the Luncheon that plans are underway for October 2005 Trade delegation to India. Details on the delegation will be available from the Greater Houston Partnership and IACCGH once finalized.
Photo Courtesy : Bijay Dixit
Front Row(L to R) Naville Ravji( Tara Energy ), Jagdip Ahluwalia(Executive Director, IACCGH), Jim Kollaer(Keynote Speaker:President Greater Houston Partnership), Prasad Menon( IMC Maritime), Charles Foster(President, Asia Society) , Phyllis Graham(Continental Airlines), Richard Huebner(Executive Director, HMBC)
Back Row( L to R) Rao Ratnala, IACCGH President Dr Randhir Sinha, Cynthia Tauss(Governors Office), Mike Rozell & Sally Leher (Judge Eckels Office), Consul General of India in Houston Hon’ble Skand Ranjan Tayal.