Nestled on the shore of Galveston Bay,
the greater Clear Lake area has long been one of Houston's
best-kept secrets. Ten cities and a slice of south Houston
make up this diverse region, which boasts a population of
400,000. Often linked inextricably to NASA and the space
program, Clear Lake is indeed about space - and more.
"More" is the concept behind
the greater Clear Lake area's upcoming name change. "Our
region now extends well beyond the shores of Clear Lake,"
says Jim Reinhartsen, president and CEO of the Clear Lake
Area Economic Development Foundation. "We decided to
change the name to Bay Area Houston, which gives a clearer
image of our territory."
Lying within both Harris and Galveston
counties, Bay Area Houston includes part of Houston along
with the cities of Friendswood, Kemah, League City, Nassau
Bay, Seabrook, Webster, Clear Lake Shores, El Lago, Taylor
Lake Village and Pasadena.
Array of Economic Drivers
A recent report by Angelou Economics indicates
that aerospace, technology and specialty chemicals have
been the strongest contributors to Bay Area Houston's economy.
However, tourism, recreational boating and biotechnology
are broadening the region's economic base.
AEROSPACE is the backbone of area
business. United Space Alliance, a partnership between Boeing
and Lockheed Martin, manufactures equipment for NASA’s space
Since the Johnson Space Center opened more
than 40 years ago, the aerospace industry has maintained
a commanding presence in Bay Area Houston. NASA and more
than 70 aerospace and defense firms currently employ more
than 15,000 in the region. Bay Area Houston is home to 92
percent of Houston's aerospace jobs and 4.5 percent of Houston's
Flight suits and helmet made for the
next shuttle mission, on hold pending results of the Columbia
Technology employment in Bay Area Houston
goes well beyond the aerospace industry. More than 9,000
employees in the region work in software development and
computer services firms.
The specialty chemical industry is an effective
counterbalance to the area's aerospace and technology industries.
Pasadena's oil refineries and the world-class Bayport Industrial
Complex employ 8,000. Specialty chemical companies have
invested more than $2.5 billion and have an annual economic
impact of more than $1 billion on the region.
DIVERSE COMMUNITIES with shared
economic goals make up the area. Scientists consult inside
the mock-up of the International Space Station at the Johnson
Tourism is expanding rapidly, with more
than two million tourists visiting the Bay Area annually.
The $68 million Space Center Houston, launched in 1992,
attracts nearly one million tourists per year. The Kemah
Boardwalk, a $25 million development, is rapidly becoming
one of the state's premiere restaurant and entertainment
Recreational boating accounts for about
10 percent of all gross sales in the Bay Area - more than
$200 million annually. Bay Area Houston's 19 marinas have
more than 7,000 boat slips with the third largest concentration
of pleasure boats in the United States.
Biotechnology is a steadily growing niche
industry in Bay Area Houston. Located squarely between Houston's
Texas Medical Center and Galveston's medical research facilities,
the region employs more than 2,900 in biotech-related firms.
Some biotech companies, such as Wylie Laboratories, are
conducting space-related research projects they hope will
lead to advancements in cancer treatment and drug development.
One such project involves studying the effect of weightlessness
on cell tissue.
Map of Bay Area Houston.
Healthy Commercial Market
Bay Area Houston's office market is relatively
small in terms of total inventory compared with other Houston
submarkets. The region's 80-plus office buildings, totaling
5.7 million square feet of space, represent a mere 3 percent
of the Houston metro's total office space.
According to Coy Davidson, vice president
of Colliers International, "The Bay Area office market
is somewhat independent of the greater Houston market, which
is affected more directly by national economic factors as
well as business cycles in the energy and specialty chemical
industry. The Bay Area's office market has remained relatively
stable by comparison because of its ties to the aerospace
industry." Davidson says aerospace-related tenants
account for about 35 percent of the occupied office space
in Bay Area Houston.
LIVING LARGE on land and sea.
Recreational boats in the marina at South Shore Harbour
The region's warehouse and distribution
properties are minimal. Excluding owner-occupied space,
Bay Area industrial inventory is about 1.3 million square
feet. However, Davidson reports that specialty chemical
companies continue to move into the area and expand white
collar engineering and management functions related to area
Vendors to the major specialty chemical
firms are also relocating to the area to service their clients
more conveniently. Demand for flex and light industrial
space in Bay Area Houston should continue to grow.
Housing prices in the area vary from
high-end to affordable.
Bay Area Houston residents earn some of
the highest incomes in the Houston area, with 18.3 percent
of households bringing home more than $100,000 per year.
As a result, the region's retail market has performed well.
Baybrook Mall is the number one suburban Houston mall with
annual sales per square foot at $490.
Variety of Residential Options
Several Bay Area cities including Friendswood,
Kemah, League City, Pasadena, Seabrook and Webster were
founded in the late 1800s. Some, such as Nassau Bay and
Taylor Lake Village, developed as the Johnson Space Center
The disparity in the ages of communities,
combined with the area's range of landscapes, has produced
a surprising difference in character and feel among Bay
Area Houston cities. Homebuyers can find new waterfront
homes, older ranchettes and everything in between. Once
they purchase a home, they can be duck hunting, sailing
or at work in downtown Houston in half an hour.
Home sales prices vary widely in the region.
More than 32 percent of the homes sold in 2002 through the
Bay Area multiple listing service (MLS) were priced at more
than $160,000. However, more affordable housing is also
available. Almost 30 percent of MLS homes sold last year
were priced less than $100,000.
Bay Area Houston is served by three independent
school districts (ISDs) - Clear Creek, Pasadena and Friendswood.
San Jacinto College and the University of Houston both have
campuses in the Bay Area.
The University of Houston-Clear Lake, with
an average student age of 32, is a major educational resource
for working adults. Computer science and teacher education
are popular fields of study, with the master of business
administration and master of health care administration
degrees among the most favored. A master's level bioscience
program is under consideration.
San Jacinto College has teamed with the
Clear Creek, Friendswood and Pasadena ISDs to create the
Aerospace Academy for Engineering and Teacher Education.
The program aids students and teachers working in math and
sciences through educational partnerships with businesses
and government entities.
Many local firms steer employees toward
continuing education programs as well. Scholarships, tuition
reimbursement and release time to attend college classes
are not uncommon.
Houston, We Have a Solution
The Space Alliance Technology Outreach
Program (SATOP), a groundbreaking initiative started in
1998, offers free technical assistance to small business
owners, entrepreneurs or inventors facing technical challenges,
large and small. Directed out of the Clear Lake Area Economic
Development Foundation office, the program was created to
help save or create local jobs. SATOP is now a statewide
SOFTWARE AND COMPUTER services,
biotechnology, and chemicals and plastics are all major
players in the area. A robotic transfer system for fragile
frozen protein crystals, engineered by Oceaneering International,
The program enlists engineers and scientists
from area universities, NASA centers and NASA subcontractors
who volunteer up to 40 hours of their time per request for
help. These volunteers exercise their technical skills in
solving down-to-earth problems faced by small business owners.
SATOP's success stories include eliminating acoustical problems
in a dance studio, increasing the energy efficiency of storm
windows and developing an air filtration system for ceiling
Bob Mitchell, SATOP's Texas executive director,
says, "The program's goal is to speed transfer of space
technology to the private sector. Small businesses are just
a click away from tapping into the power of the space program."
For more information or to request technical assistance,
visit www. spacetechsolutions.com.
The Bayport Industrial Complex is home
to American Acryl, an acrylic manufacturing plant.
Bay Area Houston has evolved into a diverse,
dynamic component of the greater Houston metropolitan area.
With abundant business opportunities and a sought-after
quality of life, the region that owes so much to space is
clearly on solid ground.
By Harold D. Hunt. Used with permission:
The Real Estate Center at Texas