Future is Bright in Fort Bend

“Our vision is to be fully aligned with technological advancements, and to capitalize on developing new and existing tech businesses to the benefit of the economy and our community,” said Keri Curtis Schmidt, Fort Bend Chamber President and CEO. “Many high-tech companies are already located here, and our collaborative efforts with stakeholders in the community are designed to attract more.”

According to CNBC’s annual 2018 survey Top State for Business in America; Texas is ranked as the No. 1 state in the nation to do business. Schmidt and the chamber leadership plan to keep it that way. The chamber is in the spotlight and has taken the lead on tech-growth in the region by implementing a new initiative — Fort Bend Future — to strengthen and grow the tech economy and related businesses.

“Fort Bend Future is a new strategy and mission to invigorate the tech economy and secure the future of the tech industry in our county,” Schmidt said. “From the beginning, we discovered that almost every kind of tech company is already doing business here in Fort Bend, however many have maintained a very low profile. They represent local, international, and global businesses from life sciences and engineering to food products and processes and more. We now have a solid foundation, and are focused on mapping and documenting these tech commerce locations, and developing a website to showcase them and alert prospective businesses about opportunities that will encourage them to locate here.”

The timing couldn’t be better, Schmidt said.

“The University of Houston is extending its reach into Fort Bend County,” she said. The new UH College of Technology is being constructed at UH Sugar Land and is tier one in Fort Bend County.”

The 100,000-square-foot College of Technology building is scheduled to open in fall 2019, and will feature modern classrooms and state-of-the-art labs. The new building will also house a fabrications lab, materials lab, rapid prototype lab and a 3-D printing lab.

“By building in Fort Bend County, the university is answering a call from students, employers and industry. The fastest growing large county in the country needs a tier one university to provide a tier one workforce,” said Jay Neal, associate vice president, academic affairs and chief operating officer at UH Sugar Land. “The College of Technology building is a significant leap forward for UH Sugar Land. Students and local industries will benefit from its presence. We anticipate partnerships with industries in our region that can complement our academic excellence with their real-world needs and next-level ideas. The content of the curriculum will incorporate the equipment and actual technologies businesses are using. When students complete their studies, they’ll be able to step right into the workplace, as highly qualified employees.”

The importance of having a tier one university in the county doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Having the college here will help drive the momentum we’re building to prominently establish Sugar Land and Fort Bend as a tech hub and mecca,” Schmidt said. “Opportunities for business and university partnerships will serve as a business incubator and help to establish an educated and skilled workforce that’s so vital to a prosperous business climate.”

Establishing securing a vibrant workforce is the No. 1 concern of business leaders.

“Workforce concerns are what keep business leaders awake at night,” Schmidt said. “Fort Bend Future will help develop a talented and solid workforce, with a focus on technology. When companies feel secure, they make greater investments in the community. It’s a mutually beneficial situation.”

Guiding the progress of Fort Bend Future, the chamber leadership is currently focused on bio-tech companies to develop successful strategies that will spotlight these businesses and create meaningful partnerships.

“Our chamber is here to build connections, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our job,” Schmidt said. “Therefore, we’ve put together a distinguished panel of CEOs from OCuSOFT, Boccard Life Sciences Inc. and Velentium, to determine the best way to showcase the great tech companies in Fort Bend. The idea is to create a spirited synergy, so that we can all work together, with the common goal of securing a healthy future for our county.” n