Bay City TX Digital Magazine

Welcome to Bay City

Welcome to Bay City. Texas
To This Publication

What does the Bay City Area Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture do? Good question … the short answer is we are a catalyst for positive growth in our county.

Our job is to see the vision, plan for the future and effectively communicate to the public.

It’s easy – together we grow Bay City!

The more investment dollars we have, the more we can do for Bay City. Our track record proves we are worth your investment. Members, please tell our story to your friends and neighbors.

We are proud to work closely with our neighboring chambers. We communicate often with the Matagorda Area Chamber, Palacios Chamber and the Sargent Area Chamber.

We are able to partner for the benefit of the entire county. We are able to help sell events and festivals.

It is important that we keep current on what is happening in every corner of our county. We enjoy working together to promote the treasures in Matagorda County.

We value your support and membership in our Chamber. We know you have a choice. Every day we want to earn your respect. We want to grow this community. Communication is the key; we need to hear from you.

Mitch Thames, President and CEO
Bay City Area Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture

To Bay City

On behalf of the Bay City community, we would like to extend a warm welcome. All of the leaders in Bay City are here because we want to make a difference in people’s lives. This year has seen several important milestones in our growth, with some significant projects being completed, new ones undertaken and a variety of changes within Bay City itself. As mayor of Bay City, I will help fulfill the need for fresh thinking, full participation from all parts of the community and new partnerships.

I believe you will find that the programs and activities of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture and City of Bay City are innovative and a reflection of the shared interests and needs of members and residents. There are a multitude of opportunities for becoming involved in the Bay City Chamber of Commerce as a volunteer or leader, and we hope that you will encourage your employees to take an active interest in the Bay City Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture and its various committees.

Mark Bricker, Mayor
City of Bay City

To Matagorda County

Let me be the first to welcome you to Matagorda County, and please know that we are happy to have you visit. We are a friendly and genuine people, so I know that I speak for all of our citizens in thanking you for taking in the treasures of our county. Along with our natural features, such as the beaches, fishing and birding, we continue to add partners for your enjoyment and opportunities for our citizens. In this year so far, we have added new restaurants, entertainment venues, medical services and a leading international manufacturer to our offerings, and there are many more in the pipeline headed to Matagorda County.

We know that you may have questions as you travel in Matagorda County. To that end, you can be sure that our friendly, service oriented staff at the Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture will be ready to assist.

So, if you need printed information or merely a question answered, please visit our Chamber team, located in the Bay City Civic Center.

Finally, we hope you enjoy your stay, and we look forward to your return … again and again!

Nate McDonald, County Judge
Matagorda County

Bay City Chamber

Our Mission

The mission of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture is to promote and advance the interests of the Bay City business and agricultural communities. These goals are accomplished by encouraging growth of existing businesses and industries, providing assistance to new firms or individuals seeking to locate in Bay City, and advocating legislative and political actions beneficial to the business or general community. The Chamber also supports and encourages those cultural and civic activities that improve or expand the quality of life in Bay City.


The purpose of the agriculture and aquaculture committee of the chamber is to focus on businesses pertaining to agriculture, improve their sustainability and increase their customer base. We educate them on how to improve their operation so they can reach more people through networking and helping each other. Our mission is to attract more agriculture and aquaculture businesses to the chamber, let them know they matter and give them a voice.

Chamber Ambassadors

Ambassadors are the face of the Chamber. These dedicated members further our community based business, assist with chamber events, participate in ribbon cuttings and welcome new members to the chamber. They also help recruit new members to the Chamber and promote upcoming Chamber events by encouraging members to attend and network. To become an ambassador, contact the Chamber for more information.

Educational Activities

The educational committee assists our local teachers, students and schools as they prepare for the future. This committee supports education by raising funds for scholarships, recognizing achievements and awarding students for making the honor roll. We also honor Educator of the Year and Student of the Year at our annual Chamber banquet where they are presented with plaques and scholarships and recognized for outstanding leadership and academic achievements.

Health Care Committee

The health care committee advocates a higher quality of health care providers and encourages communication between businesses and the health care communities. We seek to improve public awareness and access to the health care resources and individual wellness in our community.

Hispanic Committee

The Hispanic committee strives to identify needs of Hispanic business owners and ensure they are being met. We strive to educate and support business owners, giving them help to develop and promote their companies to create better growth and income.

Mid Coast Educational Industry Alliance

The alliance serves as the link between the business community and supporting quality education to our students. In addition, the alliance works to provide a well-trained work force in the Bay City and Matagorda County area.

Transportation Planning Organization

The transportation planning organization analyzes issues and advocates for infrastructure policies and projects that make efficient use of each dollar spent on transportation. With transportation being a key factor to our area of trade, the committee works to promote new and expanded transportation as part of economic development. This committee works to keep communication open between businesses, industries, TXDOT, the City of Bay City and Matagorda County officials.

Contact the Chamber for information on when and where our committees meet.

Why should you join the Bay City Chamber?
  • Exposure for your business.
  • Two free email blasts to membership within your first year of membership.
  • Involvement opportunities including various active committees.
  • Promotion for your business through the Chamber’s Business Directory, website, newsletter and direct referrals.
  • Participation in seminars and workshops.
  • Networking with other members at Chamber functions such as monthly mixers, committee meetings and community and special events.
  • Opportunities to purchase mailing lists or labels for your company mailings.
  • Grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies for your new businesses or relocations.
  • Opportunities to display your promotional materials in the Chamber lobby.
  • Opportunities to participate in business-related projects, such as the Industrial Trade Show and Purchasing Agents Seminar.
  • Membership plaque identifying you as a recommended business.
  • Email updates from the Chamber on the latest breaking news concerning the county, and upcoming networking and workshop opportunities.
  • When dealing with the public, Chamber members are always recommended first.

2019 Officers

Chairman of the Board

Heather Hilliard

Health Food Cottage

Chairman Elect

Fred Gaytan

OXEA Corporation


Aaron Fox

Matagorda Medical Group

Immediate Past Chair

Al Capristo

STP Nuclear Operating Company

2019 Board of

Charles Brookhouser

First State Bank

Jim Coleman

Jackson Electric Cooperative

Eric Frankson

Ward Real Estate

Lane Hollister

Hollister Insurors

Imelda Howard

Sugar Valley RV Resort

Donna Huitt

Matagorda Episcopal Health
Outreach Program

Robert Knox

State Farm Insurance

Dianna Kile Lopez

Independent Contractor

Mike Meyers

Jackson Electric Cooperative

Troy Nugent

Tenaris Bay City

Karen Restivo

Serenity Matagorda Isle

James Scardami Jr.

Edward Jones

Dr. Marshall Scott, III

Bay City Independent School District

Anthony Wood


Ex-Officio Members

Nate McDonald, Judge

Matagorda County

Mark Bricker, Mayor

City of Bay City

Mike Ferdinand, Executive Director

Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation

Jessica Russell, Executive Director

Bay City Community Development Corporation

Bob Klepac, President

Bay City Independent School District
Board of Directors

Chamber Staff

President & CEO

Mitch Thames, IOM

Vice President

Irene Bishop, IOM

Chamber Special Events

Annual banquet

Bowling tournament

Golf tournament

Lighted Christmas


Live oak tree sale

A Great Place to Live

A Great Place to Live Bay City, Texas

Finding the right place to live and do business is a puzzle that can be a challenge to put together. Everyone seems to be looking for a community where families thrive in a safe and healthy environment, where work is meaningful and leisure time is fulfilling. A place where neighbors care about each other and take pride in the place they call home. A town that values its past yet plans for its future.

A community where the benefits of small-town living are balanced with big-city conveniences.

Most folks find only a few of these quality of life pieces in one place – and decide to make do with an incomplete picture. In Bay City however, everything comes together to create the ideal location to live, work and play.

A Place In History

Bay City, Texas A Place In History

To find out how Bay City became such a livable community, take a trip back in time to its founding in 1894 by visiting the Matagorda County Museum and Children’s Museum. Here history comes alive in exhibits that include artifacts from the Karankawa Indians (the area’s native inhabitants), a cannon from 17th-century French explorer LaSalle’s ship La Belle and Stephen Austin’s colonization of the area. The Children’s Museum is a recreation of an early 20th-century Texas town where kids can “shop” at an old-fashioned general store, dress up in period costume and interact with the past in other entertaining and educational ways.

Visitors to the museum learn that Bay City is actually named for its location on Bay Prairie, between the bottomlands of the Colorado River and Caney Creek. It was established when Matagorda County citizens voted to move the county seat from the little town of Matagorda to Bay City – even though Bay City did not actually exist yet. Betting that an area about 25 miles inland from the Gulf would make a better setting for the county seat, a group of developers had purchased 650 acres and set aside one square mile for the town site. Once the voters decided to move the county seat, the group began selling lots and promoting the town.

It didn’t take long to attract people who wanted to live in the new county seat and do business here. Soon Bay City was bustling with residents and retail, manufacturing and service businesses. Bay City Rice Mills built its rice warehouse in 1901 and the next year opened the town’s first mill. Rice is still the top crop in the county today. Other businesses at that time included groceries, feed and farm implement stores, butcher and barber shops, confectioneries and drug and dry goods stores. There was also a brick-making plant, broom factory, cotton gin and lumberyard.

In 1901 the railroad reached Bay City, adding to the economic boom. In fact, by 1914, just 20 years after it was founded, Bay City had 3,156 residents enjoying the good life in a thriving community at the center of the largest rice producing area in the nation. Bay City had newspapers, churches, schools, banks, a public library and a municipal waterworks. The town attracted dentists, doctors, bankers, lawyers and other professionals.

Bay City continued to grow steadily through the first half of the 20th century. The 1960s and 1970s brought an airport to the area, and the man-made port of Bay City was completed. New technologies brought new industries including the Celanese Chemical Company, the South Texas Project and Occidental Chemical Company. The 1980s and 1990s were also a time of growth and the city now covered more than 6 square miles. By 2000, Bay City’s population was 18,667 with 890 businesses. That growth continues at a steady pace today.

A much older piece of Bay City’s history is explored at the Matagorda County Museum in exhibits about LaSalle’s expedition to the area over 300 years ago. A fleet of four small ships under the leadership of Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, set out from France with 300 colonists in 1684. Their goal was the mouth of the Mississippi River where their settlement would strengthen France’s claim to western North America.

Bad luck haunted the expedition from the start. Even before reaching America, pirates took one ship. The other three ships continued on – but landed on the Texas Gulf Coast several hundred miles west of the Mississippi.

La Salle lost a second ship when it ran aground in the shallow Gulf waters. With it sank supplies needed by the colonists to survive. Some colonists rebelled and returned to France on a remaining ship, leaving 180 colonists to explore the wild Texas coast in a single vessel, the La Belle. Early in 1686, La Belle sank in Matagorda Bay. Then La Salle was murdered by his own men near present-day Navasota, Texas.

Fast forward 300 years to 1995, when a diver from the Texas Historical Commission discovered a bronze cannon on the floor of Matagorda Bay. More divers were brought in and they found the remains of La Belle.

The discovery made international headlines, and the historical commission embarked on a massive operation to recover the oldest French shipwreck in the western hemisphere. The story continues today at the Matagorda County Museum where artifacts from the wreck are on display, along with a diorama of a portion of the ship, showing it under excavation from the bottom of the sea.

Along with its historical exhibits, the county museum features paintings by Bay City’s most famous artist, Forrest Bess (1911-1977). Bess was a contemporary of the renowned abstract artist Jackson Pollack and exhibited at the same New York City gallery in the 1950s. Many art critics think Bess might have become as famous as Pollack had not mental illness taken its toll and forced him to return to Bay City, where he lived and worked in seclusion until his death. Today, an authentic Bess painting can sell for five figures and his works continue to rise in value. Bess made national news a few years ago when the Matagorda County Museum decided to have an auction on eBay of a group of paintings that may have been created by the artist. The operative word is “may,” because the paintings came to the museum from a collector known to deal in forgeries, and no one could authenticate the paintings. Real or not, the paintings offered on eBay sold out, and the auction was written about in the Los Angeles Times, Texas Highways and Art & Antiques.

Outdoor Activities in Bay City

Outdoor Activities in Bay City, Texas

You will also find a wealth of natural beauty and outdoor activities in Bay City. The Colorado River flows through Bay City, and Matagorda Beach on the Gulf of Mexico is just 25 miles to the south. In between and all around Bay City are parks, waterways and other natural areas that make Bay City truly “the gateway to the great outdoors” of south Texas.

One way to get up close and personal with nature here is to kayak or canoe some of the many waterways that thread the area. Float down the Colorado River past quiet fields of rice and cattle grazing in the sun all the way to where the river meets the Gulf. Along Caney Creek, visitors enjoy tree-lined banks that shade the water below, offering glimpses of woodland bird species. In and among the saltwater marshes near the coast, visitors savor the solitude and enjoy the wildlife. There are five public-access areas in Matagorda County with many offering picnic sites, camping, fishing piers and group pavilions.

Touring the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center is great way to experience the great outdoors in Bay City. The center offers amazing eco-diversity in a compact 34-acre setting. The site was selected because it contains examples of almost every natural habitat found in the county including river, prairie, wetlands, uplands, lowlands, creeks and streams. In fact, the nature center contains all of the habitats occurring in Matagorda County except for beaches and salt marshes. The center borders the Colorado River to the south, offering visitors exceptional views of river birds. The nature center includes interpretive trails, educational kiosks, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, a constructed wetland, indoor and outdoor educational facilities and a boat dock for tours of the Colorado River.

LeTulle Park, adjacent to the nature center, is another great place for birders and is frequented by waterfowl and migrating warblers in the spring and fall.

Speaking of birds, Matagorda County ranks as one of the top birding spots in North America. Located on the central flyway for migratory birds on their way to and from Mexico, Bay City and the surrounding county are home to 333 species of birds.

Numerous bays and streams crisscross the county, providing food sources for these birds, while timber forests and prairie grasses make perfect nesting areas. Agricultural land, coastal prairies, salt marshes, as well as vast stretches of sandy shoreline provide additional habitats for birds, attracting sea and shore birds as well as waders. It’s no wonder that in recent years, the county has recorded the largest number of species in the U.S. during the prestigious annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

The waters of Matagorda Bay offer prime fishing for angling enthusiasts. Drift and wade fishers find redfish and speckled trout. Deep-sea fishers in the Gulf of Mexico catch grouper, red snapper, amberjack, wahoo, black drum and more. Fishing along the Colorado River and area creeks is also popular.

Meanwhile, the new LCRA Matagorda Bay Nature Park and Preserve offers more outdoor activities and learning experiences. The 1,600-acre park features a visitors’ and environmental learning center, wildlife viewing areas, boardwalks and trails and a recreational vehicle campground. The nature park’s location near the mouth of the Colorado River on the Gulf of Mexico, affords visitors opportunities to canoe, kayak and hike. Golfers and nature-lovers also head for Riverside Park, just south of Bay City. The park features boating, fishing, camping, jogging trails, picnic pavilions and the Rio Colorado Golf Course, an 18-hole Gary Player-designed course on the banks of the Colorado River.

Downtown Bay City

The museum anchors Bay City’s lively town square, where retail and service businesses are thriving. People come from all over town – and Texas – to shop the antique and resale shops and gift emporiums that surround the courthouse square. You can enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee or cappuccino here, or drop by another shop for organic and natural groceries and snacks. Market Days, held the third Saturday of the month from March through December, are popular events with vendors setting up booths around the courthouse with everything from handmade furniture and art to roasted nuts and fresh flowers and plants. Merchants around the square often have their own specials and sidewalk sales on Market Days as well.

Shopping isn’t limited to a few blocks around the square, though. Today in Bay City, you can outfit an entire house with the latest furnishings and appliances bought at local shops or national chain stores. You can build, renovate or update your home with materials bought at Bay City’s hardware and building supply stores and landscape your yard with shrubs and flowers from local nurseries. Full-service grocery stores offer everything from gourmet foods to organic produce to staples. Bay City’s drug stores sell sundries, gifts, cards, school supplies and more. Shoppers also find the latest fashions at Bay City’s department stores and boutiques, and can shop for new or pre-owned cars at automotive dealerships. The retail options go on and on. In fact, there’s not much in the way of goods and services shoppers can’t find in Bay City.

Food & Fun

Agriculture has always been important to the life and economy of Bay City, so it’s not surprising that fresh, local food and good restaurants are plentiful here. Along with its grocery stores, farmers markets and produce stands, Bay City has a restaurant to suit every appetite. There are locally-owned barbecue places where chicken, beef and pork are smoked over native pecan wood until the meat literally falls off the bone. On the Tex-Mex side of dining, you can feast on authentic enchiladas, tacos and tamales, as well as steak, shrimp and chicken fajitas. There are steak houses for juicy Texas beef with all the trimmings, cafés serving pecan chicken salad and homemade desserts, hamburger joints and dairy dips for old-fashioned treats, popular chain restaurants of all styles, Asian eateries, donut shops and more.

K-2 Steakhouse planted its roots in Bay City 30 years ago to establish a Kubeczka family tradition of signature meals served with generous portions of southern hospitality. The cornerstone of the menu is choice Black Angus beef hand-cut by their house butcher. They are known to serve only the best steaks, chops and chicken, and a variety of seafood platters with shrimp, catfish, oysters and stuffed crab. Home-style lunches include turkey and dressing, chicken fried steak and enormous burgers served with flavorful side dishes. The centerpiece of the K-2 Steakhouse is its soup and salad wagon created from an old mail cart used during the Civil War, full of fresh garden vegetables and fruits. Guests are offered a dining experience where chefs impress you and bartenders lift your spirits, all in an atmosphere with southwestern antiques full of charm and history.

If Bay City means great food, it also means good times. Residents and visitors alike flock to the fairs and festivals held throughout the year. The Matagorda County Fair & Livestock Show runs from the last weekend in February through the first weekend in March. Summer brings out the fireworks and a big Fourth of July celebration. The Nature Family Fun Fest, an outdoor event that includes an art fair and stagecoach rides, is held at the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center in early October.

The Bay City Lions Club Rice Festival in late October celebrates the county’s top crop with a parade, carnival and rice recipe cook-off. Christmas on the Square gets the holiday season started in mid-November and the Bay City Christmas Parade through downtown in early December keeps the celebration going.

Other holiday events include the Festival of Trees at the Matagorda County Museum and a special Christmas Market Days at the Bay City Civic Center. Musical concerts, bike rides, 5K runs, art shows, Cinco de Mayo celebrations and golf and fishing tournaments add to the fun all year long.

Of course, the people who live here are the most important piece in the quality-of-life puzzle. In Bay City, you’ll meet folks who are friendly, hard working and community centered. They are business professionals, farmers, retailers, cooks, teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers, engineers, homemakers, factory workers, bakers and pastors. They are young couples just starting families, grandparents enjoying retirement or second careers and every age in-between. They are diverse in culture and background but united in their regard for each other and their town. They are the piece of the puzzle that holds all the others together and make Bay City a great place to call home.