Sunday, May 15, 2011

ExxonMobil Consolidation to have main campus here?

For sometime now, there has been considerable speculation about ExxonMobil establishing their primary operations location by consolidating their people into one place. More efficiency in the heartland of oil and gas technology and services and at last, the final step of the merge between Exxon and Mobil is now thought to be underway. For a while, many included the corporate headquarters in Irving as part of the deal. That apparently is not going to happen. Officially, the company says it is studying the consolidation.1 Evidence however suggests this has already been decided. 2

Whispers are just about everywhere. "Corporate staff have been house hunting in The Woodlands." "I sold four houses this past month to Exxonmobil employees." "Did you see the Google map where the new ExxonMobil office consolidation is going to be located?" Well, IndianSpringsGuy is definitely interested in this.  He isn't the only one either.  Its potential impact is huge! Gradually, little by little, Houston is surrounding us and absorbing us into its midst. Just think, 45 minutes from downtown Houston, and we still see its tentacles on our doorstep!

The preparation of a large tract is clearly seen on Google maps just west of I-45 and south of The Woodlands at Hardy Toll Rd. 3 Very near to this is an area planned for a large development including home sites - obviously competition for The Woodlands. What would the Woodlands Development company think of this? On one hand, there is a very large number of potential customers who could seek homes in the new village in Harris County. These employees would also be searching for places to shop. On the other hand, I would think the Development Company would also be concerned about being boxed away from the new facility, making a significant obstacle to attract employees who will work at that facility. Development of the commercial area in the Village of Creekside Park could be accelerated to accommodate a large influx of people, but would there be sufficient means to move traffic during rush hour?

Demand for housing could cause inflation of prices in The Woodlands. Those employees currently working at Greenspoint might want to stay but with the current price of gasoline, living close to the office is getting much more important.  Traffic patterns could change at the intersection of the toll road and the freeway. A better traffic conduit from Creekside might need to be accelerated. I do understand that there is a plan on the books to cut through Sawdust Rd to I-45; this will consist of a four lane bridge over Spring Creek connected to High Oaks. I am am anticipating this development much earlier than the predicted 2023.4 The construction urgency of the Grand Parkway segment which will pass by the campus also increases with this. All of this could be in the planning stages now, but none of it can be revealed until ExxonMobil goes public with the decision. Consolidating a large number of employees into one complex has been done before by corporations - a tedious and complex process, requiring very disciplined project management. That includes confidentiality, even if it does mean speculation by us folks taking notice.

1 Houston Chronicle May 12, 2011
2 Swamplot May 05, 2011
3 Google map from satellite view
4 Mobility Plans for South Montgomery County

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Wildlife and Values of The Woodlands

Some people say trees are the most prized asset of The Woodlands Texas. What about the wildlife under the canopy of the trees? Slowly but surely, our wildlife is disappearing. Is it not an asset? If The Woodlands is to retain its value, in my opinion, the wildlife must remain. What is our strategy? I am guessing on this, because I have never heard any statement to the contrary. We have no strategy. We have icons to recognize the wildlife but why is the wildlife seemingly ignored in everything we do? We remove and displace the wildlife.

White Tail Deer in Village of Cochran's Crossing

Under the canopy of our forest once lived a multitude and variety of deer, opossum, coyote, tree rat, beaver, snake, lizards, turtles, birds, armadillo, raccoon, tortoise, butterfly, and I am sure a host of other creatures. Birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle still lives here, but its stay is likely imperiled by development. We have buzzards and hawks as well. The diversity was huge but is dropping as forests are displaced by homes and businesses - basically as the development company sells its assets.

Squirrels in Village of Indian Springs
Is our primary value system based on the dollar or on the quality of what we experience and see on a day-to-day basis? Maybe we are too focussed on the traditional concept of a community instead of what this community has always been designed to be. Tourism is now a big priority as part of our value system. That translates to the dollar being extremely important in our value system.  I contend that the two (economics and our natural state) should be considered in tandem. As an example, it has been rumored that there is a second eagle's nest in The Woodlands, but that information comes from the development company. I have never seen it. What I truly know exists is an eagle's nest in the land that the development company plans to develop. That is under the radar of the development company now.

Skink in Village of Indian Springs
What are the opportunities in Town Center? If we want tourism in Town Center, why is not the development company trying to leverage our natural state? This is the age of ecological preservation. Right now Town Center offers nothing about The Woodlands ecology and everything about shopping and the traditional vision of economic development. Imagine! We have a Koi garden instead of a protected wildlife area in Town Center. We have had the key to The Woodlands right under the noses of the development company. Where is a vision of Town Center that integrates the existing values of the community into it? We could have deer on the shore of the lake, wild flowers and other creatures on the same shore. We could have a video of the eagle's nest on every boat in the waterway at a relatively low cost, one which emphasizes the beauty of The Woodlands, even showing a live CAM of the eagle's nest. Why isn't the development company being a part of the community instead of trying to make the community something it was never envisioned to be? Instead, we have introduced bars for night life here and crime. Surely we could have more creative goals than what we have. Don't you think?

Opossum in Village of Indian Springs
Who wants a community to talk about the way it was instead of the way it is? Let's get back into thinking we are a forest, not just a few trees with a little nightlife and valet parking. What are we offering that cannot be easily trumped by competitors?  Water taxis? The Houston area will have alternatives in the future more attractive than ours. You can build them anywhere. Maybe the red riders on horses is the key. Maybe it makes it look like we are in Canada. I think not; they are there to make us be something we are not, a ploy for plastic tourism that is easily replicated elsewhere. Where is our future? Our uniqueness is the forest, but we are destroying it. Yet our leaders take us right into the foray of disaster. Leadership should be looking at potential competition and leveraging what we have, so we move forward, not what the development company envisions for us. Is it too late? Maybe, maybe not.
Bald Eagle in Town Center
  It seems to me the opportunities are endless but gradually fading away. Is that the ultimate goal we seek to fulfill?