Elected officials, demographers, educators and health care providers spoke to local residents and businesses about different aspects of the Lake Conroe area economy in 2018 at the annual Lake Conroe Summit. The event was hosted by the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning.

1. Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal discusses mobility initiatives
Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal introduced the event and discussed the importance of planning for population growth in Montgomery County. He highlighted the importance of ongoing road construction initiatives that stem from the $280 million road bond referendum approved by county voters in 2015 as well as the need for additional transportation planning.

2. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady discusses federal tax reform
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, spoke to audience members about the successful passage of federal tax reforms. Brady, who authored the tax overhaul, said his biggest priority was to grow the economy by lowering tax rates for both businesses and families. The reform was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, by President Donald Trump.

"Half of American businesses expect to expand and grow because they have a tax code that makes it possible," Brady said. "Our small businesses for the first time are getting the relief like the big companies get ... I want to make sure our businesses can compete and win anywhere in the world."

Brady also announced intent to begin to redesign the Internal Revenue Service starting in April and to consider further tax reform initiatives to build upon existing reforms.

3. LSC-Montgomery President Rebecca Riley highlights workforce training programs
Lone Star College-Montgomery President Rebecca Riley spoke about the importance of workforce training programs that cater to the needs of local employers. She also highlighted growth in the college's dual credit program partnerships with local school districts to help reduce the cost of higher education for local families.

Riley also reinforced the college's intent to open an education center in Magnolia.

"The latest and greatest is the Magnolia Center," Riley said. "We are still looking for land, but we hope to get it started within the next year or so."

4. PASA CEO Pat Guseman discusses school district demographics
Population and Survey Analysts CEO Pat Guseman discussed the demographics of school districts around Lake Conroe, including Conroe, Montgomery and Willis ISDs. Although CISD ranks among the largest districts in the state, she said relative lack of density throughout the region is appealing to developers when compared to the Greater Houston area.

"Growth is continuing," Guseman said.

5. Lone Star Family Health Center CEO Karen Harwell discusses regional health care needs
Karen Harwell, Lone Star Family Health Center CEO, discussed the community health center's role in Montgomery County. The health center is funded from federal grants to provide affordable health care to residents living below the poverty line. The center has four locations in Montgomery County, including a new facility in Grangerland that opened last year. The health center also offers a residency program for medical professionals in training.

"[About] 73 percent of our patients are below the federal poverty limit," Harwell said. "Quality doesn't suffer. Community health centers outperform the private medical sector in a lot of measures. ... The savings are huge. We save about 24 percent per Medicaid patient compared to other providers."

6. Howard Hughes officials spotlight The Woodlands Hills
Two representatives with Howard Hughes Corporation—Rip Reynolds, vice president of retail and commercial land, and Heath Melton, vice president of master-planned communities—discussed progress at The Woodlands Hills mixed-use development in the north Conroe area. The 2,000-acre community will have about 4,500 homes at build-out.

The community will open with a 17-acre amenity center and village park in mid-June just north of FM 830, near the intersection with I-45.

Although The Woodlands Hills community will have commercial aspects, Reynolds said the effort is largely focused on residential development.

"This is more of a residential strategy with this community," Reynolds said. "Priority commercial development would be something like a village center that you see in The Woodlands."

7. Land broker and developer Wade Nelson discusses Montgomery development
The Nelson Company owner Wade Nelson discussed booming development in the city of Montgomery and the region. The company offers land brokerage and development throughout Montgomery County and the Greater Houston area.

He talked about how the Kroger Marketplace that opened last year in Montgomery is transforming the city into a retail trade area that spans well beyond city limits.

"It is incredible to think back of what things used to look like," Nelson said. "It doesn't seem like all that long ago, but it was a long time ago that Hwy. 105 was just a two-lane road."

Nelson also discussed changes with big-box stores and a shift to smaller retail locations, affecting the ways those stores could anchor mixed-use developments.

8. Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador discusses importance of mobility improvements for development
Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador spoke about the challenges and opportunities of population growth in the Lake Conroe area. He talked about how transportation improvements are important for commercial growth by helping to attract retail stores to new areas throughout the community. He highlighted the success of the Kroger Marketplace locations in Montgomery and Willis, as well as a residential development with about 1,500 homes by Caldwell Companies north of Longstreet Road.

With so much development in the area, including development of The Woodlands Hills, the precinct is working with the Texas Department of Transportation to expand FM 1097 and address mobility throughout the region. Meador said it is important to purchase right of way and any property needed for mobility improvements as early as possible to avoid increasing land prices throughout the region.

"It is really exciting to see this development happen," Meador said. "All of this creates mobility issues. So in our office, we have been concentrating on some east-west corridors."

9. Jones and Carter highlights mobility plan for Montgomery
Chris Rosnovsky, principal engineer with Jones and Carter, spoke about challenges the city of Montgomery faces with regard to development, including traffic and transportation.

The agency projects a 70 percent increase in traffic volume by 2026. Rosnovsky identified about $4 million in improvements that could be made around the city of Montgomery to address congestion, including a long-term plan to extend Lone Star Parkway along the south side of Hwy. 105.

10. Entergy Texas discusses a new power plant in Willis
Allen East, director of customer service for Entergy Texas West, discussed initiatives to build a new 993 MW power plant at Lewis Creek in Willis to help meet growing electrical demand throughout the region.

11. Community Development Strategies projects more than 176,000 households in the Lake Conroe area by 2050
Urban Development Strategist Steve Spillette with Community Development Strategies discussed demographic projections for the Lake Conroe region.

The area will have more than 205,200 residents by 2023, reflecting the addition of about 25,200 residents in that time frame. Officials added the Lake Conroe area could feature 79,928 households by 2025 and 176,323 households by 2050.

In the short term, Spillette said development of existing single-family lots alone could add about 65,000 residents. Within a 10-year period, he said the Lake Conroe area could be home to 250,000 residents.

Spillette highlighted a planned multifamily development known as City Place on League Line Road in Conroe that could break ground this year. He said the development would include multifamily housing, senior living amenities, a hotel and a retail center.

12. Keynote speaker Jesse Thompson discusses job growth postenergy sector downturn
Keynote speaker Jesse Thompson, a business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch, discussed job creation in the Greater Houston are following a two-year energy sector downturn in 2015-16. Thompson said in 2015-16, the Greater Houston area in essence had no job growth because of the downturn. However, Thompson said he projects Houston to return to above-trend job growth in 2018.

He said those trends have reversed course since 2017, and the region has seen growth in job creation at various key industries since late 2017, post-Hurricane Harvey. He said he expected investment by major energy companies to help bolster the positive trend in the near future.