YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)
Houston had been selected in keen competition with at least 20 other cities. The determination of the location was based on fourteen critical points; and, after a thorough inspection of local facilities, NASA’s four-man inspection team found that Houston "more than meets the criteria, according to Deputy Director John Parsons of the NASA Research Center at Ames, California. These criteria included: industrial complex to support project, availability of water transportation, labor market including skilled craftsmen and scientists, accessibility of modern communications, general community facilities, access to colleges and universities, abundant electric power, mild climate, good water supply, 1,000 acres of usable land (soon increased to 1,600), sound over-all economy able to absorb the facility, low site development costs, reasonable operating costs, and availability of ample interim facilities.
A 32-year fight for adequate coast-to-coast air service culminated March 14th when the Civil Aeronautics Board announced its decision in the Southern Transcontinental Service Case. This service was made even more urgent by the Manned Spacecraft Center location. This case had been initiated several years before when a group of Houston leaders conferred in Washington with the Civil Aeronautics Board to present evidence of the inadequacy of Houston air service. This decision granted a single-carrier transcontinental service between Florida and California points with Houston as the only intermediate stop, plus additional schedules by two other carriers. National Airlines would fly a Miami-Houston-Los Angeles route, as well as one from Houston to San Francisco. Continental Air Lines was authorized to fly non-stop Houston to Los Angeles as well as serve a multi-stop route. American Airlines was given a route between Houston and the West Coast with a stop at Phoenix.
Before service could be inaugurated under this authorization, however, the Chamber of Commerce prevailed upon American, Continental and National to supply a three-way interchange service between Florida and California with a stop at Houston. The historic first flight under this arrangement took place June 11th, thus inaugurating, for all practical purposes, the Southern Transcontinental Route service.
Houston’s emerging importance as a major air center and gateway was given still another boost during the year when the master plan for the development of the Intercontinental Airport at the 6,128-acre Jetero site was adopted by Mayor Lewis Cutrer and the City Council on October 11th. Early in the year, the Aviation Committee had inaugurated an effort to accelerate the purchase of right-of-way for the North Belt between the Eastex Freeway and Interstate 45 for access to the new airport and for provision of construction funds for the 8.5-mile section to be included in a bond issue at the earliest possible date.
Civic activities were being expanded by the Chamber of Commerce; and, in order to clarify its position with reference to suggested programs of urban renewal under federal provisions, the Board of Directors adopted this policy statement: "The basic responsibility for urban development rests at the local level. Renewal projects like new construction depend upon sound investments by business and industrial organizations and individuals through the private enterprise system. The Chamber of Commerce should provide leadership for community analysis, long-range plans for orderly development, promotion of programs to make the community a better place to work and live, and to coordinate constructive influences for community progress.
"Local governmental jurisdictions should plan, finance and maintain essential public facilities. The state government should cooperate with local government in dealing effectively with problems of community and area development. The federal government should coordinate its policies and programs with community development planning of local and state governments, relinquishing to states appropriate tax sources that will make it possible for state and local governments to finance public facilities that traditionally have been a responsibility of government rather than of private financing."
In reviewing the cultural accomplishments of Houston in the June, 1961, issue of "Houston Magazine", General Maurice Hirsch concluded: "Houston has come of age in its cultural life without losing the vigor and inspired objectives of youth. The time has passed for Houston to be culturally on the defensive or apologetic. Certainly and fortunately we are still in a frontier area and we are young; but, therefore, we are not hidebound in useless tradition nor weakened with calcified cultural senility. We are sufficiently bold and independent not to accept mediocrity merely because it is familiar or old, but also not to refuse excellence just because it is different or new.
"Our cultural accomplishments are great, but our aspirations are ever greater. Houston has provided for those who now live here and for those who will come after us not only the physical surroundings of cultural opportunity, but a pervading spirit which breathes into that environment the beauty of gracious and exalted living. The future is our field, and we have created here in the present a stalwart and satisfying and inspirational foundation upon which to base the unlimited expansion in cultural life that our future affords.. .Houston now can proudly proclaim what we here possess and cherish: a city of commerce in its broadest meaning—and in its finest aspects, a city of culture."
Looking at 1961, in review, it was an eventful opening to begin Houston’s years of diversification. Houston’s population passed the 1,000,000 mark on September 18, just one day before Houston became headquarters for the nation’s man in space program with the location here of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. The space program inaugurated a new era of research and development activities for the Houston area. The city’s east-west air service was established on a satisfactory basis with the decision by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the Southern Transcontinental Service Case. Voters approved a general obligation tax bond issue to finance construction of the Harris County Domed Stadium. The City of Houston approved a master plan for the development of the Intercontinental Airport. Plans were completed for the transformation of the West Ranch property into a gigantic planned development, although formal announcement was withheld for a time.
"Proud as we are of our population growth, we are even prouder of the fact that we have never lost sight of our over-all objective to make Houston a community which all of us, in all walks of life, are proud to call home," said President Robinson. "The community scored advances in a wide range of civic undertakings during the year in pursuit of this objective."
During 1961, efforts to attract more of the growing volume of tourist business to the Houston area were increased through the Tourism Action Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. It completed a study of historic places in the Houston area, compiled information on guest ranches, developed a current-events calendar, and published travel brochures on Houston in French, German, Spanish and Italian. Industry invested more than $400,000,000 during the year in the area in 228 new and expansion projects. Encouragement was given to Air France to exercise its bilateral rights to operate into Houston.
An appraisal was made of three international trade and goodwill trips, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to Central America, the Caribbean area, and to Europe. The Executive Committee decided to discontinue such projects until it would be possible to enlist the participation of those more directly involved in international affairs and world-trade matters. The Highway Committee completed a comprehensive "Local Street and Road Finance Study", calling for long-range planning and financing programs for the construction of needed streets and roads in Houston and throughout Harris County. This was a companion study to an earlier study, "1975 Freeways and 1925 Thoroughfares."
Strongly supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Legislature under the leadership of Senator Robert Baker and Representative Chris Cole acted to make the University of Houston a state-supported institution, beginning in 1963. With an enrollment of 11,000, this University was already second only to the University of Texas in size in the state. It was estimated that the master plan for flood control in Harris County would be completed late in 1969, and that work already done had saved the area more than $40,000,000 since the disastrous flood of 1935.