YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)
Throughout the Houston area, in 1963, commercial and industrial expansion continued to add strength and diversification to the economy. The metropolitan work force topped 600,000 for the first time and bank deposits totaled $3,000,000,000 for the first time. Industrial and commercial additions and expansions included 371 projects involving $425,000,000 in new investment. Major construction was under way in the central business district, at the Texas Medical Center, and in the Manned Spacecraft Center area.
Under the presidency of Claud B. Barrett, the Houston Chamber of Commerce focused its attention primarily upon community problems, upon the need for a study of local government, the necessity of a solution for the city-county hospital problem, steps to expand convention and tourist activity, and with continuing efforts on water supply, industrial and commercial development, freeway and thoroughfare construction, the new airport and domestic and international air service, the Civic Center, and expansion of world trade.
Said President Barrett: "We have reached a point in the development of Houston where we must face up to some situations that urgently need the attention of every citizen of our city and country. We need to recognize the seriousness of some trends and developments before they grow and multiply to a point where they get out of hand to the detriment of all of us. The pattern and extent of development has changed to such a degree that steps should be made to adjust county government to current conditions. In 1944, a Grand Jury on which I served as foreman looked into this matter, and we recommended the appointment of a committee of responsible citizens to study possibilities for the consolidation of some of the functions of local government in the interest of economy and effectiveness."
The growing needs for governmental services with the attendant rising costs emphasized the need for efficiency and effectiveness in state and local government. In the ten-year period 1956 through 1965, revenue receipts in Texas more than doubled, increasing from $913,422,792 to $1,849,689,754, or an increase of 102.5 percent. Expenditures for state government purposes also doubled in this period, from $805,686,551 to $1,610,278,049, an increase of 99.9 percent. Tax collections by Harris County grew during the same period from $14,936,358 to more than $24,000,000, and City of Houston tax collections from $29,459,652 in 1955 to $55,667,974 in 1965. Taxes collected by the Houston Independent School District climbed from $22,405,004 in 1955 to $43,824,706 in 1965.
The long interest of the Houston Chamber of Commerce in the modernization of local government finally began to see some tangible steps being taken in 1965. At the request of Governor John Connally, the Texas Research League undertook a study of the public-service structures of local government units in the twenty-one metropolitan areas of Texas. In recommending the study, the Governor said:
"The objective of the proposed study would be to determine what appropriate steps should be taken, at both local and state levels, to modernize and improve the administration, planning and financing of public services deemed essential to the social and economic well-being of the inhabitants of these urban areas." He also asked that the study attempt to define the relationships of federal programs to local public services.
While the League’s study will concentrate on local government in the metropolitan areas, it is hoped and expected that the results of the study will be of interest and value to local governments throughout the state, many of which may some day find themselves a part of new metropolitan areas as a result of the state’s continued rapid growth.
Concurrent with this study, and in many respects supplemental to it, three additional movements got under way in the Houston area. A 16-member study committee was created to do the groundwork for a planning commission to serve a seven-county Gulf Coast Area. This was an important additional step in the development of the area concept instituted several years before by the Chamber of Commerce. The Harris County Commissioners Court also appointed a citizens group of 19 county leaders to study realignment of the four commissioner precincts and other ways of streamlining county government. And, to complete the overview of local government, the city council named a Charter Commission to study municipal government.
The controversy over the administration of the City-County Charity Hospital pointed up the need for this more general survey of local government. Keenly disappointed that the city and county had not found grounds for agreement in the charity hospital matter, the Houston Chamber of Commerce on February 21, 1963, urged the two public bodies to come together at once, without prejudice or rancor, in good faith to work out in the public interest the problems of financing the operations and maintenance of the hospital.
"The long-range welfare of Houston and Harris County demands an immediate solution to the problem of opening the new hospital and operating it the first year," said the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. "It also spotlights the need for the immediate beginning of efforts to work out an equitable and satisfactory long-range plan for the operations and maintenance of the city-county hospital system. In the past, there has been an obvious lack of effective communication between the two public bodies in connection with the hospital, and some better system of communication as well as financing is needed to preclude the possibility of an annual repetition of the current controversy."
New interest was generated in the program of expansion launched several years earlier in convention and tourist promotion. The Chamber of Commerce had operated a Convention Department since 1930, and it had created a tourism program in the late 1950’s. During 1962, the Chamber’s Convention Department had been instrumental in bringing 308 conventions with 162,321 delegates to Houston. It was estimated that this activity poured more than $19,000,000 into the Houston-area economy. With a number of new hotels and many new motels, Houston was in a position to accommodate larger conventions. And with the completion of the Astrodome, and the planned construction of a Livestock Show facility on an adjacent site that would provide almost a half-million square feet of exhibit space, Houston could meet the requirements of the major conventions and trade shows of the nation.
Increasing mobility of people, higher family incomes, and increasing leisure time were combining to boost the volume of tourist business. By developing the lure of boating and fishing along the coast, and with the attractions provided by the Astrodome and the Manned Spacecraft Center, the time seemed propitious for a major effort for the convention and tourist visitor. The Chamber of Commerce cooperated with the hotel, motel, restaurant and other interests to create the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Council. It had been organized in 1962, but did not become operative until 1963. During this period, the Chamber of Commerce supplied it with staff assistance, and also asked the International Association of Convention Bureaus to transfer its membership to the new Council representative. On June 1st, authorization was given for the transfer of several thousand convention files to the Council, which asked that the Chamber of Commerce continue its Convention and Tourism Committees through the balance of the year and continue to provide literature until it could get its own processed.
Three announcements in January, 1963, emphasized the accelerating rate of space development in the Houston area. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation acquired a 500-acre site in the Bayport Industrial District and a 50-acre site in the Clear Lake City research park. Rice University announced the creation of a department of space sciences, and the Manned Spacecraft Center announced plans for the largest space simulator in the nation. By March, 92 national space-related corporations had opened 128 different operations in Houston since the coming of NASA.
The Houston Symphony observed its 50th anniversary in 1963, with a special program of concerts beginning in October and going through the spring of 1964. Highlighting the year was a tour of Eastern cities, with excellent reviews by music critics. Julian P. Blitz was director of the first 35-person orchestra in 1913. In 1931, the Symphony was reorganized and began a full season of concerts. Among the full-time conductors have been Frank St. Leger, Ernest Hoffman, Efrem Kurtz, Leopold Stokowski and Sir John Barhirolli. Guest directors have included Sir Thomas Beecham, Leonard Bernstein, Carlos Chavez and Charles Munch.
The program of city beautification, carried on by the Chamber of Commerce for many years, that had won five consecutive national awards began to show results in a variety of ways. Across the city, attractive parks and plazas and landscaped open areas were beginning to add refreshing touches of green beauty while more and more buildings were planned to include beautification and a sense of spaciousness. This program required the cooperation of architects and builders, of municipal officials and service organizations, of property owners and the public itself. Among the new buildings with such built-in beauty are: U. S. Post Office, Federal Office Building, First City National Bank, Hotel America, Humble Building, Main Building, Tennessee Building, and others. An increasing number of fountains are being included in office buildings and apartment developments.
Four buildings completed during 1963 had a combined total of 109 floors and 2,350,000 square feet of space. These were the 44-story Humble Building, the 33-story Tennessee Building, the 20-story 500 Jefferson Building, and the 12-story Houston First Savings Building.
Research in the decade of the 1960’s has become such a vigorous enterprise that it has been characterized as the "industry of discovery’. As the fruits of research have been grasped by the movers and doers of the human community, explosive changes have quickly resulted. One fact stands out more clearly as the wide spectrum of research more profoundly alters the terms of modern life—that each horizon gained opens vistas to even more promising discoveries tomorrow. The variegated structure of research sponsorship is found in universities, foundations, government and industry. Research is bringing creative progress to the Houston area.
Houston has strengthened its position in the world of electronics in recent years, and its potential is exceptional in this dynamic growth industry. The electronic industry in Houston is already of significant size. With the exception of new activities supporting NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center and a number of small but highly competent instrumentation firms, the bulk of the electronic effort here has been geared to or directly connected with the oil industry. Diversification, however, is evident with electronics promising to become a major Houston industry.
Since the Houston-centered scientific community enjoys such a remarkably rapid rate of growth, it is difficult to keep an accurate count of the number of scientists, engineers and technicians in the community’s entire research and development capability. In 1964, the National Science Foundation showed that Texas with 10,660 scientists, ranked seventh in the nation and was among the fastest-growing states in research and development. Ranking 16th in population among metropolitan areas in 1960, Houston in 1962, before the addition of four other counties to its metropolitan area, was shown to have 2,832 scientists by the National Register, placing our one-county area 10th among the largest metropolitan areas, most of which were multi-county units. None of these figures, however, reflected the major influx of research and development that moved to Houston because of the location here of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center.