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YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)

Since 1960, another "last frontier" has begun to have an impact on the Houston-area economy. This is the discovery and exploration of "inner space" which is generally categorized as oceanography. Man has long looked to the sea for fish, and now he realizes that the oceans contain supplies of food more vast than he had ever dreamed. Oil and gas are being produced offshore in increasing volumes, and magnesium is being produced from seawater. Diamonds are being mined off the continental shelf of the eastern Atlantic. A great deal of the preliminary work for a project to drill through the Earthís crust, known as the "Mohole" project, was done in Houston.

The desalination of sea water is no longer a Buck Rogers myth, as the expanding desalination plant at nearby Freeport proves. Houston has a relationship with all these activities, and this interest has been formalized in the creation here of the American Society for Oceanography.

Houston-area scientists, engineers and business men have accepted the fact that the methods and requirements of research and development are changing. No longer is it primarily the tinkering of one or two brilliant men that brings scientific breakthroughs. As the fund of knowledge became greater, as the storage and retrieval of knowledge became a matter of data processing systems, and as the problems being studied became more sophisticated, research and development becomes more of an organizational enterprise. The management of research programs is becoming a profession, in itself, that supplements in no small way the efforts of scientists, engineers and technicians.

For the third time in six years, the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1963 received a National Recognition Award from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States for the best all-round program of activity of any of the major city Chambers of Commerce. Indicative of Houstonís growing stature in the arts, the Chamber of Commerce published a 16-page catalogue of the communityís cultural assets. And indicative of Houstonís growing stature among world cities, "Holiday Magazine" called this city "one of the 12 most exciting cities in North America", while the "London Times" suggested that cultural America might "eventually be based on a quadrilateral of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston."

International strife characterized the world scene during 1964 and racial tension characterized the domestic scene. In a decision expected to improve urban legislative representation, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that districts in state legislatures must be "substantially equal" in population. In his first State of the Union Message, President Johnson called for a wide-ranging program to end poverty and discrimination at home and the threat of war abroad. Feeling against the United States in Panama erupted into rioting over the display of the United States flag in the Canal Zone. In retaliation for the seizure of some of its fishing vessels, Cuba cut off the normal water supply to the U. S. Naval Station at Guantanamo. Nikita S. Khrushchev was removed from the leadership of the Soviet Union.

The Economic Analysis Panel of the Chamber of Commerce looked ahead to 1964 and was optimistic about acceleration and upsurge. "The motors of growth may be expected to remain in the same gear in 1964 and to propel the community forward at a speed similar to that of 1963," it declared. As evidence of a diversification of interest among Houston businessmen, "Houston Magazine" began regular use of words entirely foreign a few years before, such as supersonic acceptability", "hydrospace", "oceanology", "agri-business", "urbania", "urbiculture" and "megalopolis", as well as a growing category of new Space Age terms.

The major move of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center personnel from temporary locations to their new facilities near Clear Lake was made during March, 1964, when approximately 2,000 employees occupied the half-dozen completed buildings. The worldís first nuclear-powered merchant vessel, the Savannah, slid majestically up the Houston Ship Channel for a six-day visit; and when she left, she carried the first cargo ever shipped from a United States port aboard a nuclear-powered cargo ship.

Houston met one of its greatest challenges on June 27th when the citizens approved ten bond issues for a total of $87,000,000 by a four to-one vote, and gave a similar impressive endorsement in support of the Trinity River water program. Included in the bond program was provision for downtown storm and sanitary sewers that would make possible major new development in the downtown area. A short time later, Houston had another proud day, on July 9th, when the first units of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Burke Baker Planetarium were opened. Realization of a long-range water supply took another firm step forward on September 8th when the City of Houston and the Trinity River Authority signed a contract for the Trinity River project that had been fostered by the Chamber of Commerce for a decade.

The Port of Houston arranged formal ceremonies to observe its 50th anniversary on November 10, 1964, just a half century after President Woodrow Wilson had recessed a Cabinet meeting in the White House to push a button that fired by remote control a cannon to open the Port of Houston. As a part of the 50th anniversary program, President Johnson pushed a button in Washington to explode dynamite that broke ground for a new dock to be built by the Navigation District as a part of its current expansion program. A recreation of the christening ceremony held in 1914 was a part of the ceremony. Then Miss Sue Campbell, daughter of then-Mayor Ben Campbell, dropped a floral wreath into the waters of the Turning Basin and said: "I christen thee Port of Houston. Hither shall come the ships of all nations and find a hearty welcome." For the anniversary event, Mrs. George E. Woods of Houston, the former Miss Sue Campbell, saw her granddaughter re-enact this part of the program.

Early in the year, the formal announcement of the Bayport project was made by the Humble Oil & Refining Company. The 7,250-acre Bayport site, a new industrial district half the size of Manhattan Island and served by its own seaport via the Houston Ship Channel, just 22 miles southeast of Houston, could create 15,000 jobs and result in an eventual $900,000,000 in new-plant investment. For almost ten years, the Chamber of Commerce had the privilege of working with Humble representatives in the plans to transfer the companyís 30,000-acre West Ranch property from grazing land to a development to create jobs, stimulate commerce and industry, and provide for the residential and recreational needs of people. Bay-port and Clear Lake City are projects of Friendswood development company, a subsidiary of Humble.

Carl Reistle, Humbleís Board Chairman, said the program had been developed by his company after repeated urging by the Chamber of Commerce. He said that many extremely difficult problems had to be solved in a project of this magnitude, adding that it would have been easy to quit at times, "but the Chamber of Commerce kept pushing the project ahead, solving problems in the community interest, and inspiring all concerned to complete the program.

Another indication of Houstonís growing importance as an industrial complex came with the Houston Lighting and Power Company announcement of a five-year expenditure program of $939,000,000 as "an expression of firm confidence in the future of the Houston area. With a generating capacity at the time of this announcement of 2,277,000 KWs, already ten times its installed capacity in 1945, the company expected to raise this to 5,000,000 KWs in a $333,000,000 construction program during the next five years.

Discussing Houstonís industrial diversification, Claud B. Barrett, serving a second term as president of the Chamber of Commerce, said: "Houston has long been recognized as the center of one of the worldís most favored areas in natural resources. Information on the reserves and uses of such raw materials as petroleum, natural gas, sulphur and salt has long been a matter of record. While in the past we have talked vaguely about our wealth of human resources, it has been only within recent years that we have begun to realize how closely our future is linked to our reserves and uses of human resources.

"The development of human resources is not a one-agency responsibility. It does not rest alone with our educational institutions, our professional societies or the Chamber of Commerce. It rests in combined efforts to expand research and development activities in the Houston area. It rests with a new and vigorous interest in advancing graduate education and technical education. It rests in further expansion of our professional services, in the fields of the healing arts, in engineering, and in all the other scientific and technical fields. It rests with the communications industry, in the emphasis it places on the accurate and stimulating dissemination of knowledge. And it rests upon the continued development of our cultural assets and the continued improvement of all those features of our community that contribute to a good life. The road ahead for Houston will be marked by milestones of progress in the development and utilization of our human resources.

In 1960, the Houston Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of the industrial base of its community and concluded that new emphasis must be given efforts to attract more market-oriented industry. The study showed that such plants produce a large number of jobs in proportion to plant investment. Acting on the basis of this study, the Chamber of Commerce began to stress development efforts toward market-oriented manufacturing, with the result that such industries in 1964 constituted 60 percent of the total new-plant locations as compared to about 20 percent in 1960. This has been a factor in the declining unemployment rate in Harris County, which is well below the national average. This is also an example of planning to meet the basic economic needs of an area and of then putting the plans into practical operation.

In no area of Houstonís interest has the term "years of diversification" found greater expression than in its progress in manufacturing. Industrial production is a primary producer of Houstonís wealth, and the broad scope of production activities in the Houston area is indicated by the large number of major manufacturing groups in which this area holds and gains national prominence. During the live years following 1960, Houston increased its national ranking in food and kindred products, lumber and wood products, paper and allied products, printing and publishing with their allied industries, chemicals and allied products, primary metals industries, fabricated metals products, machinery except electrical, and scientific instruments. Thus, in eleven major manufacturing groups, Houston improved its national rating; and in each, it ranked from 2nd to 15th nationally. This is evidence of a degree of diversification that is surprising to many who still think of Houston as a one-industry town.

Houston is now the most diversified manufacturing center in the South and Southwest. No matter how it is measured, the industrial growth and manufacturing-mix in Houstonís Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area shows the sort of past performance, present stability, and future promise likely to attract still other industries to this concentration of diversified manufacturing.

Among the twelve major manufacturing groups in the Houston area, chemicals and allied products rank first in value added by manufacture with an annual production of $354,875,000, while machinery other than electrical ranks first in the number of employees with 14,315. Four industry groups employ more than 10,000 persons each, and an additional seven industry groups give employment to from 1,469 to 9,473 each. During the last decade, 494 new-industry installations have been tabulated, with 221 new plants in the five-year period from 1955 through 1959, and 273 in the more recent five-year period. The annual record of new installations has ranged from 35 in 1956 to 71 in 1964. Ten or more new-industry installations were added in each of 14 different major classifications, as further evidence of the areaís industrial diversification.

Houston now ranks first in the South and Southwest in manufacturing payroll, in value added by manufacture, in investment in new manufacturing facilities, and as an industrial and consumer market, A significant new pattern of industrial growth has emerged since 1960 including the development of both market-oriented and science-based types of industryótypes long encouraged by the Chamber of Commerce. The resource-oriented growth, which dominated earlier industrial development in the Houston Gulf Coast area, has created markets large enough to justify consumer-goods manufacturing. The growth of market-oriented industry should bring more changes to the Houston economy in the next generation than the development of resource-oriented industry did in the past generation.

As industry moves increasingly to concentrate in the Houston Gulf Coast complex, if finds a full range of industrial subdivisions or districts, offering new home-on-the-range plant sites. Among the many major attractions offered to incoming industry by the Houston area, this availability of completely developed property ranks among the foremost advantages. With such a wide range of industrial parks, industrial districts and miscellaneous other possibilities for industrial sites, the Houston area offers a choice that industry finds to its competitive advantage. Within the Houston area, there are 26 industrial parks and districts, ranging in acreage from 10 to 7,250, with several in the 100-acre to 4,430-acre range. Most of these are subdivided and developed according to a comprehensive plan, with streets, rail-lead tracks, and utilities available.

Today, "Houston is universally recognized as one of the worldís focal points of the petroleum industry," Research Department Manager Howard N. Martin of the Chamber of Commerce pointed out in recent air-route testimony before the Civil Aeronautics Board. Houston-based firmsóproducers, drilling contractors, geologists, laboratoriesódo now and will in the future provide much of the technical assistance for petroleum development in other parts of the world . . . In number of oil-industry units, Houston ranks above all other leading centers of the nation; 900 listings of producers, drillers and consultants are shown in the Houston edition of the "Midwest Oil Register" . . . Total listings for other oil-industry centers: Tulsa, 489; Dallas, 461; and Los Angeles, 170 . . . Houston is far ahead of all other cities in value of product sold by the nationís petroleum-equipment suppliers. The latest study by the U.S. Department of Commerce revealed the following information relating to the distribution of equipment and supplies for the oil and gas industry: Houston, $371,832,000 (43.3%); Dallas-Fort Worth, $81,089,000 (9.5%); Tulsa, $77,283,000 (9.0%); and Los Angeles, $65,621,000 (7.6%).

Today, fractionating towers and catalytic crackers of chemical plants and refineries in the Houston area vie for skyline prominence with skyscrapers. The nationís greatest concentration of petrochemical plants operates in the Gulf Coast area, centering on Houston. More than half the plastic materials and resins produced in the nation and more than half its output of synthetic rubber are produced in this area, as well as 80 percent of the nationís ethylene, the feed-stock for polyethylene.

From the standpoint of an entirely different interest, Houston has become the center of a vast and varied and vigorously growing communications complex. Lines of communication range from daily newspapers to ship-to-shore marine telephones, from trade magazines to an around-the-earth network linking astronauts in orbit to the flight-controlling Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Within the county, there are four daily newspapers, four television stations, 13 AM radio stations, nine FM radio stations, eight wire services and bureaus, representatives of 15 business publications, and six correspondents for national publications, as well as headquarters for 16 trade publications.

During 1964, the Chamber of Commerce contracted with the Southwest Research Institute for an air-pollution survey to up-date the study conducted by the same research laboratory seven years before. Said President Barred: "Our purpose is to determine how we stand with reference to pollutants in the atmosphere, and to identify and document changes which may have occurred since the previous survey.

And in 1964, the Houston Chamber of Commerce was notified by Walter F. Carey, president, and Arch N. Booth, executive vice president, Chamber of Commerce of the United States, that it had been certified as "accredited" by the National Chamberís Accrediting Board to become one of the first organizations in the country to earn this status.

Mankind continued through the mid-point of the decade of the 1960ís with hope and concern, with pride and remorse. In a cynical age, it seems to be increasingly unpopular to find anything good in our country or in its people. If we do, the cynics consider us smug or indulging in sinful pride. Although we have far more than shame and savagery here, we do seem to be in a period of odd contradictions. With the highest standard of living in history, we are more concerned with poverty. With the highest percentage of employment in history, we are more concerned about unemployment. Although we are making unprecedented progress in the extension of civil rights, we have the greatest racial tension we have ever had. Almost three-quarters of our so-called poverty families, those with incomes under $4,000, have washing machines, 93 percent have television, and 60 percent have automobiles. No country in the world has anything like our educational level, with a young Negro in the South having a much better chance of getting some college training than does any youth in England. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other nation since tile prizes were established in 1901. Yet there seems to be a compulsion to be apologetic.

Houston, however, continues to have pride of achievement, confidence in the future. And, if there should be any tendency to be otherwise, the records set in 1965 should dispel any doubt or remorse. From any measurement of the goodness and greatness of a city, Houston recorded progress to conclude the second decade following World War II. The diversification of its economy, its culture and its outlook was securely established. It was the 125th anniversary year for the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and this fact supplied the backdrop for all its activities during the year.

In accepting the presidency for 1965, Gail Whitcomb said: "In its traditional role of community leadership, the Houston Chamber of Commerce sets the pace as it moves into its 125th year of public service. Houston, built to greatness by men and women of vision and vigor, enjoys a proud heritage. Appropriately, we pay tribute to the past.., to those who created the sound foundations on which we must build. But now, as this new year begins, we must chart our own course ahead against the check-points of current community needs and opportunities."

Accepting the challenge of changing conditions, the Chamber of Commerce created two new committees. A Long-Range Planning Committee was started to provide continuity in long-range planning, analysis and conceptual studies, and to maintain cognizance of major trends and patterns of significance to Houston in the immediate and long-term future. A Committee on the Sciences proposed to provide more advanced knowledge of impending scientific and technological developments; to identify and evaluate implications of these developments in terms of policies and programs of the Chamber of Commerce; and to foster a better general understanding of scientific enterprises with specific applications to Houston and the Gulf Coast area.

In a prima-donna city, which has held the spotlight on the nationís stage for her growth in industry, business and population, and which has kept the world entranced with her starring role in the exploration of space, such things as music, beauty, and the various arts could easily have been written out of the script. Not so in Houston. With growth in other, more material fields, the growth of beauty kept pace. Already the home of one of the nationís finest symphony orchestras, an outstanding grand opera company, a first-class Museum of Fine Arts, and three major theatres, Houston witnessed several developments on her cultural scene which further enhanced her position aesthetically. Construction was under way on the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and plans were being drawn for the downtown Alley Theatre. The summer of 1964 saw the opening of the new Museum of Natural Science and the Burke Baker Planetarium. By council action, the City of Houston created a 15-member Municipal Arts Commission. Plans were being completed for the city to open to the public the Bayou Bend collection of early Americana, the home and collection given to the people by Miss Ima Hogg. And the entire lineup of the arts was being groomed for special display during a Festival of the Arts in connection with the opening of the Jones Hall in 1966.

With those three words early in June, the Manned Spacecraft Center became the nerve hub of the United Statesí space program, the point of control for all the nationís manned flights, and the center of world attention during flights. The Space Age brought Houston a new concept of publicity when Gemini 4 was on its 62-revolution, 97-hour and 57-minute flight. From 103 miles up in space, two out-of-this-world voices identified Houston for one of the largest single-event listening and viewing audiences ever assembled. Flashing across the United States at 17,500 miles per hour, Command Pilot James A. McDivitt exclaimed to Capsule Communicator Gus Grissom: "Weíre right over Houston. . .Thatís Galveston Bay right there." And a few weeks later, floating free of the spacecraft, propelling himself briefly with a hand-held camera-carrying jet gun, Pilot Edward H. White II paused at the end of his 25-foot oxygen hose umbilical tether and interrupted his exhilarating 20-minute extra-vehicular-activity assignment to say: "Weíre looking right down on Houston ... Iíll get a picture."

For seven days, 22 hours and 35 minutes, and for 120 revolutions around the earth, Astronauts L. Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad traveled 3,338,200 miles on their Gemini flight. 

To give permanent recognition to those scientists and engineers as well as astronauts who pioneer in space, plans for a National Space Hall of Fame have been included in Houstonís new $12,000,000 Civic Center Convention and Exhibit Building. This was announced by Mayor Louie Welch at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new structure in August. The National Space Hall of Fame is to occupy the main entrance lobby at the Smith Street end of the three-block-long building, an area approximately 60 feet by 120 feet by 35 feet high. Completion is scheduled for mid-1967.

 

 

 


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