YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)
Growing anxiety in the midst of plenty characterized the period from 1960 to 1965. Never before had the economy of the nation experienced such a sustained period of growth. After a few months of uneasiness when hopes for the "soaring sixties" began to encounter some doubts, upward trends began which were to persist throughout the next five years, and 1965 ended on a note of continuing and confident strength. But while the economy glowed in bright hues, this became a period of growing uncertainty. Cold war flamed into conflict in Vietnam. Bonds of international cooperation began to break up. Balance-of-payments problems led to strict regulations. And racial tensions spread throughout the United States.
These were years of diversification for Houston. Efforts to meet several major community needs received continuing attention. Despite a series of frustrating delays, tangible progress was made on Houston’s long-range water supply. Seeking to make secure Houston’s posture in air transportation, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Houston worked together effectively to develop supersonic-era airport facilities and to secure more satisfactory airline service to several major cities in the United States and to key centers in other countries. Plans initiated many years before for the development of the Civic Center began to materialize in construction. Activities were expanded to attract new industrial and commercial enterprises and to encourage expansion of existing operations in such a way as to under grade the future economy of the area. The mobility of people increased as a result of work on freeways and thoroughfares. But the search for a satisfactory answer to transit needs met with only limited success.
The most significant development for this period of Houston history, however, was the diversification achieved not only in its economy but also in other areas of community interest. People from everywhere crowded into Houston during these years, bringing new ideas and viewpoints. The cross-pollination of these ideas made Houston a center of innovation and civic creativity. Efforts started years before to develop consumer-product industries began to bear fruit in new plants in a variety of industrial classifications. In an age that places a premium on the application of knowledge to natural resources, Houston has had a most satisfactory development in the industry of discovery itself—research and development. Educational facilities were expanded and diversified, and educational programs were enriched. Cultural activities and interests reached more rewardingly into all fields of the arts.
The Chamber of Commerce stepped up its activity on a balanced program to meet community needs and possibilities, making annual modifications in program and organization to keep in step with the changing requirements of a fast-moving age and a dynamic community. Its activities became increasingly area-wide in their consideration and results.
Evidence of growth was found everywhere. Beginning with 1961 and extending through 1965, the period showed an increase of 213,000 in telephones, a net increase in five years of more telephones than there were installed in the Houston district altogether in 1945. The period also saw a gain of 88,000 scholastics in the county, requiring 3,500 new school rooms. A total of 95,000 persons were added to the work force during these five years. During this period, Houston’s Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area was increased from Harris County alone to include Brazoria, Fort Bend, Liberty and Montgomery Counties as well.
The most dramatic event of these years of diversification for Houston was the advent of the Space Age, with the coming of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in 1961. Then the transfer of the Mission Control Center to Houston in 1965 focused a world spotlight on this city for sustained periods during manned flights in space. The Spacecraft Center has already involved a construction program well in excess of one hundred million dollars, a direct annual payroll in excess of $40,000,000, and the attraction of contracting and servicing industries with a combined payroll approximating that of the Center itself.
This was the period when major league sports came to Houston, the Oilers in the American Football League and the Astros, first called the Colt .45’s, in the National Baseball League. The Harris County Domed Stadium, popularly known as the Astrodome, came into being. New hotels and motels were built, and the volume of conventions and visitors was stepped up substantially. World trade expanded, and headquarters operations of all kinds were increased.
Houston maintained the buoyant confidence of a frontier town, with creative excitement in the air. Houston most likely has had more urban renewal, with less credit for its achievements, than any other city in the nation during the last twenty years. While other cities were waiting for the "federal bulldozer" to level certain condemned areas, Houston was clearing block after block to make way for modern buildings and other upgraded land uses. While other cities were struggling with the relocation of people displaced by urban renewal, the home-building industry of Houston went right ahead giving those of all income levels a choice of housing. Rehabilitation as well as tearing down and rebuilding are a way of life in Houston—so much a part of the day-to-day routine that few have actually considered this to be urban renewal. Among the one-word descriptions that have been applied to Houston are: "challenge", "opportunity", "confidence", "dynamism", ‘‘courtesy’’, "culture", and "creativity."
For many years, Houston has been trying to carry out the challenge inherent in a statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He said:
"We have learned—too often through the hard lessons of neglect and waste—that if man brutalizes the landscape, he wounds his own spirit; if he raises building which are trivial or offensive, he admits the poverty of his imagination; if he creates joyless cities, he imprisons himself. And we have learned that an environment of order and beauty can delight, inspire and liberate men."
Economic data submitted in briefs to the Civil Aeronautics Board in connection with air-service cases indicate the economic importance already achieved by Houston. From 1954 to 1963, Houston’s increase of 84.2 percent in value added by manufacture ranked first among the nation’s fifteen largest standard metropolitan statistical areas. Houston also ranked first in the rate of population increase for these areas, with a growth of 76.7 percent from 1950 to 1964, and it ranked second only to Los Angeles in its net population increase for the same period.
From 1945 to 1965, there were substantial shifts in the distribution of personal income from various sources in Texas. Income from farming, for example, declined from 11.2 percent of the total income of Texas to 4.4 percent, while personal income from manufacturing, trade, government and professional services showed substantial increases in their percentages of the state’s total. Finance increased from 1.3 percent to 3.1 percent. From 1958 to 1963, retail trade in Houston increased 24.5 percent, compared to 17.8 percent in Dallas, 6.6 percent in Fort Worth, and 12.5 percent in San Antonio. The ability of Houston’s central business district to maintain its retail importance is indicated by the fact that from 1958 to 1963, retail trade in this core district declined only one-tenth of one percent in Houston, compared to a drop of 17.3 percent in Dallas’ central business district, 14.7 percent decline in Fort Worth’s and 1.8 percent decrease in San Antonio’s.
During this five-year period, Houston built 23 major office buildings, with a total of 359 floors and 6,648,000 square feet of office space. Under construction at the end of 1965 were three major office buildings, aggregating 64 floors and 950,000 square feet of office space. Thus, Houston built more office space from 1961-1965 than it had in its 116-year history through 1952.
Houston has demonstrated in recent years that total community development calls for a strong and effective balance and an active teamwork of the governmental, private and volunteer sectors. For many years it has been demonstrating the truth of a statement by the 1965 president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States "Private investment must be the keystone to the arch of the total community development. If there is to be private initiative and private planning, they must be backed up by private investment. The fact remains that no matter how much help you may get from outside, the job of developing your community to its full potential is the job of local people."