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Fort Bend County
Housing boom fuels corporate and industrial relocations
Master-planned communities dominate Fort Bend County, but commercial activity is playing an impressive game of catch-up.
"It's a classic case of development," says Herb Appel, president of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council, with rooftops leading the way.
Once perceived as the boondocks or a bedroom community for Houston-bound commuters, Fort Bend County now ranks eighth in the country in overall population growth. The 1990 Census figures show a whopping 72 percent increase in Fort Bend residents during the last decade to more than 225,000.
Employment has followed a similar path. GFBEDC figures from 1987 to 1990 show that employment in the county grew by 50 percent. In that period, more than 28 companies relocated or expanded in Fort Bend, creating more than 1,700 jobs, $239.4 million in annual payroll, $72 million in new investment and an additional $1.7 million in annual property taxes.
"It's a hot area and there are good reasons for the growth," says Bill Fincher, general manager of NMAR Group, which opened its business park in Missouri City this year. Among them, a strong pro-business environment, tax abatement incentives, mobility improvements and large tracts of land.
The eastern portion of the county has seen most of the activity. That's where eight master-planned communities are clustered, along with a business triangle formed by U.S. 59, U.S. 90A and Highway 6. This area also includes the small towns of Sugar Land, Stafford and Missouri City.
Roads. Surprisingly, construction on the Southwest Freeway and critical thoroughfares has not been the detriment to development that many had anticipated. An informal poll of visitors to First Colony's visitor information center, for example, suggests mobility has become a decreasing issue.
Meanwhile, the effects of other road improvements can already be felt. When the feeder roads for the next segment of Beltway 8 opened in July, the drive time to Houston Intercontinental Airport from Missouri City dropped to under an hour.
Gary Hastings, a broker at McAlister Co., suggests another reason …