On November 1st, the West Houston Association hosted Ric Campo, Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority and Chairman/CEO of Camden Property Trust, to speak about the relationship between PortHouston and the greater West Houston region. The event was kicked off with Jim Jard, WHA Past Chairman and Emeritus Director, introducing Campo and discussing his leadership from the time they served together on the Harris County Houston Sports Authority.
Campo’s presentation started with a primer on PortHouston, discussing the governance structure and primary responsibilities. “Let’s talk a little bit about why the Houston Ship Channel is so important. The Houston Ship Channel is 52 miles long, supports more than 200 facilities located alongside it, and is the busiest waterway in the world.” Campo continued with economic impacts by saying, “The Houston Ship Channel and the industries along it support nearly 1.35 million jobs in Texas and 3.2 million jobs nationwide, and economic activity totaling $339 billion in Texas, which is 20.6 percent of Texas’ total gross domestic product (GDP)”, and that PortHouston “has an economic impact of nearly $802 billion across the United States.”
Campo was also clear to differentiate between the Houston Ship Channel and PortHouston which makes up only a fraction of the Channel’s total tonnage. “There are nearly 200 private companies along the channel, the majority of the products moving through these private terminals is liquid bulk such as Oil, refined gasoline, and other chemical products.” The Port’s traffic on the other hand is over two-thirds containerized cargo. Of the cargo coming into the port, two-thirds stays in Texas and about 20% stays in Houston specifically.
Bringing the connection to our region, Campo said, “A number of companies have chosen the West Houston area for their Distribution Center hubs. Major retail corporations like Academy, Igloo, Costco, Rooms to Go, and Ross Dress for Less have chosen West Houston/Waller County as their distribution center hubs.” Over the last two years, Waller County has added over 5 million square feet of new industrial space. Having footprints on the westside allows shippers to service the major growth markets of Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. Additionally, Campo stressed the relationships in the region, “We cannot mention West Houston without acknowledging our Economic Development partner, Waller County. Port Houston works very closely with the Waller County Economic Development Partnership and has been doing so since 2018.”
Thinking about the future, Campo said, “West Houston and the surrounding area’s geographic proximity to major markets is already a benefit. If the region’s economic development opportunities remain competitive in continuing to attract distributions centers, warehousing, and other supply chain infrastructure investments, Port Houston will always bring cargo opportunities to support these investments.”
Campo also discussed the supply chain challenges. “Port Houston’s public terminals are on track to have their best year ever, but this historic growth has come with its own set of challenges. Historic demand for imported consumer goods has stretched the American distribution network. Demand has surged for warehouse space, terminal capacity, equipment like chassis, containers, cranes and workers like truck drivers, longshore workers and warehouse personnel. Lack of import warehousing and distribution space has created congestion at Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals. Containers are dwelling twice as long as they did two years ago, cutting capacity and slowing down the flow of ships discharging and trucks moving in and out of the facilities.”
Despite these challenges, the future of PortHouston looks great. “When it comes to imports, Houston growth is outpacing that seen in other places across the United States. Cargo is being diverted here for a number of reasons.” The port plans to invest over a billion dollars throughout the next five years, to add container yard space, expansion of truck in-gates, new ship-to-shore cranes, new berths, and other investments. Project 11 is the largest project in America of its kind, including $189 million in federal funds as well as $669 million committed by PortHouston. The port is also going after future funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in FY24 for operations and maintenance of the Houston Ship Channel, in particular the funds for dredging. “Ultimately, customers want efficiency and predictability and it’s our goal to achieve that for them,” Campo said.
Learn more about the Houston Ship Channel Expansion Project and how it brings major benefits to the Houston-Galveston area.