Local leaders react to Continental-United deal

May 3, 2010 9:59:51 PM PDT
On Monday, the city publicly gave its reaction to the Continental-United merger and the decision to move Continental's headquarters to Chicago. And although our city was clearly on the losing end of this very important decision, you wouldn't have known it by hearing what they had to say. "There will be some headquarters jobs lost. There may be others lost through the merger and we are saddened by that," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker at a press conference at Houston City Hall Monday. "But in my discussions, at least on the operational side, I don't see that we will have a significant impact."

Continental's corporate headquarters will move to Chicago, and that will spell job loss. But the company said Monday in a letter that it expects a net job gain over the years because of its merger.

Still, despite the positive spin by the mayor and other community leaders, one former elected official believes there are some potential downfalls.

"My guess is we're looking in the low 100's of millions right now in economic impact," said former Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector Paul Bettencourt.

Bettencourt says there are two things to watch with the merger. One, with a fleet now based in Houston, is there a potential of losing taxes if that fleet is based in another state? The other issues are airport bonds, which the city collects money on, which tie directly to the number of flights that come into the city.

"The city doesn't have money to replace it, so any reduction in landings at the airport could cause the bonds to be devalued," said Bettencourt.

While the mayor and other officials say it's too early to tell whether any of that will result from the merger, on Monday, Harris County Judge Ed Emmitt seemed to reign back some of his optimism.

"It's hurtful to the community," said Emmett. "Long term, we have to see what we can do to make the best of this."

While the merger is official, there are still some potential roadblocks ahead, as the Justice Department asks, will the world's largest airline be too large? The Justice Department confirmed Monday that anti-trust regulators will review the merger. They'll be focusing on what kind of effects the merger will have on competition. In 2008, the Justice Department gave clearance to a similar deal between Delta and Northwest Airlines.


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