Mixed feelings about economic forecast in Houston

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What does the uncertainty in the oil industry mean for Houston? Tom Abrahams reports.

We know oil prices are low. But what is the broader economic forecast? That's exactly the question business leaders in West Houston---along the energy corridor--are asking and answering.

Richard Helmey is the owner True Color Graphics and is chairing the West Houston Chamber of Commerce annual economic development summit. The low price of oil being the central topic.

"What does that mean to the healthcare industry, to the retail industry, to residential and commercial real estate?" he asked in reference to all of the sectors that have a home in west Houston.

The Chamber has just finished its first survey of members about the feelings regarding the upcoming year. They'll present that along with a statistical economic outlook at the summit on February 12.

"2016 I think is still going to be a rough year for us," said the Chamber's CEO Jeannie Bollinger. "But I was here in the eighties and it doesn't feel like the eighties. "

Amidst the clouds there is optimism in a down oil and gas market where price for a barrel of oil is hovering around $30.

"I still see a lot of economic activity," said chamber member Rusty Graham. "I see cranes still in the air. I know places where cranes have gone up since the price of oil has cratered."

It is true. There is plenty of construction along the I-10 corridor that runs through the heart of the west side but it's slowing.

"We're anticipating that 2016 will be a volatile year," said Patricia Moore. She's with the Verde Wealth Group and explained they've been preparing clients for tighter economic conditions. " It's going to be choppy seas ahead. But hopefully we'll end the year positive. "

Looking beyond the west side, the Greater Houston Partnership sees a fundamental shift for the energy industry and its role in that broader economy.

"The oil and gas industry in Houston is not going to go away with this downturn," said GHP analyst Patrick Jankowski. " But two years from now it's going to look very different. And how the oil and gas business does business is going to look very different two years from now."

If you're interested in attending the February 12 summit to learn the results of the survey and economic forecast, visit The West Houston Chamber of Commerce website.
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