Full court press to keep Continental in Houston

HOUSTON If there were to be a meger between these two companies, Continental's headquarters could be moved to Chicago, where United is based. And along with Continental, a lot of jobs could go too. That possibility has sparked a tug of war between our two cities.

In a full court press, Houston's business and political leaders are applying pressure to keep Continental headquartered here.

"We absolutely believe we are the best choice for the airline," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker Tuesday.

The Greater Houston Partnership released a letter Tuesday pleading their case to the chairmen of Continental and United Airlines, an overt and plainly written statement, which read, in part:

    "We speak with one voice. Houston is the natural and most favorable location for the airline's headquarters." [READ FULL LETTER]

It was signed by the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Mayor Anise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

The letter goes on to boast that Houston has over 3,000 international companies, 22 foreign banks and 92 foreign consulates.

The leadership pointed out several contrasts between Texas and Illinois, with Texas adding 878,000 jobs this year while Illinois lost 453,000 jobs. The Texas unemployment rate hovers at 8.2 percent, while Illinois unemployment rate is 11.5 percent.

Saying they can meet or beat any offer made by Chicago, the Bravado shown by Houston's leaders is a well-placed, if not desperate, attempt to keep Continental's 16,000 Houston-based employees in Houston.

However, their pleas to stay do have boundaries. The mayor says she is limited in what she can say to the chairman of Continental.

"We have each others' numbers," said Mayor Parker. "I've called and left messages to him. He cannot talk about any details of the merger. He cannot talk about any potential offer. We're just saying we will work with Continental. We will work with the merged company."

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