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State Leaders Weigh In on Winter Storm Response

Published Mar 19, 2021 by Steven Will

Texas Capitol

Week In Review
This week in Austin was marked by a contentious back and forth among state leaders about the appropriate response to Winter Storm Uri. Meanwhile, in committees, broadband access and expansion received full support. 

State Leaders Weigh in on Winter Storm Billing
In an unexpected series of moves early this week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2142, which would force the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to reverse $4.2 billion in charges in response to what some consider artificially inflated wholesale power prices during the winter storm. House Speaker Dade Phelan declined to take up the bill in the House and stated that repricing would be an "extraordinary government intervention into the free market." Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott, sought and received the resignation of the last remaining commissioner on the Public Utility Commission. The week was capped off by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick calling on Governor Abbott to use his executive authority to reverse billions of dollars in charges for wholesale electricity.

Addressing the Digital Divide
The state's omnibus broadband bills were heard in both the House and Senate this week. On Wednesday, Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols (R - Jacksonville) and author of Senate Bill 5, heard testimony on the Senate version of the broadband package. The bill was left pending in committee, but enjoyed overwhelming support from outside stakeholders during the hearing.

On Thursday, State Representative Trent Ashby (R - Lufkin) and author of House Bill 5, laid out the bill in the House State Affairs Committee. It also enjoyed overwhelming support from both committee members and outside stakeholders. Although the two bills are similar — establishing a statewide broadband plan, creating a broadband office, mapping requirements and rules for grant funding — the major difference between them is where the office would be housed. The Senate version calls for it to be housed in The University of Texas System, while the House version calls for it to be in the state comptroller's office. The Partnership supports both bills, but favors the House version, given its preference for the broadband office residing with the Comptroller. The bills are expected to be voted out of their respective committees in the coming weeks.

Electric Grid Hearings Continue
Hearings on the state's electric grid continued this week, with the House State Affairs Committee taking up six priority bills designed to address problems from Winter Storm Uri and the mass power outages. Two are administrative. House Bill 12 by Representative Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) establishes a statewide power outage public alert system. House Bill 13 by Representative Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) creates the Texas Energy Disaster Reliability Council to work among state agencies and ERCOT to prevent future outages and to coordinate responses among the state and industry, including better tracking of critical facilities and infrastructure. House Bill 16 by Representative Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) prohibits consumer wholesale electric plans, like the ones which resulted in some customers receiving massive electric bills.

House Bill 10 by State Affairs Committee Chairman Paddie overhauls the ERCOT governance, adding 5 additional members to the governing board appointed by the Governor and Legislature, one of which is required to represent consumer interests. The proposed reforms require all ERCOT board members reside in Texas and, for the first time, require members serve staggered two-year terms. The lack of consumer representation on the current ERCOT board was a consistent point made during witness testimony.

House Bill 11, also by Chairman Paddie, mandates winter weatherization of power plants and requires the Public Utility Commission work with power generators to implement and oversee those requirements. Winter Storm Uri brought lower temperatures for longer periods of time than existing weatherization standards.

The final bill, House Bill 17 by Representative Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), prohibits local regulations or restrictions based upon energy source.

Each bill received broad support from witnesses. Representatives said that changes to the bills will continue as they move through the legislative process.

Chapter 313 Hearings
House Bill 1556 by Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) reauthorizing and modernizing the Chapter 313 economic development program is expected to be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee in the coming weeks. Chapter 313 provides temporary tax abatements to businesses which would otherwise locate in other states. The program has generated billions of dollars in capital investments and tens of thousands of jobs. Chapter 313 has proven effective at bringing manufacturing and industrial facilities to the Houston region. House Bill 1556 is widely supported among businesses, chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. The Partnership is working closely with those allies to ensure the Chapter 313 program is reauthorized this legislative session.

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Membership

The Partnership Salutes Our 2021 Members

4/21/21
Serving as the Houston region's largest chamber of commerce, the Greater Houston Partnership is a gathering place for community-minded business leaders who want to be involved in Houston's positive growth and influence our economic trajectory. Through the dedicated efforts of our members, the Partnership addresses Houston's unique challenges, and champions the growth and success of our region. Without the active engagement and investment in the organization's mission, the work of the Partnership would not be possible. Please join us in thanking all of the Partnership members for their leadership and dedication to strengthening the region.  For further information about our members, visit the Membership Directory.  For information about getting involved with the Greater Houston Partnership by becoming a member, click here, or contact membership@houston.org. New and renewing 2021 members include:  160 Driving Academy 4B Capital, LLC 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery A & S Engineers, Inc. A&B Environmental Services, Inc. Abby's Catering / Amber Green Corporation ABI Enterprises Accenture Access Sciences Corporation AccuFleet International, Inc. ACM Logistics & Consulting, Inc. ACT Pipe & Supply, Inc. ActionCOACH Adaptive Construction Solutions, Inc. Adcetera AECOM AIG Air Liquide USA LLC Aitken Manufacturing Aker Solutions Inc. Aldine ISD AlixPartners, LLP All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. Allegiance Bank Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP Alley Theatre ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Amazon Web Services Ambius Amegy Bank American Bank American Cancer Society American Heart Association American InterContinental University American Red Cross, Greater Houston Area Chapter Amperon Holdings, Inc Amplo Anne Vickery & Associates Realty LLC Antwerp Port Authority - Houston/USA Apache Corporation Ara Partners ARC Specialties Arch-Con Corporation Archrock, Inc. Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Inc. ARVO Realty Advisors Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston Associated General Contractors of America, Inc. - Houston Chapter AT&T Atlantic Partners Group, LLC Atlantic Relocation Systems Australian Trade and Investment Commission AVANCE - Houston Inc. Bain & Company Baker Botts LLP Baker Hughes BakerRipley Baldwin Liaison Consulting, LLC Banfield Properties, Inc. Bank of America Bank of Texas Barbers Hill Independent School District Bay-Houston Towing Co. Baylor College of Medicine BB&T Now Truist BBVA BDO USA, LLP Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals Bell Belmont Village Senior Living Benchmark Benzer Capital Beth Wolff Realtors BGE, Inc. BHGRE Gary Greene, Corporate Office BHP Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star Big Oak Tree Media Bin There Dump That BKD, LLP Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas BNSF Railway Boral Agency Boyd Commercial, LLC Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, Inc. Brace Industrial Group Bracewell LLP Bridgeway Capital Management Brigade Fire Solutions, LLC Bristow Group Inc. Brookfield Properties Corp. BTIC America Corporation Bureau Veritas Commodities & Trade, Inc. Burnett Specialists Burns & McDonnell, Inc. Burrow Global LLC business angel Minority association BXS Insurance C. Baldwin Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton Cadence Bank Café Adobe Caldwell Companies Calpine Corporation Camden Property Trust Career and Recovery Resources, Inc. Carlton Staffing Catalyst Partners LLC Cathexis Holdings Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Caydon USA Services LLC CBRE Group, Inc. CDC Houston, Inc./Springwoods Village CDM360 Center for Urban Transformation CenterPoint Energy Central Management, Inc. ChaiONE Inc. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Chamberlain Hrdlicka Charles Grube Properties, Inc. Charter Title Company Chastang Auto Group Cheniere Energy, Inc. CHess Executive Insights LLC Chevron CHI St. Luke's Health Chicago Title Houston Chrysalis Partners LLC Cintra Citadel Hospitality Group CITGO Petroleum Corporation Citigroup City Development Corporation of El Campo City of Brenham City of Fulshear City of Houston City of Huntsville City of League City, Texas City of Waller Economic Development Corp. CivilTech Engineering, Inc. CKP CLEAR Clear Channel Outdoor CMC Railroad, Inc. Coats Rose, P.C. Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages Cockrell Interests LLC Collaborative for Children Colliers Appelt Womack, Inc. dba Colliers International Comcast Comerica Bank Communities In Schools of Houston Community Health Choice, Inc. Competitive Choice, Inc. Concept and Perspective, LLC ConocoPhillips Conroe EDC Continental/Silverline/Products, Inc. Cornerstone Government Affairs, LLC CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc. Creative Circle LLC Credera Credit Human CRI - Commercial Resource Installation Crown Castle International Corp. CSI Executive Search, LLC CustomerFirst Renewables Cybersoft Technologies, Inc. Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union Daikin Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation Darda Management Group David E. Harvey Builders, Inc. David Weekley Homes DCI - Development Counsellors International LTD. Dean & Draper Deloitte Delta Troy Interests, Ltd. DePelchin Children's Center Dessert Gallery Bakery & Cafe Digital Realty Dini Spheris Direct Energy Doeren Mayhew Door Dash Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Texas Dress for Success Houston DUNA-USA Duncan Capital Management Duvera Consulting East Harris County Manufacturers Association Economic Incentive Services, LLC Edge Engineering and Science, LLC EHRA Engineering Emerson Enbridge EnCap Investments L.P. Endeavors Endiem Endurance Builders Engie North America Inc. Entercom Houston Entergy Texas, Inc. Enterprise Holdings Enterprise Systems Corporation Episcopal Health Foundation ERGOS Technology Partners, Inc. Everett Interests Evolve Partners LLC Excargo Services Inc. Exponent Scientific and Engineering Consulting Express Home Services ExxonMobil Corporation EYP Faust Distributing Company, Inc. Fayez Sarofim & Co. Federal Reserve Bank - Houston Branch FEI Financial Executives International Houston Chapter FF Laroux LLC Fifth Third Bank First National Bank of Huntsville First Reserve Corporation Foley & Lardner LLP Foodarama Market Foremost Fresh Direct Fortis Alliance, LLC Foster LLP Four Seasons Hotel Houston Frankel Development Group Freeport LNG Frost Bank Frost Brown Todd LLC FS Group Holdings Ltd Gallant Garrison Construction Group, LLC. Gas Innovations Gas Technology Institute Gee & Zhang Genesis Park LP Genesys Works Gensler George E. Johnson Development Inc. Gibbs Brothers and Company L.P. Gilbane Building Company Gilbreath Communications, Inc. GLMVArchitecture Global Business Management Consultants Goldman Sachs & Co. Golf Club of Houston Gondo Company, Inc. Gonzalez Olivieri LLC Goose Creek Consolidated ISD Goosehead Insurance - Stinson Cartright Agency goPuff Goya Foods of Texas Granite Properties Greater Houston Community Foundation Greenberg Traurig, LLP Greentown Labs Greenwood King Properties Griffin Partners Group 1 Automotive Inc. Grupo Sallés Gryphon Healthcare Gulf Coast Authority Gunda Corporation, LLC Halliburton Hanover Company Hansen Partners HARC Harris County Harris County Appraisal District Harris County Dept. of Education Harris County Medical Society Harris/Deaton Advisors Harry Winston Inc. Diamond Jewelry & Luxury Watches Hawes Hill & Associates Haynes and Boone, LLP Hazak Corporate Consulting HCA Houston Healthcare HDR Engineering, Inc. H-E-B Hess Corporation Hewlett Packard Enterprise Hilcorp Energy Company Hilton Americas - Houston Hilton Houston Post Oak Hines Hire Universe LLC HNTB HOAR Construction, LLC HOK, Inc. Holland & Knight LLP Holocaust Museum Houston Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston Houston Apartment Association, Inc. Houston Area Safety Council Houston Area Urban League, Inc. Houston Association of Realtors Houston Astros Baseball Club Houston Baptist University Houston Belt & Terminal Railway Company Houston Business Automation, LLC Houston Business Journal Houston Chronicle Houston Community College Houston Contractors Association Houston CPA Society Houston Endowment Inc. Houston First Corporation Houston Food Bank Houston Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council Houston Humane Society Houston ISD Houston Marathon Committee and Foundation Houston Methodist Houston Military Affairs Committee Houston Parks Board Houston PetSet Houston Public Media Houston Texans Houston Wilderness Houston Zoo, Inc. Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Houston's First Baptist Church - Downtown HP Inc. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. HUB International Insurance Services Huitt-Zollars, Inc. Human Capital Business Solutions Humble ISD Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP Husch Blackwell LLP HVJ Associates, Inc. Hyatt Regency Houston IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS IADC - International Association of Drilling Contractors ICBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ICII, LLC ICIT Solutions Ignite Independent CFO Consultant InduMar Products, Inc. INEOS O&P USA Infrastructure Networks Inpac, Inc. InSite Realty Partners, LP Insperity Intel Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Intervale Capital J & S Audio Visual, Inc. J. A. Billipp Company J. Flowers Health Institute J.T. Vaughn Construction, LLC Jackson Walker LLP Jacobs James J. Postl Interests Jan Koehn, M.S., CIH, Inc. Jaykay Wealth Advisors, Inc. Jennifer Layne Brands JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) Jewish Family Service JLL John L. Nau, III Joslin Construction JSC Federal Credit Union Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc. KBR Kean Miller LLP Kempner Capital Management, Inc. KGBTexas Communications KHOU-TV LP Kinder Foundation Kinder Morgan, Inc. Kindred Healthcare Kingham Dalton Wilson, Ltd. Kirby Corporation Kirkland & Ellis LLP Kirksey Architecture Knudson, LP Korn Ferry International KPMG LLP KPRC-TV Channel 2 KROGER KTRK-TV Channel 13 Kuraray America Inc. Lakewood Church Land Advisors Organization Landry's Inc. Latham and Watkins LLP Leadership ISD Lee & Associates - Houston Lee College Lee Hecht Harrison Legacy Community Health Services Let It Fly Events, LP/Lonestar Exhibits Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP Life Time LifeGift Organ Donation Center LiftFund, Inc. Limb Design, LLC Lime Rock Resources Linde Engineering North America Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP Link Staffing Services Linscomb & Williams Liskow & Lewis, A Professional Law Corporation Literacy Now Littler Mendelson LJA Engineering, Inc. Locke Lord Lockton Dunning Benefits Lodestar Energy Group Lone Star College Lopez Negrete Communications Lutroco LyondellBasell Industries M & M Lighting LP M. Hensley Consulting Magnificent Development and Construction Marathon Oil Corporation March of Dimes Marriott Marquis Houston Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty MassChallenge Masterson Advisors LLC MasterWord Services, Inc. Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation MB Phenix Construction Technologies McCall Gibson Swedlund Barfoot PLLC McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy LLP and Affiliate McConnell & Jones, LLP McCord Development, Inc. McCoy Workplace Solutions McDermott McFarland PLLC McGuireWoods, LLP MDA Meador Staffing Services Medistar Corporation Memorial Hermann Health System Mental Health America of Greater Houston, Inc. Mercer Mercury Fund Merichem Company Metropolitan Transit Authority Microsoft Midway Companies Mischer Investments, LP Mission Management Company Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas) Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc. Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. Moody Nolan Moody Rambin Moran-Gulf Shipping Agencies Moreland Interests Mosbacher Energy Company Moss Adams Motiva Enterprises LLC MPACT Strategic Consulting Mullenweg Murphy Oil Corporation Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Mustang Cat Mzuzah Charitable Inc. NAI Partners Nancy Sims LLC NASA - Johnson Space Center National Charter Bus Houston National Math and Science Initiative Navstella NDT Seals, Inc. Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO-Texas) Neuhaus Education Center New Hope Housing, Inc. Newland Newport LLC NewQuest Properties Next Level Urgent Care NextGen Information Services, Inc Nino Corporate Lodging North Highland North Houston District Northern Trust Norton Rose Fulbright Nuro Nuveen OakBend Medical Center Oceaneering International, Inc. Oleon - A Natural Chemistry Olson & Olson LLP Omni Houston Hotel One World Strategy Group OneGoal Onstead Holdings Organized SHIFT Origin Bank Owens Corning Oyster Creek Consulting Pacific Enterprise Capital International Page Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas, P.C. PKF Texas Pappas Restaurants, Inc. PARIVEDA Parkway Properties, Inc. Parsons Corporation Pasadena Economic Development Corporation PB&DJ productions, LLC Pearce Industries, Inc. Pearland Economic Development Corp. Penflex Corporation People's Trust Federal Credit Union PepsiCo Perkins and Will Perry Homes, LLC PGAL Phillips 66 Phoenicia Specialty Foods Pierpont Communications Piper Jaffray & Co. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Inc. PNC Bank Poarch-Swinbank Management Port Freeport Port Houston Powering Coastal Texas Powers Brown Architecture Prairie View A&M University Precision Task Group Inc. Premier Corporate Housing Prismecs Prison Entrepreneurship Program Project Lead the Way PS Lightwave Public Financial Management, Inc. Puffer-Sweiven PwC Quanta Services Inc. Quebec Government Office in Houston Questback, Inc. R. E. Smith Interests Rebuilding Together Houston Red & Black RedEye Region 4 Education Service Center Regions Bank Reliant, an NRG Company Repsol Resicom, Inc. Rice University Rings Leighton Creative Services River Aggregates Riverway Business Services, Inc. RJY Group, LLC. Robinson Equity Management Roboze Inc. Royal Sonesta Houston RSM US LLP Rupani Foundation USA S & B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd. SABIC Sam Houston Area Council, Boy Scouts of America Sam Houston State University San Jacinto College System San Jacinto River Authority San Jose Clinic Sandler Training Sappington Engineering, LLC Satellite Petrochemical USA Corp. Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc. Saxum SBM Offshore USA Inc. SCF Partners Schwartz, Page & Harding, LLP Score Houston Seamless Solutions Sempra Energy SER - Jobs For Progress, Inc. Service Corporation International Seyfarth Shaw LLP Shell Oil Company Sia Partners Sidley Austin LLP Siemens Corporation Silver Eagle Distributors Houston, LLC Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. Simon-Kucher & Partners Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP Skymark Development Slack & Co. Contracting, Inc. Slalom Consulting Smith Graham & Co., Investment Advisors, LP Society for the Performing Arts Society of High Performance Computing Professionals (SHPCP) Sodexo SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council Southwest Schools Space Center Houston SPD Construction Spectrum Quality Standards Spirit Environmental, LLC Spring Branch ISD Squire Patton Boggs (US) LP St. Christopher Holdings Stages Repertory Theatre Star of Hope Mission Starbucks Coffee Company Stephen F. Austin Community Health Center, Inc. Strategic Ascent Stress Engineering Services, Inc. Suderman & Young Towing Company Sueba USA Corporation Sumitomo Corporation of Americas Sunnova Energy Corporation Sunstone Properties Trust, LLC Swain and Baldwin Insurance, Inc. Synchro LLC Sysco Corporation Talke USA, Inc. aka Alfred Talke Logistic Services Targa Resources, Inc. Taylor Construction Management TC Energy TDECU-Your Credit Union TDIndustries TechTrans International Inc. Tejas Office Products, Inc. Telco Intercontinental Corp. Telemundo Houston KTMD-47 Tellepsen Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law Texas A&M University Texas Children's Hospital Texas McCombs MBA at Houston Texas Medical Center Texas Medical Technology Texas Mutual Insurance Company Texas Southern University Texas Star Alliance Texas State Technical College Texas Tissue Converting The Awty International School The Bell Tower on 34th The Black Sheep Agency The Blair Law Firm, PC The Boston Consulting Group The Branding Suite powered by Proforma The Children's Museum of Houston The Detering Company The Energy Corridor District The Friedkin Group Inc. The Fury Group, LLC The Greater Northside Management District The Hobby Center Foundation The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa The Howard Hughes Corporation The Kansas City Southern Railway Company The KBC Houston The Law Office of Lawrence W. Hanson, P.C. The Marek Family of Companies The Menninger Clinic The MINT National Bank The Plank Companies, Inc. The Rhodes School The Sands Asset Advisors The Signorelli Company The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center The Upper Hand Salon: River Oaks The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership The Zamora Americas Theatre Under The Stars ThinkBig Productions Third Coast Bank, SSB Thompson & Knight LLP Tietronix Software, Inc. TIP Strategies, Inc. TL Global TLC Engineering, Inc. Toshiba International Corporation Traffic Engineers, Inc. Transwestern Truluck's Seafood Steak Crabhouse Trustmark National Bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. LLC Turner Industries Group, L.L.C. Uline Union Pacific Railroad Company United Airlines United Way of Greater Houston UnitedHealthcare Unity National Bank Universe Technical Translation, Inc. University of Houston University of Houston-Downtown University of Phoenix University of St. Thomas UpGlobal Uptown Houston Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation USAi Labs UTHealth UTMB Health Vaco Houston Valero Vanir Construction Management, Inc. Vari Vaughan Nelson Investment Management, LP Venture Global LNG, Inc. Veolia Water North America VERDE GO Vigavi Realty, LLC Vinson & Elkins LLP Vision Production Group Vista Projects Vitenas Cosmetic Surgery Vogler & Spencer Engineering, Inc. W. Garnett & Associates W. S. Bellows Construction Corporation Walter Oil & Gas Corporation Walter P Moore Wan Bridge Ward & Ames Special Events Waste Management, Inc. Weatherford International Ltd. Weaver Weekley Development Company Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Weingarten Realty Investors Welcome Group LLC Wells Fargo Westchase District Westheimer Transfer & Storage Co., Inc. Westlake Chemical Corporation Westmont Hospitality Group, Inc. Westwood Trust WGU Texas and South Region Wharton County Wharton Economic Development Corporation White & Case LLP Whitney Whitmire Consulting, LLC Wild Blue Health Solutions, LLC Willis Towers Watson Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Windham Builders Winkler Public Relations Winstead PC Wolff Companies Wolfgang Puck Catering Wood Partners Wood PLC Wood Residential Services Woodbranch Management, Inc. Woodforest National Bank WorkFaith Connection Workforce Solutions Worley Group Inc. WSP USA Xecta Digital Labs YMCA of Greater Houston, Executive Office Zarinkelk Engineering Services, Inc The Partnership extends its appreciation to these companies for their investment in the organization's mission of making Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. 
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Employment

Houston Legislators Lead on Building Skilled Texas Workforce

4/21/21
Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) have introduced critical workforce legislation to align the work of the state’s three major education and workforce bodies to strengthen the Texas talent pipeline and improve workforce development outcomes across the state. This legislation, Senate Bill 1622 and House Bill 3767, would build on existing collaborative work of these bodies – the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Texas Workforce Commission – and establish a permanent Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative. The Partnership and UpSkill Houston have provided support to and testimony in favor of these bills under consideration during the 87th Legislative Session.  The Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative has been introduced in the backdrop of a severe economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and energy industry downturn in Texas that has made closing existing gaps between employers’ workforce demands and workers’ employment needs more urgent than ever before. The pandemic accelerated a fundamental shift toward technology-enabled, innovation-based economies already underway in Texas and across the United States, driving trends with lasting skills implications for employers, workers, and education systems. Though the full effects of the pandemic and downturn on the region’s economy and workforce may not be known for years, the pace of change and continued uncertainty will likely require more innovation and agility within our traditional education systems to address changing skill needs and meet the talent shortages.  We know through our work with the UpSkill Houston initiative that: The adoption of digital and automation technologies into workflows has increased the need for workers – regardless of their industry, occupation, or education level – to possess strong digital skills. Skills are becoming obsolete more quickly, and workers will need to routinely upskill to keep pace with the speed of change.  Employers are placing a higher premium on so-called soft, or non-cognitive, skills that are essential for baseline success in the workplace.  Innovative and agile solutions are needed for Texas to rebound amid continuing change and maintain a quality workforce with the skills and education necessary to compete globally while ensuring individual prosperity. The Partnership, through UpSkill Houston, highlights that better data and coordination between employers and key education and community stakeholders can drive performance and outcomes. This work has demonstrated how business and industry leaders are increasingly using data analytics to assess their practices, make decisions, and drive continual improvement. More and more employers are focused on skills-based hiring and using data to communicate the skills they value in their workforce. UpSkill Houston’s partners are leading examples of how employers, education systems and nonprofits can effectively collaborate to advance their common goals and benefit the communities they serve – and with positive results.  State lawmakers and leaders continue to position Texas to develop the high-quality skilled workforce the state needs to grow and compete globally while providing economic opportunity for future generations. The Tri-Agency initiative would formalize existing cooperative efforts between the TEA, THECB, and TWC initially begun at the request of Governor Greg Abbott to assess local economic activity, examine workforce challenges and opportunities, and consider innovative approaches to meeting the state’s workforce goals.  A permanent, state-led Tri-Agency Workforce initiative, as proposed, would coordinate and optimize information and resources and align and drive performance across TEA, THECB, and TWC.  It would create a unified workforce data repository that would improve the Texas longitudinal data systems to identify and analyze key trends in education and workforce. In addition, aggregated longitudinal data would help key stakeholders continually improve their programs and practices not unlike the way businesses assess and improve supply chains. During the 86th Legislative Session, in 2019, the Partnership supported legislation intended to build upon that work and create the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future to chart the course for the state’s workforce development policy by bringing together stakeholders and identifying policy recommendations to help Texas build a pipeline of skilled talent. The legislation (House Bill 3511) was not signed into law, so the commission was not created. But the effort heightened awareness of the vital role of business leaders and employers have in the workforce development conversation and in a pipeline of skilled talent fit for the future. The proposed Tri-Agency legislation identifies the important need for strong career coaching, navigation and support services for students and adult learners. We know from the more than 200 employer, education and nonprofit UpSkill Houston partners that understanding the skills needs of employers is necessary to assist students and individuals as they navigate careers and identify upskilling opportunities. We also know that students and adult learners will require various support to navigate the changing nature of work and identify high-value skilling and upskilling opportunities. The state’s economy and industries are being reshaped by technology and other global forces at a more rapid pace than before, impacting talent needs. Ensuring Texas has the finest workforce in the world and provides economic opportunity for future generations will require sustained alignment, innovation, and performance. This can be achieved if such a coordinated initiative is formalized and guided by the needs of employers and the workforce, and grounded in data and real-time insights from employers, as exemplified by the work of UpSkill Houston and its partners. Peter Beard is the Partnership’s senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of its UpSkill Houston initiative. Beard testified in favor of SB 1622 and HB 3767 before the Senate Higher Education Committee and the House International Relations & Economic Development Committee. Learn more about UpSkill Houston.  
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