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Mario Ariza Takes Final Bow as Head of Houston First Theater District

Mario Ariza head shot

A legacy of dedicated leadership and service  

After two decades as head of Houston First Corporation’s Theater District, Mario Ariza is exiting stage left. He will serve his final month as chief operating officer of the Theater Division when he retires in August. Mario has been responsible for the operations and supervised the management teams at some of Houston’s most recognizable performance venues, including Wortham Theater Center, Jones Hall, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Talento Bilingue de Houston and the Theater District Parking Garages.

Mario & Dawn

When it comes to operating performance venues, Mario has done it all. He started working for the city of Houston in 1991 as a maintenance supervisor at the Wortham. Before being promoted to manager at the now-defunct Music Hall, Mario held positions as an event coordinator, booking supervisor and assistant facility manager. Then in 1997, he was tapped to oversee all of the city’s Theater District properties.   

One of the highlights of his career was his role in the city’s recovery after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. In response to floodwaters that decimated numerous buildings downtown, Mario and his team were able to relocate displaced downtown commuters to satellite parking facilities within one week and fully restored the ravaged Theater District parking operations within three months. He also oversaw a $10 million flood recovery effort at the Wortham and Jones Hall with virtually no disruption to the performance schedules. 

Here’s a brief excerpt from a recent interview with Mario, where he shares more about his dreams for the future of the theater district, his legacy and retirement. 
Q – Houston First:  Can you share one of your most memorable accomplishments as head of the Theater District?
A – Mario:  “I think it’s working with people, being able to finally create that cohesiveness in the art groups, with all the major organizations. That was, I think one of the most challenging areas as well, but at the end we saw it was very rewarding for all of us. I truly believe I was able to earn their trust and vice versa to the point that we can probably almost communicate by just looking at each other.”

Q - Houston First:  What would you like your legacy to be? 
A – Mario:  “Delivering the best customer service we can possibly have; providing quality and maintaining the facilities, so that all Houstonians, everybody who comes to the theater can have a wonderful experience and keep coming back. That’s why years ago, I introduced the mystery shopper in the theater district to see how well we were doing, to see how my employees were performing and to see how the parking operation was functioning because when patrons come to our venues, we can either enhance their day or destroy the evening for them. If they start with a bad experience, just by coming into our parking garage, they’re not going to enjoy the show.”

Q – Houston First:  What advice do you have for the person who takes your place?
A – Mario:  “First they need to like what they’re doing; they need to enjoy it and have fun with it. They need to listen to their employees, listen to even the lowest tier employee, because they’re the ones who are going to do the job for you and make it a lot easier for you. You’d be surprised at how many good ideas will come from them.  Treat everybody the way you’d want to be treated, listen to them, be kind to them, and empower them to do their job.  Make sure you work very close with the art groups, resident companies, clients, customers, patrons, and listen to the patrons because that’s how we can improve and we always have room to improve.”

Mario Ariza B-day Group3

Q - Houston First:  What dreams do you have for the future of Houston’s theater district?
A – Mario:  “I hope the theater district becomes a destination for Houston. It’s one of the largest theater districts or cultural districts that we have in the nation, so I wish that it becomes a destination and I know we are working very hard to accomplish that. It’s not going to be easy to get there, but it’s not impossible, everybody just needs to work together to make it happen.”

Q – Houston First:  What plans do you have for retirement?
A – Mario:  “Well, when I figure it out I will let you know. I know there’s another life after work and I think retirement is actually a good life. I’m looking forward to every day being Saturday and not getting up in the morning. I know I want to spend time with my 88-year old mother in Columbia, and I will be busy at home taking care of a very long list of honey-do’s.”

Mario started his career in hospitality shortly after coming to Houston from his native Columbia to study English at Rice University. He and his wife, Kyle have two children. 

Although he won’t be center stage anymore as head of the theater district, Mario said what he will miss most is his colleagues, but he'll be cheering them on from the sidelines.

Look for more of Mario’s interview in the upcoming Houston First News video.  

FACILITIES

Enterprise Development
Partnership & Events

Early planning work and development began in August on the World Petroleum Congress Organizing Committee. The WPC will be held in December 2020 and is the most prestigious oil and gas conference in the world.

Strategic Planning

Planning continues for the upcoming innovative retreats for the GHCVB Executive Committee and the HFC Board of Directors in September.

The processes are underway for the departments to draft 2018 capital plans and 2018-2019 business plans.

Avenida Houston Shop

Avenida Houston Shop continues to expand its selection of merchandise to better serve Hilton and GRB guests. The men's department has grown to include items such as ties, dress socks, belts and handmade shaving kits. The shop also geared up for the summer with pool necessities; guests can find swimsuits, swim trunks, sandals and the trendy round beach towels. 

State Line Designs, a successful LAUNCH vendor, is now available at both Flight and Avenida Houston Shop.

Hilton Americas-Houston

In August, Hilton Americas-Houston team welcomed HPD's traffic and vehicular crimes division during Hurricane Harvey and weeks after due to flooding at their station at 61 Reisner.

Avenida Houston

All four restaurants in the GRB have re-opened following Hurricane Harvey. None of the Avenida restaurants experienced damage. Construction continues on the Kulture space.

Cultural Development

Arcade by Color Condition

In August the Avenida bursts into fall color with Arcade, by The Color Condition. The Texas artist duo Sunny Sliger and Marianne Newsom created the temporary art installation to bring excitement and whimsy to Discovery Green and Avenida Houston. Common materials like table cloths and shower curtains are woven into canopies, dancing gracefully in the wind while providing welcome shade. Arcade is on view through November 15, 2017. Share your photos at #colortheave, #discoverygreen and #avenidahouston.

Storm Update: Arcade weathered the storm surprisingly well. Color Condition was on site the weekend of September 8-10, to untangle and freshen up the work. The installation looks as good as new and is ready to greet visitors to the Avenida.

Cultural Facilities 
Sales and Marketing

The Theater District sales team booked the following new shows since the last report:

  • Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation: The Wild Texas Film Tour – September 27, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Gabriel Couisnard: FUNTOBERFEST – October 7, 2017, Jones Plaza
  • Shawna Letcher: Roots Reggae Houston Music Festival – October 8, 2017, Jones Plaza
  • Brilliant Lecture Series: An Evening with Former Secretaries of State – October 10, 2017, Jones Hall
  • Texas Women's Empowerment Foundation: TWEF Family Celebration – October 13-14, 2017, Jones Plaza
  • Flamart: Houston Latin Fest – October 15, 2017, Jones Plaza
  • Voss Events: RuPaul’s Drag Race – October 20, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Teco Theatrical: Momma’s Boy – October 24-29, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Indo-American Assn: Gaata Rahe Mera Dil – November 11, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Southern US Falun Dafa Assn: Shen Yun – December 22-27, 2017, Jones Hall

Tickets for the following shows have gone on sale since the last report:

  • Whispers from India – September 17, 2017, Wortham Center
  • The Wild Texas Film Tour – September 27, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Luis de Alba – September 30, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Martha Graham Dance Company – October 1, 2017, Wortham Center
  • An Evening with Former Secretaries of State – October 10, 2017, Jones Hall
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race – October 20, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Momma’s Boy – October 24-29, 2017, Wortham Center
  • Shen Yun – December 22-27, 2017, Jones Hall
Jones Hall/Plaza/Outdoors

July was a quiet month at Jones Hall and Jones Plaza. The season is over for our resident companies – Houston Symphony and Society for the Performing Arts. The symphony hosted a few special events, including The Music of Prince and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with live orchestral accompaniment. The overall attendance for the hall was 14,221. The Plaza had one event this month, Big Freedia, with attendance totaling 1,600. According to reliable sources, the Butter Beer served during the Harry Potter event was delicious!

On August 27, flood water from Hurricane Harvey entered the lower level of Jones Hall. Damage was sustained in the courtyard level entrance hallway, the rehearsal room and offices of the Houston Symphony, Society for the Performing Arts and Houston First. Recovery and assessments continue.  

Miller Outdoor Theatre

No updates this month.

Talento Bilingue de Houston

The children participating in the Talento Bilingue Summer Arts Program have benefitted from the activities provided to them by The Museum of Fine Arts, The Houston Ballet and Rice University. Activities included tours of the MFA, hip-hop to modern dance classes and from Rice University, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program. TBH is working with Rice in hopes of developing STEM into STEAM by including the arts.

Raymond Orga, an up-and-coming Mexican-American comedian from the Texas Valley, performed to a full house of fans.

Theater District Parking

The installation of 894 individual space parking guidance systems on the first level of the Blue, Yellow and Green garages was substantially completed on August 10. This will enhance the customer experience in finding parking in all three of the garages.

Harvey Flooded StairsOn August 27, more than 270 gallons of flood water from Hurricane Harvey filled the Theater District garages. Gilbane Construction Services was immediately contracted to begin pumping out the water and the garage was closed to the public until further notice. Harvey TD garage shot

Steps were taken to find alternative parking for contract parking customers. 

Wortham Theater Center

July brought 6,748 patrons to the Wortham Theater Center to enjoy events, including the second visit from Talcon Ways Dr. Caesar Lozano, and SPA presented Neil Gaiman. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston annual presentation this year was The Gondoliers.

About 1,000 guests enjoyed the two events scheduled during August at the Wortham, bringing much excitement to the facility. The World Youth Foundation Brunch honored youths in the Houston area for their various work throughout the community. The Jazz Education: Mayor’s Jazz Brunch enjoyed it’s 5th successful annual event in the Foyer. Mayor Turner was part of both events, honoring Houston youth and enjoying a great Jazz concert.

Harvey flood gate and little waterOn August 27, water from Hurricane Harvey filled the basement of the Wortham with 12 feet of water and water filled the tunnel that connects Wortham to the Theater District parking garage. Houston First immediately retained Gilbane Reconstruction Services to begin pumping out the water and stabilizing the building. Assessments and recovery work continue at Wortham.

 

Convention Facilities    

George R. Brown/Avenida Houston Plaza

GRB Right AngleThe George R. Brown Convention Center hosted four major conventions in July and we were pleased to welcome the Texas High School Coaches Association, Texas Parent Teachers Association, Texas Association of Sport Officials and Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Annual Youth Conference. Additionally, we hosted six non-convention events which included Bridal Extravaganza, High Caliber Gun & Knife Show, 2017 Juvenile Arthritis Conference, Hess Town Hall Meeting and the Tiger-Rock Martial Arts World Championship. 

The Convention & Facilities Services Department also conducted nine site visits in July in addition to managing each of the convention and non-convention events whose attendance totaled 39,809. 

In August, we hosted two major events, Seventh Day Adventist ASI Conference with attendance of 6,550 and Summer NAPE (North American Prospect Expo) had 2,873 attendees.

GRB Harvey portal pic

The GRB assisted the American Red Cross as a Hurricane Harvey shelter for over 10,000 Houston evacuees.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sustainability

GRB Sustainability

Helping our Neighbors in Need
Just behind the George R. Brown Convention Center, you can't help but notice Houston’s homeless along this stretch of I-69. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) we have approximately 5,351 homeless persons in our area. Many of our homeless population sleep on the streets or in our local shelters downtown. One of those shelters near the GRB is the Star of Hope, which began it's mission of helping homeless men, women and children restart their lives in 1907. The George R. Brown continues to help in that restart by donating food monthly to the Star of Hope, after each event hosted at the facility. Within the last 12 months, the GRB has donated over 20 tons of food to help feed Houston’s homeless population. This includes hot and nonperishable foods. 

GRB Star of HopeAt the George R. Brown Convention Center, we believe that being sustainable is helping those that are in need. We will continue to partner with the Star of Hope, as we partner together to bring hope to the homeles We will continue to partner with the Star of Hope as we partner together to bring hope to the homeless through our food donations here at the GRB.

GRB Donates to the Houston Food Bank

The GRB continues to connect and build partnerships with a number of non-profits as we look for innovative ways to donate and give back to the community. In addition to the Star of Hope, in July, the GRB donated food to the Houston Food Bank that was collected after one of the events at the convention center.                                                   

Houston Food Bank stops by GRB

This is food that might otherwise have been thrown away, but instead went to help feed those in need.  Wanda Adams, sustainability manager, partnered with GRB convention managers to collect the items to be donated. 

In June, the GRB team diverted over 6.94 tons of waste from the landfill and donated 1,120 pounds to local charities.

Avenida Parking

In July, visitors, events and meetings at the GRB utilized 56,605 parking spaces.
Avenida Central Garage: 7,889 cars
Avenida South Garage: 19,079 cars
Avenida North Garage: 21,002 cars
Tundra Garage: 8,635 cars

Additionally, for event drop-off and pick-up, HISD utilized the South Transit Center for the Texas High School Coaches Association.

In August, the Avenida South garage was utilized by the American Red Cross for emergency personnel, homeland security, and others.

Sales

In July, the citywide team generated over 77,400 possible room nights with conferences, utilizing one of our convention facilities, while the non-citywide team added over 80,000 tentative room nights for conventions for future years.

Additionally, members of the sales team attended the Council of Engineering Scientific Society Executives Annual Meeting, which featured executives who plan significant meetings in the corporate, association and specialty markets. 

Client Services

In July, Client Services conducted nine planning site visits for upcoming conventions:  International Facility Management Association (October 2017), Experient e4 Conference (July 2017), National Apostolate of Maronites (July 2018), Adventist-Laymen’s Services & Industries (August 2017), Breakbulk Americas (October 2017), Walmart Stores (February 2018), ACPA-College Student Educators International (March 2018), Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching (July 2018), and Project Management Institute (November 2017).

In August, Client Services conducted ten planning site visits for upcoming conventions:  American Case Management Association (April 2018), Whataburger (March 2019), United Way Worldwide (February 2018 and May 2023), US Grains Council (February 2018), Ulta (April 2018), Association of Equipment Manufacturers World of Asphalt (March 2018), Rockwell Automation (November 2017), National Safety Council (October 2018), Mac Tools (February 2018), and Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (March 2018).  

During July, Client Services traveled to St. Louis, MO, to preview details of Herbalife Extravaganza (tentative July 2018); to Fort Worth, TX, for attendance promotion for Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching (July 2018) and to Gaylord National Harbor, MD, for attendance promotion for National Association of Drug Court Professionals (May/June 2018).

In August, Client Services traveled to Nashville, TN, to promote attendance for TMW Systems (September 2018) and to San Antonio, TX, for Walmart (February 2018).

 
Event Services

Events Services assisted with six events in July: Matching Grants Seminar, Helmsbriscoe FAM, Smithsonian's Houston Business Leaders Breakfast, Manchester United Soccer Game, CESSE Annual Meeting in Quebec and Experient's e4 Annual Conference in Houston.

Events Services assisted with five events in August: Experient e4 Conference August 2nd, the Tourism Incentive Program Seminar (TIPS) August 8th, the GHCVB New Member Orientation August 9th, ASAE Annual Meeting and Expo August 12th-15th and the Tourism Professional Development Workshop August 21st and 22nd.  

Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture assisted with four events in July: two health seminars, 10 Reasons to Exercise, July 11 and Dining Out in Houston, July 25. The team also held an HRA Training and Fruit Friday each week in July where employees could enjoy a healthy snack.

In August, the team assisted with the Parks Board Breakfast and Learn.

General Counsel

HFC Summer Internship Program
General Counsel would like to wish our summer intern, Jasmine Jordan, good luck as he returns back to school. He has done a great job and we will certainly miss him and his smile!

Procurement
General Counsel received a total of eight proposals for the Audio-Visual and Rigging Services Request for Proposals, which will be evaluated by our Procurement Department. General Counsel has prepared the Jones Plaza Re-Design Project Request for Qualifications, due September 5, 2017, and is currently preparing a solicitation for Hotel Asset Management at the Hilton Americas Hotel.

Professional Development
Our department often seeks opportunities to advance the personal and professional development of the legal team through continuing legal education (CLE) courses and leadership seminars. In July, Assistant General Counsel, Mark Goldberg attended the Texas Bar College 19th Annual Summer School CLE in Galveston, TX.  The Texas Bar College is an essential seminar for general practitioners with new topics and updates in a variety of practice areas that range from intellectual property to labor and employment law. Staff Attorney, Raenesha Jackson, attended the 29th Annual Advanced Government Law seminar and Government Law Boot Camp in Austin, TX.  Raenesha learned from and networked with some of Texas’ best and brightest attorneys representing firms and agencies throughout the state, including the Office of the Attorney General, City of Houston, Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas Municipal League.

Tourism 

Visit Houston Says Hola in Europe and Mexico City

Visit Houston conducted two successful sales missions in July with the objective of attracting more international visitors from top international markets, in the United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico. 

London cabbie interior
Lunch & Learn Memorial Park1

In Europe, Visit Houston took over London the week of July 10, during Mayor Sylvester Turner’s official visit, making a real splash by ‘dressing’ two of the traditional cabbies with Visit Houston colors and logo. These cabbies were then used to drive around the city conducting sales calls with travel trade    professionals to promote Houston’s attractions and attributes that make our city a premier travel destination.

In Frankfurt, Germany, Visit Houston organized a round table discussion for Mayor Turner and the Houston delegation with five top media representatives. Then a successful media breakfast was held in Munich with the Houston Symphony that received positive responses from the German media with 12 journalists in attendance. Visit Houston also conducted sales calls and destination trainings in both German cities.

Jorge at Mexico event with Xmas treeThe Mexico mission, the week of July 24, brought in media and travel trade to celebrate our city’s culture, gastronomy and a special annual Christmas in July event. The Hola Houston campaign was live in all activations in Mexico City, which included a mural by Houston artist, GONZO247, and a culinary tasting by Chef Ryan Pera (Revival Market and Coltivare). Visit Houston was also joined by local partners representing CityPASS, River Oaks District, Westin Galleria and Westin Oaks hotels, and worked closely with the World Corporate Games to promote the upcoming event in Mexico City.

Mexico is Houston’s number one international market, followed by Canada, UK and Germany. In 2015, 3.2 million international visitors arrived in Houston having a direct economic impact of $2.9 billion for our city.

In August, Visit Houston & Beyond partners Alvin and The Woodlands attended the experience workshop at the Sri Meenakshi Temple. Tourism Sri Meenakshi TempleVisit Houston & Beyond partners began receiving analytics reports for their blogs and social media posts. 

On August 21st and 22nd the Tourism team partnered with experience engineering expert Joe Veneto to deliver two workshops on Designing and Developing Unforgettable Experiences for Visitors for 66 Houston area attraction, museum, tour and cultural partners.

Ongoing Local Initiatives:

  • Houston Marketplace – online at shop.visithouston.com –continues to expand the offer of things to do in Houston.
  • Tourism Incentive Program (TIP) – launched third year of annual program, currently accepting letters of intent.
  • New Visitor Center at Hobby Airport – scheduled to open in October 1, 2017.

International PR:

  • In July, International PR organized two individual Media FAMs, one for a German online TV magazine called “Check-in,” hosted by local artist GONZO247; and another for a reporter from Glamour magazine Mexico.
  • In August, the team hosted three Media FAMs from Mexico, Spain/LATAM, and New Zealand.
  • International publicity value for July: $519,890; Total worldwide impressions: 16 million.
  •  International publicity value for August: $231,921; Total worldwide impressions: 901,712.
Membership

New members in July were: College Nannies Sitters & Tutors of Katy/Bellaire, Perfect Wedding Guide, Thompson & Co. Public Relations, Ristorante Cavour, State of Grace, Local Foods - Downtown, Chef Liu Restaurant, Yauatcha The Galleria, Line & Lariat, Monarch Bistro, The Lounge - The Magnolia Houston, Bar Malatesta, Il Giardino.

New members in August were: Excel Pours Bar Catering, Houston Theatre Scene, Bahamasair, Patrice's Gift Services, Certified Lomousine Service, Southwest Casino Productions, Houston Axe Throwing, Room Escape Time, iFly Houston-Woodlands, Posh Liquors, Painting With A Twist. 

Corporate Affairs

The Houston First community relations team along with board members, stakeholders and Houston First staff, participated in the following community investment events during the month of July:

  • Houston Minority Business Development Agency 3rd Annual Salute to Minorities in Construction luncheon
  • Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston luncheon

During the month of August, the community relations team, along with the HFC Executive Team, Board members, and stakeholders participated in the following community events: 

  • Night Court Houston Theater Show
  • Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston luncheon
  • Ensemble Theatre Gala
Public Affairs    

The Public Affairs team, in conjunction with our partners, Texas Travel Industry Association and Texas Hotel Lodging Association have actively monitored the State of Texas' Special Legislative Session at the Capitol. We continuously communicate our opposition to our legislators regarding any legislation affecting Houston's welcoming image such as "Bathroom Bills." We continue to work with U.S. Travel Association and National Tour Association to monitor Congressional hearings on topics directly impacting travel and tourism, such as the Visa Waiver program, airport modernization, Brand USA funding, travel bans and TSA. Congress has recessed for the month of August and will reconvene in September.   

Marketing and Communications

In July, Visit Houston's network of websites generated nearly 500,000 visits. Media value was $4 million with a national audience of over 18 million people.

Public relations pitches and activity resulted in several stories in the media. Houston First Corp. initiatives and meetings also received coverage. Pieces were included in: Southern Living, Eater.com, MSN, Forbes Travel Guide, Houston Life, Pink Mama’s Place, Singletracks, Events in America, KHOU’s Great Day Houston, On a Dime Destinations, Accessible Go here and here, Texas Architects Magazine, FlipKey, Prevue Magazine, PCMA Convene, Meetings + Events, Prevue Magazine, Houston Chronicle here and here, Glasstire, CultureMap, My San Antonio, LAUNCH Houston Style Setter - Sydney Dao, Business Traveler, Smart Meetings, Connect Assoc. Magazine.

In partnership with KHOU’s Great Day Houston, the marketing department’s Pack Your Bag Challenge wrapped up this month. To end this summer's season of staycation promotions, we visited Viet Ho, Ninfa’s in EaDo, Harwin, 8th Wonder Brewery, and Lake Houston Wilderness Park.

The team conducted one interview promoting Houston and hosted three journalists who visited Houston. This included freelancers with On a Dime Destinations, Punch Drink and Hayden Cohen.
Houston Strong
In August, Visit Houston’s network of website generated nearly 460,000 visits. Early in the month, the PR team hosted six reporters and bloggers covering travel and leisure in stories in Houston. In particular, the team welcomed TV host Danny Seo of NBC's "Naturally, Danny Seo" who filmed three segments on Houston as an eco-friendly destination. Viewership for this program reaches nearly 1.3 Million. Additionally, the team conducted seven interviews focused on travel and leisure. 

Following Harvey, the marketing team shifted messaging across the below channels to address this unprecedented natural disaster. 
TX Monthly Harvey Ad
Advertising: From our advertising division, all digital marketing was paused starting the Friday before Harvey (8/25). Tourism digital marketing will resume with a Harvey Relief Package creative starting 9/26. The Tourism digital marketing will run in Houston and throughout the state until November.  

Print advertisements in Texas Monthly and Sales trade media will feature a “Houston Strong” message starting in October. Creative to run in Texas Monthly will showcase local artists work on a full page with a 1/3rd page column opposite the full page featuring “Travel with a Purpose” messaging that will lead to the Harvey Relief Packages online.  Sales trade media creative is “Open and Stronger than Ever #HoustonStrong” messaging.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Tees: Through Houston First’s retail store, LAUNCH, the marketing team has produced four tees for sale through the newly created online retail site here. All profits from the sale of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Tees will go towards the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund established by Mayor Turner.  More information about the fund can be found at ghcf.org.

Public Relations: As it relates to the impact of Harvey, the PR team continues to track coverage both as a direct result of Houston First interviews, as well as community stories showcasing the "Heart of Houston" that continues to shine brightly in local and national coverage. You can view a full recap here. To date, the team has distributed five press releases to meetings and trade publications with updates regarding convention business, as well as two updates to local media regarding the status of the Theater District. Additionally, the team has conducted approximately 40 interviews related to the impact of Harvey and convention business.

Film Commission

During July and August, Houston hosted 43 film and video productions resulting in 203 filming days with direct expenditures of $2,760,500 and an economic impact of more than $8,281,500. 

Some of these projects include:

Commercials: Dick’s Sporting Goods, Texaco, Aegis Security, Major League Baseball, Papa John’s and HEB, Aetna, Transient Pictures and Footlocker. 
Feature Film: Dusty Mesa “untitled", Cuda, Home Stay, There’s Something About Mommy, and Zombie.
Television Series/Cable Series: My 600 LB. Life, Matador Content “untitled,” Texas Metal, The Vet Life, Monster Food, Countdown To Murder, True Crime, Fifth Ward, Tanked, Evil Stepmoms, Manny and Mysteries At The Museum.
Documentary/Industrials: British Petroleum, Apache Corporation, National Geographic, and Hewlett Packard.
Still Photography: Ford Expedition Catalogue shoot, HPE, Baylor College Of Medicine, and Verizon.
Music Video/Corporate Video: We Up To Something and Houston Eye Associates, Accu Date, Big 12 College Football and LeToya Luckett. 
Webcast: British Petroleum.

The Houston Film Commission hosted the following informational presentations:

  • The Houston Film Commission was guest speaker at 14 Pews Teen Filmmaking Workshop on July 25.
  • The Film Commission served as a panelist and moderator during QFest Film Festival closing night on July 31.
Regional Product Development

Freeway corridor enhancements - Installations to enhance eight bridge fence crossings over I-69 from Tuam Street to Bell Street is complete and due to its popularity, Houston First is adding the Elgin Street crossing to the project! Expect to see work on Elgin in late September. The enhancements consist of weaving colorful strips of high-density vinyl into the existing chain link fences. The strips are pre-printed with color on both sides and depict pixilated images based on photographs by children compiled as part of the publication “In the eyes of Our Children: Houston, an American City”. Enjoy the time-lapse video here. (video credit: Nick de la Torre)

Jones Plaza – The programming work for re-imagining Jones Plaza is complete. The architectural design team selection is underway with selection expected to be complete by the end of the year.  

A new attraction for Houston – Work continues on a market analysis and feasibility study for a new iconic attraction for Houston.  A working group has been formed and meetings with the group, various leaders–including Mayor Turner--and existing attraction operators are complete.

Potential public market – Exploration of potential sites for the establishment of a public market continues with a focus on East Downtown. 

Airport corridor enhancements – As part of our efforts to enhance and better maintain our region’s freeway corridors, Houston First has convened a group of 15 stakeholders who are diligently working on beautification and enhanced maintenance along the “airport corridors.” Discussions are underway with TxDOT to determine how best to implement enhanced maintenance standards.

Finance & Administration

Community Outreach / July 2017: Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum, Greater Houston Black Chamber Luncheon, Houston MBDA – Salute to Minorities in Construction, Camara de Empresarios Latinos de Houston monthly breakfast, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council Panel Discussion, HISD Procurement Networking, and Houston Minority Supplier Development Council Scholarship Luncheon. Community Outreach / August 2017: Women in Construction/Women Contractors Assoc. Lunch, Greater Houston Black Chamber Reception, ACCGH Indo American Chamber of Commerce 18th Annual Gala, Houston Minority Supplier Development Council Meeting

Technical Outreach / July 2017: Comfort Systems USA, American Air Conditioning, Short Street Strategic Solutions, Bradlink Inc., K Staffing, Keystone Resources, and Brand IQ Inc. Technical Outreach / August 2017: Comfort Systems USA, American Air Conditioning, Short Street Strategic Solutions, Bradlink Inc., K Staffing, Keystone Resources, Brand IQ Inc. 

The full financial management and accountability report can be found here.

Information Technology 

Enterprise Business Applications and Database Management

IT has partnered with Finance to review reporting software for better finance reporting and transparency; we are jointly evaluating available reporting options. IT is continuing work on the creation of the reporting model for financial and budgetary data. Preparation of the Budget Maestro software for 2018 budget season has begun.

The IT department trained the Sales and Events Services team on the use of applications available in the Ungerboeck System Applications. IT is in the process of testing the upgrade of the current version of the Ungerboeck Application.

A new disaster recovery backup site for Houston First is about 89% completed to a cloud base repository.

Enterprise Infrastructure & Network

IT installed LoJack software on 98% of HFC users' laptops and tablets. LoJack is used for better tracking/recovery of lost or stolen IT equipment.

Continued maintenance on the email Active Directory is in process in order to provide better tracking on IT equipment on the network, and active users in the global address book.

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