By Jeff Herman
One of the more essential services provided by the Brays Oaks Management District is our continuous effort to improve business in the area by strengthening local economic opportunities. These efforts are spearheaded by the Business and Economic Development Committee, led by Sheri Cortez.
Ms. Cortez was appointed to the BOMD board of directors for a 4-year term by Mayor Sylvester Turner in 2017, and quickly became the head of the Business and Economic Development Committee. Her focus and enthusiasm are readily apparent when discussing past and future projects that benefit the southwest Houston neighborhoods in the district. An area resident for over 20 years, Sheri feels especially connected to the district neighborhoods and embraces her role as a change agent. “It’s more about supporting the area and, with my husband being a police officer, I felt I could help serve by promoting business and economic growth as another way to support the community,” she says. While the size of the committee fluctuates, Sheri pegs its success to key contributors in the district, like Cindy Chapman and Starla Turnbo, who help drive momentum along with the regular standing members.
Additionally, area businesses of all sizes – corporations like Fiesta to smaller privately owned companies, including apartment management groups – can attend the monthly committee meetings and contribute ideas that help forge a path for an economically stronger Brays Oaks.
A recent example would be the improvements to the local shopping center in the 7700 block West Bellfort. Old store fronts and area parking lots had fallen into disrepair, leaving the potential for graffiti, littering, and crime to develop. The Business and Economic Development Committee worked with local investors to successfully bring in new businesses like Pollo Campero, and refurbish an existing Taco Bell. The renovated buildings and the addition of a popular eatery helped create a wave of aesthetic improvements and revived investments by other local business – a great example of rising water lifting all boats.
The committee also intervenes to help peacefully resolve disputes when needed. Recently, businesses with a shared parking lot became frustrated by the litter left by loitering bar patrons during early business hours. The committee, working with the Houston Police Department, was able to put an end to the afterhours bar service. By extension, this improved the litter problem and made the environment more conducive for other businesses in the small shopping center.
All area businesses are encouraged to attend Economic Development Committee meetings and help drive policy and share new ideas. “Positive change only comes about when people care,” notes Sheri. “And showing up is the best way to ensure your ideas are heard.” One only needs to look around the district to see the committee’s ideas in action. The beatification, security, and planning efforts all foster improved economics.
This year the committee started the Business Recognition Program which identifies businesses that have made significant cosmetic and infrastructure upgrades, such as lighting, paint and/or landscaping. The district highlights these businesses and their aesthetic improvements with help from Gretchen Larson, BOMD Director of Marketing, via social media and other online platforms. This symbiotic marketing, promoting both the business and the beautification, benefits the district by sharing and encouraging pride in the community.
Upcoming projects for 2019 include idea development for an International Festival celebrating the diversity that helps define Brays Oaks as a community. Food, culture, and arts from around the world are part of our community’s fabric and the Business and Economic Development Committee, in conjunction with other stakeholders, are in the early planning stages of making a truly unique event.
If you would like to get involved with any of these great projects or have an idea of your own please join us at an upcoming Business and Economic Development and visit https://www.braysoaksmd.org/meeting-schedule to see the committee meeting schedule. We hope to see you there.