New leader in Houston’s business community warns of ‘destructive partisanship’

Houston Center, downtown. Image via Brookfield.

The newly-installed chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership told members the city’s business community must become more involved in local, state and federal political efforts.

In a speech at the GHP’s annual meeting last week, Chairman Marc Watts said they need to lobby for laws that can help businesses achieve and sustain growth, as well as legislation that can improve the lives of employees.

“Now is the time for the business community to weigh in to help end the destructive partisanship that is taking us down the road to a very bad place,” Watts said.

Watts is president of the Friedkin Group, a consortium of businesses, including Gulf States Toyota, one of the world’s largest independent distributors of Toyota vehicles and parts. He is also an outspoken proponent of Houston’s business community and its potential for growth.

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Last year, the GHP and their lobbyists were successful in getting a pension reform measure and a pre-K funding bill passed in Austin.

Business leaders in Houston and across the state also successfully opposed legislation that would have discriminated against transgendered individuals (the so-called “bathroom bill”) on the grounds that it would have hurt the state’s ability to attract talent and tourists.

The partnership is also taking their political activism to the national stage. A full-time lobbyist was hired to communicate the group’s desires to Congress and the White House since July.

“NAFTA is critical to Houston,” said GHP President and CEO Bob Harvey. “Immigration reform – and especially DACA – is critical to Houston.”

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The Greater Houston Partnership consists of more than 1,200 businesses across eleven counties in the Houston area. According to its website, the group’s mission is to provide a place “for community-minded business leaders who want to be involved in Houston’s positive growth and influence the direction in which Houston is going.”

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