Challenges & Opportunities: B/CS Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook

Spice It Up! 50 Men Who Can Cook 2018
January 2, 2018
Thomas Burritt and Special Guest James Dick Coming to Festival Hill on January 13
January 2, 2018

The 2018 Economic Outlook Conference is open to the public. Advance registration is $85 per person for B/CS Chamber of Commerce members; tickets are $100 per person for non-members. Reserved tables of eight are available for $750. Seating is limited. To reserve space, visit, call Jordan at (979) 260-5200, or email

Those looking for a glimpse into the economic forecast for 2018 and beyond may join the Bryan College Station Chamber of Commerce when it gathers area experts at the annual Economic Outlook Conference in January. Through speakers and panels, the local business landscape will be discussed as the Brazos Valley embraces a future of both challenges and opportunities.

The conference will be held Jan. 24 beginning with an informal coffee and meet and greet with Bryan and College Station mayors and superintendents, as well as Brazos County Judge Duane Peters. The conference opens at 7:30am with registration and breakfast. The conference ends at 1:30pm following the keynote speakers who will present three local Case Studies of Success.

Conference Schedule
7am | Coffee with Area Leaders
Sponsored by Hilton College Station
Informal meet and greet with the Bryan and CS mayors and school superintendents, and Brazos County Judge Duane Peters

7:30am | Registration & Breakfast
Sponsored by Texas Commercial Waste

8am | Welcome
Title Sponsor Wells Fargo
Glen Brewer, President & CEO B/CS Chamber of Commerce

8:15am | Leadership Moments
Chad E. Wootton, Associate Vice President-External Affairs, Office of the Provost
Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, Ret., Commandant, Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

8:45am | Session I
Sponsored by Texas A&M University
Harnessing the Momentum – Marketplace & Employment Outlook
Matt Prochaska, Research Valley Partnership
Russell Dempsey, Express Employment Professionals

9:15am | Break
Sponsored by CHI St. Joseph Health

9:30am | Session II
Sponsored by BTU
A Look Ahead: 2018
Natalie Ruiz, College Station Director of Economic Development
Frank Clark, City of Bryan Business Development
Judge Duane Peters, Brazos County
Kindra Fry, Experience Bryan College Station

10:45am | Break
Sponsored by Aggieland Carpet One

11am | Session III
Sponsored by the Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C.
Managing Growth & Expectations
Dr. James Gaines, Chief Economist for the Texas Real Estate Center, Texas A&M University

12:15pm | Lunch
Sponsored by Guaranty Bank & Trust

12:35 p.m. | Keynote Speakers
Case Studies of Success
Dr. James Nelson, RELLIS Campus
Spencer Clements, ATLAS
Tim Crowley, Tower Point 

Additional Sponsors
Extraco Banks, Atmos Energy, Binkly & Barfield Consulting Engineers, BBVA Compass, American Momentum Bank, Kyle Office Products, Copy Corner
Pencil Sponsor: Brenham National Bank
Speaker Gifts: Experience Bryan College Station
A/V Sponsor: Avinext, RDM Pros
Popsocket Sponsor: Express Employment Professionals
Media Sponsors: The Eagle, Bryan Broadcasting, Insite Magazine/Integ

Keynote Speaker Reviews

Dr. James P. Gaines
Chief Economist
Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University
This will be Dr. Jim Gaines’ ninth year to dip into his crystal ball that casts insight into the state’s economic future and deliver them to those who attend the BCS Chamber EOC Conference. Gaines’ knowledge of the economy has been honed from more than 40 years experience in professional real estate consulting, research and education, urban economics, land use analysis, and development and project risk assessment.

“I try to get up and just tell the truth the way I see it – good, bad, or indifferent,” Gaines says. “The good news, and the thing that keeps me coming back, is that in Bryan College Station during the last eight or nine years, except for the ’07, ’08, ’09 time period when we had the financial collapse of the United States, times have been good here. The economic prosperity in the last decade in the Bryan College Station area has been very good.”

Looking into 2018 and the next decade, Gaines foretells a continuation of economic growth in the region.

“The rate of job growth this year and leading us into 2018 has been among the highest rates in the state for most of this year, between three and a half and four percent job growth,” Gaines says. “These are good things that are happening, that jobs are being added. We continue to experience pretty good population expansion and growth.”

The approval of new master planned communities, business construction projects coming to fruition, and more commercial development throughout the community are all good signs, according to Gaines.

“All of that development means there is money being spent in the community and jobs being created,” Gaines says. “All of these things bode well for College Station and Bryan, the metropolitan area.”

Gaines predicts the real estate market will continue to be strong, but may slow down in 2018 in B/CS because of a lack of inventory of properties.

“While the volume of activity might slow down, home prices, because of the shortage of housing and the demand exceeding the supply, we are expecting prices to continue increase, more or less, at about the same pace as they did this year,” Gaines says.

Dr. Dr. James K. Nelson
Texas A&M University System Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Special Academic Initiatives
Dr. James Nelson is actively engaged in developing strategies for enhancing the STEM education pipeline both nationally and in Texas, and has testified before the Texas Senate and House Higher Education Committees in that regard. Closer to home, Nelson is working to make Texas A&M University’s vision for the RELLIS Campus a reality.

According to Nelson, RELLIS provides an opportunity to create a three-way partnership among academia, researchers, and industry that will help boost the local and state economy.

“Within Bryan College Station and the surrounding area, a well-trained work force is essential to the economy,” Nelson says. “Both sides of the RELLIS Academic Alliance, the skills side and academic degrees side, are absolutely integral to providing the workforce needed to keep the economy moving forward.”

The key to success through RELLIS lies in partnerships and a common goal, Nelson says. “We all – Blinn College, Texas A&M University, Bryan and College Station governments, and our industry partners – have a unified sense of mission that creates an equally unified sense of collaboration to achieve our shared goals,” Nelson says.

In addition to being successful itself, RELLIS will benefit the B/CS economy, which drives the overall success of the community.

“RELLIS provides a good platform for companies to consider when looking to enhance their products,” Nelson said. “Well-trained students and faculty ready to work, and the facilities on the RELLIS campus, provide what those companies need, thus, making RELLIS a focal point for that development.”

Dr. James K. Nelson earned a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Dayton, and a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in civil engineering from the University of Houston. His primary technical research interest is in the behavior of structural systems.

Spencer Clements
Principal, ATLAS and Traditions Development
Spencer Clements is a sixth generation Texan with more than 25 years experience in the operations and development of hospitality-oriented real estate. After founding the William Cole Companies, named after his two sons, in 1996, Clements became an operating partner of Traditions Club and Community in 2009. Today, that includes the ATLAS corporate campus and Lake Walk Town Center.

William Cole Co. created The Stella Hotel, worked closely with CHI St. Joseph Health to create the MatureWell Lifestyle Center, and co-developed the new Parc at Traditions senior living community. Clements says his experience with the ATLAS project is a perfect example of challenges and opportunities.

“This 1,000-acre planned community is located halfway between RELLIS and main [Texas A&M] campus, in both Bryan and College Station,” Clements says. “We are surrounded by Texas A&M on three sides, making this a strategic piece of real estate. If we get this right at ATLAS, we will make the Bryan College Station economy more powerful. It is incumbent that we be a solution for companies wanting to be in the middle of that conversation.”

As one of four Aggies who brought ATLAS to B/CS, Clements hopes to leave a legacy for future generations. “It’s our home,” Clements says. “We have a strong desire to create a legacy that people will say was helpful and significant to Bryan College Station. We’re not looking to get in and out. We feel our contribution is to yield something meaningful to the communities around us. We want to do this because we care about this community.”

According to Clements, local population growth is begin driven by Aggie graduates returning to the area, portable work environments created by new technologies, and world-class research opportunities at Texas A&M. Together, it has created a need for a place where former students can pair up with the university and make technology and research from Texas A&M available to the world.

“If not us, then who?” Clements says. “We should step up and try to be the Silicon Valley of Bryan College Station.”

Tim Crowley
Developer, Tower Point College Station
Tower Point College Station is proof that retail follows rooftops. Tim Crowley, a Texas Tech University grad who works as an attorney in Houston, is one of the original developers of south College Station’s retail hot spot, a location that has continued to grow since Tower Point opened.

According to Crowley, the opportunities in the Tower Point area today are the product of overcoming numerous challenges the development presented at the beginning of the project.

“The property at Tower Point started off as 735 acres full of challenges,” Crowley says. “There was an endangered species area, Hwy. 40 ran through the property, a regimen retention pond needed to be put in, and several thoroughfares ran through it. The property had a number of challenges to work through from a development standpoint.”

Now, economic growth opportunities abound at Tower Point and continue to help boost the Bryan College Station economy.

“The opportunity is seen today in the residential and business developments,” Crowley says. “Tower Point is one of the most successful developments in Bryan College Station.”

Steady economic growth was one of the factors that attracted Crowley to south College Station when starting the Tower Point development.

“I moved to Bryan College Station in the late 1980s, and the local economy hasn’t taken a step back since,” Crowley says. “We have had strong economic growth on a continuous basis. College Station can’t grow in the north because of the city’s structure, so the opportunity for development is in south College Station. The Bryan College Station economy has been growing steadily for 30 years.”

Tower Point is not only a hub for economic activity in south College Station; it’s a development with economic potential and promise.

“It’s clearly a regional shopping center with three banks, an HEB, and 100,000 square feet of shopping space,” Crowley says. “It generates hundreds of millions of dollars, and employs hundreds of people. It is a significant contributor to the Bryan College Station economy.”

Chad E. Wootton
Texas A&M University Associate Vice President-External Affairs Office of the Provost
Mr. Chad Wootton serves as Associate Vice President for External Affairs in the Office of the Provost. In this role, he works closely with university administration and academic affairs leadership to facilitate university engagement efforts in public relations, community development, public broadcasting, global partnership services, educational outreach, corporate relationships, and partnership with constituents of Texas A&M.

He leads a team of experienced and capable organizers and relationship managers, who provide services to faculty, colleges and university as Public Partnership & Outreach, in the Office of the Provost.

He serves on the national Executive Committee for the Council on Engagement & Outreach of the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities.

Prior to joining the Provost Office, Mr. Wootton served as the Vice President for Development for Texas A&M University reporting to the President and serving as a campus liaison to the fundraising organizations, individual donors and constituencies that support Texas A&M University.

Prior to joining Texas A&M University, Mr. Wootton worked for the Texas A&M Foundation, the wholly separate 501c3, charitable organization charged with seeking, managing and distributing directed philanthropic gifts in support of Texas A&M. While at the Foundation, Mr. Wootton held positions as Director of Development in the College of Engineering, Regional Director of Major Gifts for South Texas and finally as Senior Director of Development for the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences over an 8 year career.

In these roles, he was responsible for implementation and support of strategic major gift solicitation, campaign planning, donor stewardship and collaboration with Foundation colleagues and University leadership across multiple colleges and programs.

Prior to the Texas A&M Foundation, Mr. Wootton was employed with the Texas Agriculture Extension Service, (predecessor to Texas Agrilife Extension) thru the 4-H & Youth Development Program as an Extension Assistant and Legislative Liaison, where he supported the budgetary and legislative initiatives of the Harris County Extension Office and 4-H programming across the state.

Mr. Wootton is a 1996 graduate of Agriculture Economics at Texas A&M. He and his wife, Chrissie, reside in Bryan.

For more information on Public Partnership & Outreach or the Office of the Provost see organizational chart and service statement at:

Joe E. Ramirez, Jr. ’79
Brigadier General, USA (Ret) Commandant, Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

Brigadier General Joe Ramirez is a native of Houston, Texas and is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Texas Aggie Band in the Corps of Cadets. He received his commission in the United States Army Field Artillery from Texas A&M in 1979 as a Distinguished Military Graduate.

During his 31 years of military service, General Ramirez commanded soldiers around the world and served in leadership positions in various joint and operational commands. He was the Deputy Chief of Staff for United States Central Command during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and was the Deputy Division Commander for the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. His most recent assignment was Deputy Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy for US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

General Ramirez holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Texas A&M (1979); a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri (1993); and a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania (2000).

His numerous military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Korean Defense Service Medal, and the Parachutists Badge.

Matt Prochaska
CEO and President of Research Valley Partnership
As the CEO and President for the Research Valley Partnership, Matt Prochaska has served in various positions in industry and economic development for over 25 years. Most recently, he was the sales director for the growth-based commercial furniture company 9to5 Seating based in Hawthorne, California, until he joined the RVP on Sept. 1, 2017.

In economic development, Matt served as a board member and chair for the Tate County Economic Development Foundation in North Mississippi from 2008 to 2014 where he and the board successfully recruited, launched, relocated and helped expand companies including, Carlisle SynTec – a commercial roofing material company; PK USA – a Tier 1 auto supplier; Calbee North America; and BMW.

In March 2013, he and the board overturned a longstanding ordinance of prohibition in Senatobia; in 2014, Matt was instrumental helping pass a special tax on hotels and restaurants to support growth in the region under Mississippi House Bill 1504.

Russell Dempsey
COO of Express Employment Professionals within the Brazos Valley
As the chief operating officer for Express Employment Professionals within the Brazos Valley, Russell Dempsey graduated with a bachelor of sciences degree from Texas A&M University in 2006. He began his career as a project manager for AdventGX, where he worked on business and economic development projects.

He then consulted with the Institute for Economic Development at UTSA to establish the Rural Business Program, which focused on building stronger businesses and communities within rural Texas.

Since 2011, Russell has worked for Express Employment Professionals, a full-service staffing franchise that serves hundreds of local businesses and employs thousands of people annually within the Brazos Valley. He proudly serves on the board of directors for the United Way of the Brazos Valley in addition to serving as the vice president of the Navasota Kiwanis Club.