Friday PM January 12th, 2007

Greater Houston Partnership updates members on ten-year strategic plan to attract jobs, capital investment and foreign trade; Shell's John Hofmeister installed as chairman...CB&I awarded $75 million contract for upgrade of Caribbean oil refinery...

More than 1,500 people attended the Greater Houston Partnership's annual meeting at the Hilton Americas this week, hearing newly-elected board chairman John Hofmeister, president and chairman of Shell Oil. Hofmeister said Memorial Herman President and CEO Dan Wolterman is his selection for vice chairman of the 130-member board. The meeting centered on the Partnership's ten-year strategic plan to solidify Houston as a magnet for business. Partnership President and CEO Jeff Moseley said the plan's aggressive goals include the creation of new jobs, capital investment and foreign trade.

"When we met one year ago, there was an official roll-out of the Partnership's strategic plan, and a great portion of that had to do with growing jobs and economic development. You might remember that we said that we going to work towards creating 600,000 new jobs for the ten-county area. That we would work towards growing by $60 billion new economic investment. And that we would work towards—as a region—attracting $225 billion dollars in new foreign trade. And we're not simply on target to meet this series of goals, but in fact economists would say we're tracking ahead of these goals."

The Partnership has raised more than $20 million for "Opportunity Houston," a $40 million campaign supporting the strategic plan.

The Woodlands-based CB&I has been awarded a $75 million contract for an upgrade project at a Caribbean oil refinery. The engineering and construction firm will revamp and expand the refinery's fluid catalytic cracking unit as well as its Merox liquefied petroleum gas unit. Completion is expected in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Houston-based Smith & Associates has opened a sales office in Tokyo. Smith Japan will be supported by Smith's in-house quality control, testing and shipping facilities in Houston, as well as in Hong Kong and Amsterdam. Smith & Associates is an independent distributor of semiconductors and electronic components to manufacturers and resellers of high-technology and computer equipment.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says the nation's farm policy must shift away from only protecting the pocketbooks of producers. Johanns told the Beltwide Cotton Conference in New Orleans that change is necessary to withstand international scrutiny now that most U.S. cotton is exported. About 80 percent of American-grown cotton goes to markets outside the country. Johanns says to ignore that when writing the 2007 farm bill could invite further world trade organization complaints. Farm support payments have long been a source of contention in trade negotiations between wealthy and developing nations.

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