Volume 19, Issue 39 - September 24, 2021
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
There’s a trend gaining strength that is worth watching. Private sector investors are beginning to seek investment opportunities that provide more than good returns. There is great appeal for investments focused on sustainability. Nowhere is this trend more clearly illustrated than in the surging popularity of green bonds.

Green bonds are traditional fixed-income securities issued by supranational, national, and corporate entities. Unlike their conventional counterparts, green bonds come with tax exemptions and tax credits that save investors an estimated 0.04 percent annually – but there are additional benefits. Green bonds adhere to ‘environmental and social governance’ (“ESG”) criteria, which means they are designed to deliver benefit for the environment, climate, and sustainability. Simply put, investors are able to help ‘save the planet’ while enjoying tax breaks and a good return on investment all at the same time.

By expressly earmarking capital funds for projects that are environmentally conscious, green bond investors are providing funding for public sector projects that deliver renewable energy options, sustainable waste management, energy efficiency, enhanced land use, biodiversity, clean transportation, safe water, and more.

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board of trustees on September 17 authorized the purchase of a new headquarters at the Mueller Business District in Austin, pending final negotiations.

TRS, which manages a pension trust fund of nearly $200 billion, estimates the move will save it up to $15 million over the next 20 years by getting out of leased space in downtown Austin and by avoiding costly renovations on the existing 47-year-old headquarters on Red River.

The agency currently has a two-year renewal lease at 816 Congress Ave. where its Investment Management Division (IMD) has been housed since 2009. The lease is $5 million a year. If the IMD remains in leased space after March 2023, annual lease costs are projected to rise to $7 million annually.

TRS has no further lease obligations as a result of the June sale of the new Indeed Tower in downtown Austin.

It is estimated that the purchase of two buildings designated as Alpha and Bravo with office space totaling 450,000 square feet will cost between $250 million and $300 million. The cost will be partially offset by the proposed sale of TRS’ current headquarters that could net TRS between $80 million to $100 million.

According to a timeline presented to the board, the agency will place the Red River campus on the market in late 2021 or early 2022, start construction on the Bravo building in winter 2022, begin moving selected divisions to the Alpha building in spring 2023, and move the remainder of operations into the Bravo building in 2024.
The Alamo Trust and Texas General Land Office (GLO) will work with a newly selected design firm to repurpose the historic Crockett Block and Woolworth buildings on the west side of Alamo Plaza into the Alamo Visitor Center and Museum.

Supported by a $25 million partnership with Bexar County, the museum will feature dynamic installations of the Alamo’s collection of original documents and artifacts. The new facility will be home to the entire Alamo Collection as well as the Phil Collins Collection.

The Visitor Center will be over 100,000 square feet in total, with 32,000 square feet dedicated to museum galleries for programming. This exhibit space will be in addition to the 10,000 square feet of space found in the upcoming Alamo Exhibit Hall & Collections Building. The Alamo Hall/Annex, which currently displays 1 percent of the artifacts in the Alamo Collection, will be transformed into an education center.

Topics explored in the museum exhibits will include the Battle of the Alamo, the Texas Revolution, the rise of Texas as a nation and the Alamo’s lasting significance in history, indigenous history in the region, and the San Antonio Civil Rights movement in the space where it happened in the Woolworth building.

Design of the estimated $130 million facility will begin immediately with phased construction starting in 2023. The Alamo Visitor Center and Museum is scheduled to open in 2025.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) issued a request for information (RFI) regarding the use and value of health economists as it explores methods for reducing the amount of waste and ensuring economic efficiencies for medical facilities.

HHSC wants to obtain information on how health economists could support the agency and its programs; improve the health, safety, and well-being of Texans; and contribute to the good stewardship of public resources.

The agency seeks feedback on the value that a health economist function could provide to the agency in its oversight of these programs to include the assessment and measurement of program performance and the impact of policy decisions.

Duties of the health economist would include supporting the agency with:
  • High-level topics/research or issues and areas where the agency does not have existing resources or bandwidth. 
  • Economic policy research, analysis, and development. 
  • Measuring the effectiveness and outcomes of agency policy and strategy. 
  • Assisting with the development and management of the agency’s data, analytics, and research strategy. 
  • Investigating how resources should be used and distributed in health care to maintain optimal efficiency. 
  • Applying theories of production, efficiency, disparities, regulation, and competition to better inform health-care organizations on the most equitable course of action. 
  • Application of economic evaluation tools to health-care markets, health-care programs, public health policies, and health-care interventions. 
  • Providing policymakers with expert advice needed to make cost-effective decisions regarding public health. 

To determine if this function would benefit the agency and its programs, HHSC is collecting information on the utilization of health economists from other health care-related organizations.

RFI responses are due by 10:30 a.m. October 5.
David Buggs
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)
Public career and education highlights: After graduating from Southern University in Baton Rouge, I moved to Texas and began my corporate career in the information technology departments in the aviation industry. Shortly after receiving my Master of Business Administration from Baylor University, I was asked to take on a new role as the first diversity supply chain manager or HUB program manager. I was next recruited to the position of chief diversity and inclusion officer for a ground shipping retail chain. After a few years there, I contracted with a company to teach ethics for the city of Dallas. I next pursued and landed my current position at TPWD.

What I like best about my public service is: having a positive effect on people whom you may never meet. What better place to engage and encourage diversity and inclusion with all Texans than to work with an organization who helps people relax from their stressful lives and enjoy all that is around them? TPWD touches people and the environment in which they live and play. The Texas population is one of the most diverse in the nation. Our efforts to create a more welcoming environment for all people and multiple generations through diversity and inclusion makes the mission TPWD and the work of public service more vital today than ever before.

The best advice I’ve received is: from my Dad who always reminded me that God gave you one mouth and two ears, which means you should listen twice as much as you speak.

My favorite way to de-stress is: freshwater fishing. There is nothing like trying to outsmart crappie or Sac-a-lait as we call them in Louisiana.

People might be surprised to know that I: am the third-generation male in my family to achieve a graduate degree and my oldest son is just a few hours shy of receiving his Masters in Communications. I became an avid snow skier until my knees told me that activity was over. They would also be surprised to know my bride is the 4th great granddaughter of Major Ripley Allen Arnold who is the founded Camp Worth, later renamed Fort Worth, Texas.

One thing I wished more people knew about TPWD is: our game wardens are an important part of what we do to keep our off-pavement environment safe for all, and our state parks are vital places for families and friends to connect with nature, but there are many more important aspects to our agency. We have our Information Technology team that provides support for all our technological needs and addresses our customers’ technology needs. There’s the infrastructure team which includes talented people in many disciplines such as engineers, architects, landscapers, accountants, designers, and every talent you need to build roads and other structures. We have scientists, teachers, finance experts, lawyers, communicators and other talent from many backgrounds, all of whom have a focus of serving Texans in outdoor spaces.
The city of Dallas soon could issue a request for information (RFI) to identify potential anchor uses for Hensley Field, a site that holds potential for economic development and innovation but challenges in remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Consultants presented three scenarios for the Hensley Field master plan update to a Dallas City Council committee on September 21 anchored by a major corporate user, driven by residential development, or boosted by a “Living Laboratory of Resilience.”

The concepts were developed as part of the team’s preliminary recommendations for transforming the 738-acre former U.S. Navy base into a mixed-use, mixed-income, climate-smart, and walkable community.

Scenario One focuses on attracting a major corporation to relocate its headquarters to Hensley Field, complemented by 5,783 dwelling units and 3.8 thousand square feet (msf) of non-residential use.

The second scenario features a balance of residences with 5,783 dwelling units and 2.7 msf non-residential, but it lacks a catalytic anchor.

The third option boasts the higher number of dwelling units at 8,414 complemented by 5.3 msf non-residential but could take 30 to 40 years to fully absorb. Estimated revenues for the third scenario do not cover projected capital costs.

Consultants advised the city to begin marketing the site for one or more anchor uses to existing educational and medical institutions and private corporations through a request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP).

They also recommended gauging interest from the motion picture industry in creating a film studio complex within Hensley Field as part of the solicitation process.

Other key recommendations included:
  • Creating a balance of non-taxable and tax-generating uses. 
  • Reserving 60 to 80 acres along Jefferson Street for a future anchor use of 500,000 to 1 million square feet. 
  • Establishing an appropriate balance of for-sale and rental housing. 
  • Accelerating the relocation of the Texas Army National Guard. 
  • Retaining 25 percent of the site for public open space. 
  • Coordinating with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to plan a high-capacity transit linkage, such as bus rapid transit or light rail. 

A draft master plan is anticipated for council action in March 2022 followed by selection of a master developer and coordination with the U.S. Navy regarding site clean-up.
Canutillo ISD (CISD) will hold a $187.5 million bond election on November 2 to address district needs to meet the growth and development of the Canutillo area over the next seven years.

The 2021 bond program includes certain new facilities but, if approved by voters, will also provide funds to help address needed maintenance, renovations, and enhancements to existing campuses and facilities.

Proposition A would fund $177.5 million for expansion and development projects including:
  • A new career and technology building at Canutillo High School. 
  • An additional wing added to Reyes Elementary School to alleviate overcrowding. 
  • Land purchase and construction of a new Alderete Middle School. 
  • Relocation of a permanent building for Northwest Early College High School. 
  • Multipurpose buildings for four elementary campuses. 
  • Repurposing of the existing Alderete Middle School to house the new location of Lone Star building offices and central office. 
  • Surplus storage facility. 
  • Land purchase for future elementary school. 

In addition, the proposition would provide funding for districtwide facility and campus improvements and safety projects such as baseball/softball playfields at middle schools, Canutillo High School baseball/softball lights, artificial turf on middle school football fields, protective canopies at Canutillo High School bus pick up, elementary school bus driveways, and district-wide hazmat abatement.

If successful, Proposition B would authorize the district to refund $10 million in maintenance tax notes. The measure would allow for the refinancing of funds borrowed for resources needed to support remote instruction due to the pandemic including computers, Canutillo Connect - digital community that provides outside universal internet access, and LED lighting.
Three infrastructure projects in Texas that missed out on federal funding earlier this year will get another chance at financial assistance through their inclusion in the inaugural INFRA Extra program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) designated projects by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), city of McAllen, and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) among 44 eligible to apply for credit assistance for up to 49 percent of costs under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.

Capital Metro is eligible to apply for INFRA Extra funds for its $36 million project to make freight rail facility improvements near McKalla Station.

The city of McAllen may apply for credit assistance for its $53.69 million Anzalduas Land Port of Entry project, and TxDOT is eligible for funds for its $564.7 million Interstate 30 Dallas Canyon project.

These projects made it to the final round for funding under the 2021 INFRA competitive grant program but were not awarded due to a combination of overwhelming demand for grants and limited funds.

This year USDOT received a total of 157 eligible INFRA applications from 42 states, as well as Guam. This year’s applicants collectively requested approximately $6.8 billion in grant funds — nearly seven times more than the $1 billion available for the program.
Kyle councilmembers approved a citywide trail master plan on September 21 that features 51 miles of proposed trail projects for construction that support Vybes, trail-oriented developments at commercial nodes.

More than 20 Vybes have been identified in Kyle that combine shopping centers, restaurants, neighborhoods, parks, and other areas along the trail.

The trails will have three main types (crushed stone, natural surface, and paved) will include accessible entry points, and will have designated parking areas. Trail amenities such as workout stations, benches, call boxes, lighting, vegetation, and bridges will be planned across the trail system.

City staff members have been successful identifying and obtaining state funding for the trail through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Additional state and federal funding has been and will continue to be sought as part of this initiative. The citizens of Kyle approved a $2 million bond for trail construction, and the city has requested an additional $2 million from Hays County.

These projects would connect to a greater trail network that connects the Blue Hole in San Antonio to Barton Springs in Austin along the Interstate 35 corridor. Kyle is working with the Great Springs Project and other partners on the project that is expected to take two years to complete.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and San Antonio International Airport (SAT) were among the 60 airports across the U.S. to receive more than $431.8 million in improvement grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on September 21.

The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) awarded DFW a $30.7 million grant to pay for construction of two replacement aircraft rescue and firefighting buildings and a $4.3 million grant to purchase zero-emissions passenger shuttle buses and related charging infrastructure.

SAT is the beneficiary of a $4.57 million AIP grant to reconstruct a runway and rebuild a taxiway. The airport is drafting a strategic development plan for expansion and upgrade projects that will be presented to the San Antonio City Council in December.

The FAA awarded funding from the final round of Fiscal Year 2021 AIP grants to build safer, more sustainable, and more accessible airports around the country.
Headlined by major Project Connect initiatives, the inaugural budget of the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) recently earned approval by the board.

The $312.77 million ATP FY2022 budget includes $266.5 million for project costs, $42 million for transit-supportive anti-displacement investments, $2.2 million for transfers to Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) for operations, $1.1 million for administrative expenses, and $1 million for contingencies.

Some of the objectives of the FY 2022 budget are:
  • Conceptual planning and programming studies underway for Project Connect Facilities with preliminary design and environmental planning to begin. 
  • Orange and Blue lines to reach 30 percent design and Draft Environmental Impact Statements will be released for public review. 
  • Construction on McKalla and Broadmoor Rail Stations and Leander/Lakeline double tracking will start. 
  • Full-funding grant agreements will be reached for MetroRapid Pleasant Valley and Expo prior to the start of construction. 
  • Design work on Park & Ride locations and the build-out of electrification infrastructure will begin. 
  • Request for proposal (RFP) for purchase of rail vehicles to be issued by the second quarter. 

Funding will come from the planned use of $134.6 million from FY 2021 reserves, projected Proposition A property tax revenues of $154.8 million, and a Capital Metro annual contribution of $23.4 million.
The Collin County Community College District anticipates hiring an architectural firm by the end of 2021 to design the remodels for two theaters and support spaces on the district’s Plano campus.

More than 19,000 square feet will be refurbished at Collin College Plano’s Main Theater and Black Box Theater.

Preliminary scope will include accessibility compliance updates, lighting control system refreshes, and new sound system equipment at both theaters. Both venues’ stages will benefit from upgrades to their flooring, drapes, and flying system ropes as well as space efficiency and sightline improvements to the back of house.

The Main Theater will undergo improvements to its seating, balcony railing, carpet, and ceiling panels while work is done on flooring at the Black Box Theater.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Board Selection Committee has engaged a firm to conduct a statewide search for the eight new independent directors of the ERCOT governing board.

Senate Bill 2 established the uncompensated three-member selection committee, appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan. Selection committee members are Arch “Beaver” Aplin, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; G. Brint Ryan, former chairman of the University of North Texas System board of regents; and Bill Jones, chairman emeritus of the Texas A&M University System board of regents.

The Texas Legislature directed the committee to retain an outside consulting firm to select eight new independent directors who are Texas residents with executive-level experience in any of the following professions: finance, business, engineering (including electrical engineering), trading, risk management, law, or electric market design.

Those interested in submitting inquiries or information related to the eight new ERCOT Board director positions may email ERCOTBoard@heidrick.com.
Dr. Dennis Hart’s global perspective on education and his impressive career and leadership in numerous aspects of education provide great benefit to SPI clients.

Dennis has more than a decade of experience working in the areas of comprehensive internationalization of education at Michigan State University, University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the University of St. Thomas. In those roles, he provided overall leadership and administration for university-wide globalization efforts.

During his time on university campuses, Dennis was involved in developing and implementing international education initiatives. He also worked collaboratively across campus communities to create and develop strategic partnerships and institutional affiliations.

His career also has included the teaching of nationalism and politics, and he is widely published with more than 50 academic and popular publications. Additionally, he has authored numerous federal and international grants.

Dennis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Master of Arts degree, and a doctorate in comparative politics from the University of Washington, Seattle.
The city of Tomball appointed Jessica Rogers as assistant city manager and Nathan Dietrich as community development director on September 20.
Rogers most recently served as director of economic development for the city of Denton. Before that, she was Denton’s deputy director of public affairs and intergovernmental relations. She is scheduled to begin with Tomball in mid-October.
Dietrich previously served as the assistant director of community development for the city of Baytown. Prior to that, he was a senior planning manager for Baytown and a compliance inspector for The Woodlands township.
The Brenham City Council appointed Carolyn Miller as interim city manager on September 23. She succeeded former City Manager James Fisher.

Miller had been serving as assistant city manager and chief financial officer for Brenham. Before that, she held health-care management positions and was a corporate controller in the private sector.
Western Governors University (WGU) appointed Linda Garza Battles as WGU Texas regional vice president and chancellor.

Battles joined WGU in 2020 as regional director of the south region. Before that, she worked at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas House of Representatives.
The city of Greenville selected Giampietro “GP” Ippolito as its new administrative services/finance director.

Prior to joining the city, Ippolito served in various roles including physician recruiting, operations, and revenue cycle management in his five years at a health-care company. Most recently, he served as a senior revenue cycle management analyst.
Two Texas professors will develop science and technology recommendations to the Biden Administration after being named members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
Marvin Adams chairs the Mission Committee at Los Alamos National Laboratory and has served for several years on the Stockpile Assessment Team for U.S. Strategic Command. Adams is the Heat Transfer Research Institute professor of nuclear engineering, regents fellow, and director of national laboratories mission support in the Texas A&M University System.
William Press is a computer scientist, computational biologist, and astrophysicist at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Press previously served as deputy director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and as the vice-chair of PCAST during the Obama-Biden administration. Press is the Leslie Surginer Professor of Computer Science and Integrative Biology at UT.
Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk named Joseph Chacon as the chief of the Austin Police Department (APD), pending City Council confirmation on September 30.

Chacon, whose APD career spans more than two decades, has served as interim chief since March, following the retirement of former Chief Brian Manley. Prior to that, Chacon served as an assistant chief for almost five years.
Today is the last day to register online for the Water for Texas 2021 conference, “Clear Vision for the Future,” set for September 27-29 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

Hear from general session speakers author Warren Berger, Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, and Texas Tribune Chief Executive Officer Evan Smith.

Don’t miss this opportunity to network with colleagues from Texas and around the country while earning continuing education credits.

Visit the Water for Texas 2021 conference website to register and view the full agenda. Very limited onsite registration will be available unless the conference sells out.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from September 17-23:

State Board of Education 
Keven Ellis - Lufkin (named chair)

Commission on State
Emergency Communications 
Chip VanSteenberg - Conroe (reappointed)
Von Washington Sr. - El Paso (reappointed)

Texas Radiation Advisory Board 
William Pate - League City (named chair)

Texas Woman's University
Board of Regents 
Shelley Sweatt - Wichita Falls
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Economic Indicators

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – Texas Employment Forecast 

Federal Highway Administration – 2020 Urban Congestion Trends
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Director VII

  • Texas Department of State Health Services – Maternal and Child Health Section Director

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Asset Manager 

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Budget Manager (Manager II)

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Compliance Section Director

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Director of Planning and Modal Programs

  • Texas Department of Transportation – Traffic Safety Section Director
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