Rally Around the Rails Day
Tuesday, May 22, 2012 5:45 PM
This morning, METRO, city management district and federal officials gathered at the Northline Transit Center to kick off "Rally Around the Rails Day," launched during National Small Business Week to promote mom-and-pop shops around our future rail lines.
Rally Around the Rails is a grassroots initiative to encourage Houstonians to support small businesses along the light-rail construction zones. Along the North Line - which starts at UH-Downtown and runs to the Northline Transit Center - you'll find everything from tire shops to beauty salons, restaurants to doggie day care and doughnut shops.
More than 500 businesses are located in the Northside, East End, Southeast and downtown communities.
Mayor Annise Parker, who read an excerpt of a proclamation declaring today as "Rally Around the Rails Day," reminded the audience that she once owned a bookstore on Richmond. During her ownership, the city of Houston did three major construction projects.
"It almost went under three times because of construction," said Parker. "As a council member, I saw what happened when we did work on the Main Street Line...The New METRO understands that. We want to make sure that as construction proceeds...that we nurture the businesses that are along these construction projects."
Click here for a list of businesses along the light-rail lines and to browse the neighborhood guides.
Gilbert Garcia, METRO's chairman, pointed out we are almost 50 percent complete on all of the new lines: North, Southeast and East End. "The expanded light-rail system is an essential element of the region's plans to meet the transportation and environmental challenges of today and tomorrow, easing our traffic congestion, improving our air quality and changing the way Houston moves," said Garcia.
Congressman Gene Green (29th District of Texas) predicted people would actually move to where they can get to the light-rail system. "We're talking about light rail in my life, and we're seeing it come to fruition now," he said, thanking METRO leaders.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (18th District Texas) recalled how exciting it was to receive $900 million - almost $1 billion - from the federal government to build rail.
"We couldn't have done it without the cooperation of all of you and our small businesses," said Jackson Lee. "Today, I want to pay tribute to the moms and pops...Just make sure you find these businesses. They are part of our partnership."
Small business owner Arga Bourgeois stood up front next to officials listening intently and smiling. Owner of Sunshine's Health Food Store and Vegetarian Deli, Bourgeois said when construction started around her, she adapted.
"I didn't want to move when it started, so I started planning on things I could do to stay there," said the single mother of three. For example, she is opening up patio seating where patrons can enjoy veggie burgers and smoothies.
George Greanias, METRO's president & CEO, encouraged the audience to eat an early lunch and do a bit of shopping before returning to work. He pointed out that we are not only building construction, METRO is also building a community, and it's important for all us to support the businesses around the rail.
Click here to see excerpts of the speeches. You'll see in order of appearance: Gilbert Garcia, Gene Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, Annise Parker and George Greanias. Runs: 1:20.