When Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George was elected to lead one of the country’s fastest-growing and most diverse counties, he knew it presented quite the challenge.
He is eager to show residents that he is up to the task of preparing to lead the county’s charge into the future.
Last Wednesday, April 17, George delivered the annual State of Fort Bend County address to a packed house at Texas Safari Ranch in Richmond to reflect on his first 100 days in office and focus on new, innovative ways to strategically prepare for 1 million people in the county. He was also joined for a panel to discuss the nexus of demographic and economic development issues by Stephen Klineberg, founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and Armando Perez, former chairman of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
“In the 1970 census, it showed us having 52,000 people,” George said. “Today, we are at 780,000 and counting. We are going to have 1 million people by 2022 and 2.1 million people by 2050.”
According to research conducted with the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, 29.1 percent of the county’s population is foreign-born, which has spurred its burgeoning growth.
“The U.S. is the first nation in the history of the world that can say we truly come from everywhere,” Klineberg said. “Nowhere is this seen more in the U.S. than the Greater Houston metro area, and nowhere there is it seen more than right here in Fort Bend County.”.
According to a 2018 Kinder Institute survey for the Houston area, Fort Bend has become one of the U.S.’s most ethnically diverse counties, “We are at the forefront of a truly epic transition in the history of America. We are where all of America will be in about 25 years,” Klineberg said.
For George, the county’s beauty is in how that diversity fits together, and how it thrives even as more different cultures enter the area.
“We live in harmony, we work together, and we care for each other,” he said.
Perez added, “It’s not just a reflection of what’s possible from the ability to live together in a diverse community, but the kind of community that’s thriving with diversity that exists here.”
Preparing for the wave
A crux of George’s address focused on how to prepare the county for the projected population influx over the next three to four years.
“Our county’s citizens look up to us for leadership,” George said.
One of George’s first initiatives upon taking office was to figure out how the county’s Office of Emergency Management could best serve the population in crisis situations.
“We decided to combine the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management – it’s now the office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management,” he said. “This will help us do things better and more efficiently, and more importantly will save the county about $250,000 per year by eliminating wasteful spending.”
Another key prong of his strategy involves upgrading the county’s alert system, which would turn into a mass notification system Additionally, county leaders have state legislation in the works that would increase drone monitoring of non-emergency situations such as infrastructure monitoring to help the OEM better serve citizens.
“We are working together to try creating a better Fort Bend County for our children and the generations to come,” George said.
Finally, George addressed Fort Bend’s business landscape.
“We have noticed a lot of wonderful companies in the U.S., but the world is much bigger than that, so that’s why we are focusing on global initiatives and beyond,” he said.
George said the future of Fort Bend remains a bright one and foresees the area becoming one other locales are modeled after.
“Fort Bend County is a unique place, and sometimes I cannot even sleep when I think about the opportunity that we have here,” he said. “I’m thinking that within the next 10-15 years, this area could be the next Galleria. That’s what I look forward to, to making (Fort Bend) that type of place.