Montgomery CountyResidents of Montgomery County, if it were not apparent to you that you are living in the best location on the planet, then consider this:

1. America is the greatest nation to live in

2. Texas is the greatest state to live in

3. Now Montgomery County becomes the best county to live and prosper in with the move of Exxon’s campuses to here.

We have almost all the conveniences of a city, but without the traffic and crime. Our schools compete as top performers. An 8+ lane Interstate highway feeds commerce and travel for residents and businesses. Montgomery County is one of the most conservative population centers in the US. Our property values are stable. Quality of life is high. And when the heat is on, we have Lake Conroe.

In all predictions, polls, and statistical analysis, our county is predicted to grow at an astronimical rate. As if that hasn’t already happened. When I first began to travel to Lake Conroe (before water 1971), the drive from FM 1960 to Willis, was 35 miles of pastureland. Forty more years forward, I suspect that same I-45 corridor will be the most valuable suburban real estate in America.

As a business owner, I find it hard not to lean toward expansion and development of new products and services. Even in this depressed economy, the demographics developing around us makes business failure less likely than success. As encouraging as this sounds, there are issues the communities of our northern county need to begin confronting if we want to recognized as more than a step-child of The Woodlands.

George Mitchell made water flow uphill. He designed The Woodlands with foresight few others could imagine. North Montgomery County needs a similar vision of the future. As we marvel at the growth of communities and businesses along SH 105 and the southern end of the Lake, standards for commercial buildings vary from mostly good to the very bad. The 4-star mixed-use development by Jim Winkler, Waterpoint demonstrates what well planned and visionary planning can produce. Look down the road and there may be a plywood shack fronting as a liquor store. Who knows how Highway 105 will look 25 years from now. With all the billboards and metal buildings, I suspect FM 1960 is the answer. Not bad, but could be better.

Expect to see new growth along the other east-west corridors between I-45 and Lake Conroe. The signs are already there. All the new major freeway shopping and lodging has developed north of Conroe to south of Willis. FM 1097 will soon have its own Kroger Supercenter and a Walgreens. The land between these centers and Lake Conroe are sure to become communities as population growth continues to rise. Will those communities and commercial centers develop from proper and visionary planning or will they randomly appear as investors cash-in on the County’s growth demographic? Let us hope that some standardization and colaboration take hold in that area better than it has on Hwy 105.

Lake Conroe needs to adapt to the new demographics as well! Until only recently, what drove use of the lake and accompanying businesses were new homes and families populating shoreline subdivisions. With little developable land remaining, new residents to Lake Conroe will no longer pump up the area economy. The few projects that will develop will be highrise complexes such as the Winkler planned condos at Waterpoint. Lake Conroe needs a new image, focus and reputation to continue thriving in the new demographic emerging from the Exxon move.

Annually thousands and thousands of additional taxpayers and consumers will relocate inside of a 25 minute drive to Lake Conroe and the rolling hills north of the San Jacinto River. Transforming from a resident to a visitor driven economy seems to already be started. Marina and boat storage expansion is evident all around the lake, suggesting more non-resident recreational use has already begun. Lake Conroe’s windy and rough weekend waters withstanding, visitors to these shores will continue coming, many of them needing boats and places to store and maintain them. Any water is better than none.

Those with interests for a thriving lake and business environment will make sure Lake Conroe adapts to changing conditions and useage. The immediate challenge, should our present drought continue, will be to adapt to lower lake levels. The Palms Marina has already dammed up part of the lake, dredged and rebuilt a wider and much deeper ramp. Hopefully, other entry points are getting better prepared for water level drops. Lakefront residents are already moving boats from their houses to dry storage locations and marina slips. If Lake Conroe levels drop much below bulkhead levels, it might become a fairly smooth lake. Much below that, let’s reshape it. The glass may only be half full, but if we look at our lake with forsight and imagination, it might fill up.

Things around here are going to change quickly. How we adapt will dictate what part Lake Conroe will play in the growth coming to Montgomery County. The future looks bright. We are all fortunate to be residents of this fantastic county. We are the “Lucky Ones”.