John Richard Harris pioneered his way from Missouri and founded the town of Harrisburg at the junction of Buffalo Bayou in 1826. The town thrived, and by 1829, Harris had established the first industry, a steam- operated saw mill, in what is today the Houston Metropolitan Area. Like Harrisburg was for the Republic of Texas, the East End was the backbone of early industry in Houston. Traditionally perceived as the industrial part of Houston, the East End historic economic success is only rivaled by its diversity. Harrisburg was initially sought by the Allen brothers for their settlement named Houston. Probate of John Harris’ estate prevented the sale of Harrisburg, and the Allen’s settled a few miles north, at what is now known as Allen’s landing. The city of Houston annexed historic Harrisburg in 1926, but John Harris is honored forever as the namesake of Harris County.
Gradually, the East End has shifted from strictly industrial facilities, into the city’s cultural melting pot and hotbed for small businesses. Open office spaces, cultural facilities, universities, parks, the arts, and deep-rooted heritage are all working together to help transform the perception of the growing East End. Through the years, the East End region has grown from the Port of Houston, to parts of the Texas Medical Center, Hobby Airport, the Metro rail, and East areas of downtown (including Houston’s professional baseball and soccer team stadiums).
The Port of Houston is now the busiest in the United States, seeing approximately 215 million tons of cargo passing through it every each year. Houston witnessed a massive expansion to the east city’s limits, inducing a boom to the construction industry with both new businesses and housing with new business and housing construction and an extension of the city’s limits.
With grand-scale economic expansion came massive immigration to east Houston. By 1910, Houston saw a wave of Asian immigrants arriving from the port. These early immigrants settled in parts of East Downtown and the East End. The 1920s made Houston a veritable melting pot of new residents. Caused by a mix of social turmoil in Mexico, coupled with the labor-hungry economy, Houston accepted thousands of Hispanic immigrants. This influx of immigration began to shape much of east Houston with the construction of many new neighborhoods. Magnolia Park, Idylwood, and Eastwood all owed their existence to the settling of these new residents, and would eventually become what is now known as the East End.
The East End Today
The East End remains the commercial center of the city today. It’s also the hub of Houston’s transportation systems. The East End links the industrialized centers of the United States and Canada with the Port of Houston and Mexico.
Until recently, international trade, manufacturing and warehousing dominated the East End area’s economy. Today the East End is beginning to reap the rewards from new channels, such as the Metro rail. Upward trends in residential housing and retail business along rail corridors forecast the East End to continue its recent growth pattern. Additionally, over half a billion dollars is being invested in the Greater East End, bringing light rail through the heart of this community along with major street beautification, including pavers, trees, pedestrian lighting, street furniture and bike trails. Houston’s best-kept secret is no longer a secret.
The success of the Chamber is deeply rooted within the culture and connections of its region—more specifically, the people and relationships of the East End. In a five-mile radius the East End is home to over 234,000 people, and over 7,700 businesses with over 100,000 employees.
We believe from these relationships is where commerce swells. Because strong relationships spur growth, purchase with confidence, get contracts signed, and refer out-of-good-faith.
Where We Are Heading
The East End was the backbone of early industry and remains the commercial center of the city today. Locally, the East End is an entrepreneur’s dream, offering reasonably priced real estate and a dedicated workforce, both professional and semi-skilled. By creating new opportunities for business expansion or by helping to connect small business to large business, the Chamber is the leading economic development organization in the East End! Small business can gain access to big business at Chamber events, committee meetings or by dropping in the Chamber office. Moreover, the Chamber’s Education & Workforce Foundation is focused on cultivating the East End job market, keeping trade jobs hired locally, and supporting education and workforce initiatives for the area’s next generation. From an international level, a drastic increase in trade from China and other Asian countries is on the horizon for Houston’s port. As the Panama Canal sets to reopen back into the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Houston is expanding and widening the ship channel’s capacity in preparation for the new, heavy barge traffic.
Similarly, plans to continue expanding rail transportation within Houston and through the state of Texas places the East End at the receiving end of Houston’s two major economic shifts. Cities throughout the U.S. have enjoyed robust retail and commercial development along their rail corridors and the East End has lofty goals to make sure that the Harrisburg rail line complements existing business while creating new opportunities! In anticipation of the coming growth, the Chamber will continue to realign its goals in accordance with the region’s economic growth and best interest.
The Chamber 2017 Goals:
- Improve the value of membership to our members
- Develop an advanced information database resource center
- Expand public awareness of Chamber activities and programs beyond the East End
- Continue to promote and refine the image of the East End community
- Attract more sponsorships and promote Foundation efforts more aggressively
- Attract new business and promote expansion of existing business into the East End
The East End Chamber’s mission is to always strive to be the premier business and community support organization by connecting and growing relationships for business expansion, investment and economic development in the East End.
President - Frances Castañeda Dyess
Board Chair - Todd Stewart