Luncheon Discussion with Ron Higgins: How do I foresee the future of oil prices, and how it will impact the economy of Texas, more specifically the economy of Houston?

It is no surprise that Texas, especially the Houston economy has been going through a sensitive time. With the continuing ambiguity of the oil prices, there have been questions regarding future expectations and its impacts. In order to help answer some of these questions, the American Turkic Business Council in partnership with the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon where keynote speaker Ron Higgins, the Vice President of Gulf Publishing Company, talked about how he foresees the future of oil prices, and how it will impact the economy of Texas, more specifically the economy of Houston.

Mr. Higgins began his keynote by talking about the standpoint of future oil prices. He said that these prices are a guess at best. In 2014 when oil prices began to decline, world oil prices were about $100 per barrel. A group of experts were predicting that oil would be back to $100 per barrel after that initial decline at the end of 2015. Goldman Sachs, another group, had said the price of oil would be in the low $20 in the first part of 2016. These predictions show you that even among the “best” experts, there is a huge gap between predictions of $100 and $20. So, it is safe to say that oil prices are only predictable going out a few weeks.

Mr. Higgins said we constantly hear that U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, as well as some OPEC countries are the cause of the downfall of oil prices, but in reality the main cause of excess oil is that the oil and gas industry has become so efficient in finding and extracting oil, that in the next several years, he doesn’t see the demand catching up to and exceeding the supply.

Mr. Higgins emphasized that it is fair to state that the world oil industry is a victim of its own success. In an already over supplied market, oil producing countries continue to ramp up production which disallows the rules of supply and demand to apply.

The luncheon ended with a successful Questions & Answers session where the attendees had the opportunity to direct their questions for Mr. Higgins to answer.








Panel Luncheon Discussion: Houston Real-Estate Investment Opportunities

On February 23rd, 2016, the American Turkic Business Council (ATBC) and Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce (TTACC) in partnership with Houston Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and German American Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion to explore real-estate investment opportunities in Houston. The event held at the Turquoise Center, had an incredible turnout.

The event began with ATBC & TTACC President Orhan Kucukosman welcoming the guests and introducing the three panelists; Mr. John Guess, III, Mr. Brooks Ballard, and Mrs. Ming Burdett. The goal behind hosting the event was to steer the types of investments individuals are trying to make while keeping the current oil prices in mind. With so much impact on investment, ATBC & TTACC hoped the event would answer where in the real-estate sector investments should be made and how will they be effected.

The President of the Guess Group, Mr. John Guess, III, was the first panelist to speak. His topic of discussion was regarding small and large real-estate investment opportunities as well as recommendations for real-estate investment areas where oil prices won’t be as impactful. With Houston being one of the largest land masses in the United States, it is a very versatile city with many resources and a very diverse economy. Mr. Guess said that in 2016, we are seeing that diverse economy take off. We are noticing that with the oil prices going down as they did in the 80s, we are seeing some layoffs, and less movement in buying goods and services, so one thing is impacting another. Mr. Guess mentioned how one economist said that the reason for the energy sector to be so strong is because for every one job employs seven others. So when we reverse that, he said we can see that there is a multiplying impact on the economy. But with diversification, Mr. Guess emphasized that we have a tremendous opportunity to keep Houston going economically. Diversification took us out from just looking at things from an energy perspective to other other areas like the Port of Houston. With the abilities of the Port, Mr. Guess said we have been able ship lots of tonnage, as well as intake goods and services coming from the Asian market and other parts of the world. In addition, he said we have seen tremendous growth in the healthcare sector as well as a lot of movement in the hospitality business. Mr. Guess emphasized to not forget the health care market, since it is going to be one area that is going to grow even more. Memorial, Methodist, and other hospitals are building facilities everywhere, so investing in medical facilities can be a very good area for investors to look at. The hospitality sector has become one of the backbones of the Houston economy. There has also been a construction boom going on in Houston. Although there have been some cutbacks in areas of the market, Mr. Guess assured that the construction boom is going to continue. He included that with the expansion of the suburban areas, there have been an increase in the retail sector, with a big push in small and large, commercial and retail development of shopping centers in the Sugar Land, Katy, and Richmond areas. He said another area of investment can be large-sized grocery stores which are popping up because of the suburban expansion. Mr. Guess emphasized that we will continue to see the housing market remain strong, maybe not as much as it used to be but he said it still be a big player primarily because of the low interest rates. The downward movement of the oil prices are keeping the interest rates on the housing market to stay low so that the economy overall doesn’t lose balance. On getting back to the topic of housing, Mr. Guess said affordable housing will be available, especially for those who are involved in single family housing. The market for single-family housing will definitely continue to be strong. One thing that wont be as bright and shiny is probably the multi-family market. Unfortunately, there are about 20,000 units of multi-family housing that have been built in the Houston area, but we are only able to get rid of 10,000 units per year, so this area is one that is less hopeful than others. But with that 10,000 surplus, and new projects coming out of the ground, 2017 will be the year where everyone will be fighting for good tenants for all of the available homes. Most of these homes are of course in A or AA classification, with many already starting to cut back on pricing. Mr. Guess said if you want to get involved in multi-family housing, workforce housing is going to make a difference and is the area to be considered. He mentioned that he is not talking about top of the market type housing, but for income purposes it will be more affordable housing. Mr. Guess ended his discussion by emphasizing that because we are no longer in a stand alone economy, we are no longer only anchored in our own country, so other countries and their economies are impacting what is going to happen here. He said we have to be aware of all of the economies to understand how things will turn out for the United States.

Our second panelist was Mr. Brooks Ballard, the President and Licensed Partner of Engel & Volkers Houston. Mr. Ballard addressed the opportunities that are available in commercial and residential real estate, especially in the Houston Metro Area. Mr. Ballard said the opportunity that is available in Houston is its diversity. With so many different types of people, there are many levels of participation based on the type of investment that investors would like to get in. Mr. Ballard included that with their clients, they advise that the Houston market is one that they should get in to right now because of all the availabilities and opportunities to make money.

Mrs. Ming Burdett, the Senior Vice President and Texas Regional Manager of Cathay Bank was the third panelist. She talked about commercial loans and possible available options that can be useful in starting a business in the real-estate sector. She said Houston is a very diverse market as well as an international city. With that there are a lot of immigrants coming into Houston everyday. Cathay bank is the first public Chinese bank in the United States. She said our bank’s focus is on helping immigrants. With 60%-70% of Cathay Bank’s portfolio on commercial real-estate, we really do know what we are doing. Mrs. Burdett said, when you come in from foreign countries, for business or transfer, there is difficulty in financing or purchasing houses. In this regard, Cathay Bank’s non-resident alien mortgage program is there to help international investors. She mentioned that Most of their clients are affluent so when they come in they are able to purchase houses in cash, but their return on investment is nonexistent, so instead of that we would rather have them buy houses through our mortgage program. This way they only need to put down 35% instead of the full price. Mrs. Burdett emphasized that this not only helps the investor with their return but also the realtors that are representing them. Instead of having one portfolio, as a bank Mrs. Burdett suggests you have three. She said it is crucial to understand that real-estate has cycles, so when making a loan you need to understand the risks that also come with it. One thing to keep in mind about banking and real-estate investment is not about how much money you can borrow, but about how much real-estate and asset you can preserve. While growing your portfolio is important, risk management is also something that needs to be kept in mind. Mrs. Burdett included that we talk a lot about commercial real-estate, Cathay bank is $13 billion in asset, that means in one commercial real-estate deal, we can help you up to $25 million in one project, in-house. She also added that when it comes to multi-family, I definitely agree with what Mr. Guess said, we are also very cautious. However, anytime is a good time to get in a diverse set of investments.

After the panelists finished their topics, they were able to address some of the questions posed by the attendees.

The first question was for Mrs. Burdett, “Mr. Guess talked about an over supply of the AA or A+ multi-family homes, but for the work force C+ is still an area that is available, so when you look at it from financing perspective do you think that C+ housing is still a good investment?” Mrs. Burdett answer was, that since January up until today, I had about a 6% increase in class A projects and I declined all of them. But so far I have financed 4 class C apartments. So there is a definite difference between the two categories. We are still doing class B and C, while being very cautious about their locations, cash-flows, and demographics.

The second question was for Mr. Guess, “You mentioned about the workforce housing as an opportunity from an investment stand point, I think you were speaking more from an apartment complex view, so if you are looking for workforce housing, from a single-family development perspective, with the land costs being the way they are, what are some ways to mitigate those costs to make sure that the home is affordable and the builder is able to make some money?” Mr. Guess answered the question by saying that one of the things that is going on in Houston right now is a program of the mayor that puts back money which helps spark single family housing. As it did with Mayor Parker, if this program happens again then the costs will definitely go down. There is also an available grant for first time home buyers that can be advantageous. With help, not only from the City of Houston, there can be opportunities in single family housing. If you are looking at multi-family, another thing you can also do is tax credits. There is a 4% tax credit which will be popular in developing housing. In a lot of the areas where we talked about workforce housing, there are also turfs, which can get all kinds of dollars to your development, especially for infrastructure. There are turfs scattered all over Houston and is very helpful for in-city development.

Another question for Mr. Guess was his take on warehouse financing, Mr. Guess said that it is remarkable what is happening. He said Houston is becoming the forefront of transportation in the region. So, these transportation lines as well as the Port of Houston are allowing for expansion. There is so much development going on outside of Richmond, where companies like Target are building huge warehouses in close proximity to the Port so that they can transport and store their goods. Warehouses in those areas are essential for these companies, in that regard, I think warehouses are going to be big in the market as Houston continues to grow and expand. Mrs. Burdett also added that one thing to keep in mind when purchasing a warehouse is that it is always a cash-flow. So if you don’t have the cash-flow, you need a cash reserve, otherwise it will not be a good investment from a banker’s point of view.

The last question was for Mr. Ballard, “I know you talked about luxury, and luxury in Houston is tied to oil. So if you are a broker who wants to transition in to that area, what adjustments do you need to make? Mr. Ballard answered by saying that first you need to acknowledge that clients who want to buy luxury still exist, and they know that the market is more aggressive compared to how it was before. Then as a broker you need to know how the market moves and be educated in how long it takes to build and how the margins are going to be impacted. So, although the market will be more conservative, it still exists.



















Mayoral Run-off Candidate Luncheon: Sylvester Turner

The American Turkic Business Council in collaboration with the Houston Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, hosted part two of the two-part luncheon series featuring Mayoral Run-off Candidate Sylvester Turner. The event took place December 7th, 2015 at the ATBC Headquarters.

The luncheon had a great turnout and housed many distinguished guests.

ATBC President Mr. Orhan Osman and Houston Metropolitan Chamber President Mrs. Peggy Wilson gave the opening speech. Mr. Osman highlighted their proactive efforts in providing a platform for Mayoral Candidates so that Houstonians can have the chance to get to know them before they vote. Mrs. Wilson introduced the Houston Metropolitan Chamber and welcomed Representative Turner to talk about his agenda.

Candidate Turner began his speech by talking about the sort of future he hopes for Houston. He stated that when we talk about Houston, the most important aspect to address is what approach will work best for our city. Mr. Turner emphasized that the “face of Houston has changed” drastically so any policy that was established 25 years ago will not be sufficient and is not in the best interest of the city.

Mr. Turner drew attention to the diverse nature of Houston and the importance of setting down fundamentals so that we can move towards a success filled future. On the note of success, Mr. Turner said “We needs to enhance Houston’s infrastructure so that going forward we can surpass any other major city. With better infrastructures, we can sustain and move along with the diverse nature and the development of a dynamic and vibrant city.”

On the note of city financials, Mr. Turner pointed out that we need a city that is run-well and is financially fiscal with responsible policies. He indicated that we need a city that is culturally sound and sensitive to the diverse population that exists. As part of Houston’s diverse culture, Mr. Turner indicated that all range of employment opportunities must also be diverse so that everyone can equally feel equally represented.

Mr. Turner said by having our communities work together fundamentally, we can truly have a city that is internationally recognized and welcoming.

In regards to the economic success of the city, Representative Turner included that we need to attract more individuals to do business in the city. He said “We must be able to venture out and be able to talk about the positive climate of Houston so that we can bring in and encourage businesses to do work here.”

Houston must have an environment that is safe and welcoming while also encouraging growth for existing and new coming businesses. One way to do this is by encouraging partnerships through sister-sister collaborations that can be extended throughout the globe.

Mr. Turner indicated that the first message that needs to go through to others is that “Houston is the most diverse city” while the second message is that “It is the most inclusive city.”

“We must move towards the direction of developing our city past other Texas cities, that can only happen when we put ourselves in the best position to be competitive”, said Mr. Turner. He gave an example of the high speed train and how a direct and open approach will enhance Houston’s position on the bigger market.

Mr. Turner ended his speech by strongly emphasizing the importance of leadership vision for Houston. He indicated that having a narrow vision for a city like Houston simply won’t be enough.

Following his speech, Mr. Turner answered questions from the attendees that addressed points regarding his support for establishing sister city partnerships, having an international advisory board that communicates directly with the mayor, and multi-tasking effectively so that all pieces impacting the success of Houston is understood completely.
















Mayoral Run-off Candidate Luncheon: Bill King

On November 20th, 2015, the American Turkic Business Council in partnership with the Houston Metropolitan Chamber hosted a luncheon forum for Mayoral Run-Off Candidate Bill King. The first of the two-part luncheon took place at the ATBC Headquarters and welcomed many distinguished guests.

The event began with lunch with the guests having the chance to meet Mr. King. ATBC President, Mr. Orhan Osman, and Houston Metropolitan Chamber President, Mrs. Peggy Wilson, gave the opening speech that officially started the program.

Mr. King began his speech agenda by highlighting the “can do spirit” of Houston, which allows Houstonians to do remarkable things like the Houston Ship Channel that was built 100 years. Candidate King touched on the importance of Houston and the achievements that have happened in our city.

He included that anyone who wants to do anything can do it in Houston because of its openness towards diversity and acceptance of all individuals.

Mr. King continued his speech by highlighting why he is running for mayor. He stated there are three areas of concern for him, 1. infrastructure of Houston being at ruins, 2. people not feeling safe in the city, 3. our city government spends way more than it takes in.

Candidate King emphasized that Houston has a spending problem that needs to be addressed so that we can steer the city in the right direction. A few examples he gave was spending $30 million dollars in the crime lab that the city is not good at operating, as well as the “old-style” pension plans that has become a burden on the city budget that are actually not sustainable.

Going forward Mr. King states that we need to stop making pension plan promises that we cannot keep. He addressed the importance of putting new employees into defined contribution plans so that they have more control over what percentage of their salary goes into their retirement. He also emphasized the importance of refinancing the money that is already owed to current employees without further damaging city finances.

Mr. King pointed out that by running for mayor he can right-size the expenditures, and instead of spending the money, we can invest it. He stated that by getting the city “back to the basics”, we can also get it back to doing great things as it has in the past.

Following Mr. King’s speech, attendees had the chance to briefly ask questions that addressed some key issues like bringing Houston closer to the Americas so that it can act as a gateway, building sister city relationships, enhancing the way legal documents are written to avoid ambiguity, and providing the basic services that any city needs to run successfully.














Houston Mayarol Debate 2015

American Turkic Business Council DBA Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Fox26, hosted the Houston Mayoral Debate on October 26th, 2015 at the Istanbul Conference Center. The event was geared towards informing Houstonians before they go to the polls. Among many distinguished guests, mayoral candidates Adrian Garcia, Chris Bell, Ben Hall, Sylvester Turner, Marty McVey, and Steve Costello attended the event that was moderated by Emmy Award Winner Isiah Carey.

The event began with reception that served light dinner along with Turkish Deserts. During this time, attendees were given a chance to mingle with the candidates to get to know them better.

Mr. Orhan Osman, President of ATBC & TTACC, began the welcoming speech that highlighted the mission and role of ATBC & TTACC and emphasized the importance of hosting such an event along with the critical role that being mayor of Houston plays.

Following the welcome speech, the moderator, Mr. Carey, welcomed the candidates and began the debate. The debate commenced with short introductions from the candidates regarding their previous roles and what they hope to achieve as mayor. Attendees had the chance to hear about why they should vote for each candidate as well as their stance towards the questions directed by the moderator.

Among others some of the most important topics of discussion were economic growth, community safety, equal rights ordinance, city finances, term limits, and qualifications to be mayor.

The debate addressed one of the most talked about issues, the equal rights ordinance. Candidate Ben Hall addressed why he is not in support of the ordinance and explained why the way this particular ordinance was written makes it a danger for the people. In response, other candidates explained why they support the ordinance. Many addressed the fact that as one of the most diverse cities in the country, Houston never had a closed-door policy and has been welcoming towards everyone without discrimination so even discussing the ordinance as if there is an issue seems to lack solid ground.

Another issue that received a lot of attention was community safety and what can be done to ensure the success of Houston police officers. Candidates Marty McVey and Chris Bell touched upon the need for body cameras on police officers to rebuild and achieve trust between law enforcement and citizens that has been lost in Houston and many other cities in our country. Other candidates highlighted the need for more transparency and funding for staffing that will expedite the services offered and cases solved by our law enforcement.

Regarding city finances, Candidate Steve Costello addressed the need for local control on city finances so the budget of the city can be used where there is a need like enhancing roads and adding additional police officers among other things. Candidate Bill King addressed the city’s spending problem and the lack of a balanced budget, while Candidate Sylvester Turner highlighted the need to implement a zero-based budget and to justify everything that goes on it from that point.

The debate served to be a successful and informative event for all Houstonians who attended or watched online.










How important are small businesses to local Economies & How Congress can boost small business in 2015

American Turkic Business Council DBA Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce hosted luncheon forum titled “How important are small businesses to local Economies” & “How Congress can boost small business in 2015”. SBA Houston new director Mr. Tim Jeffcoat and Congressman Randy Weber were both speakers at the luncheon.

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Diversity: A Fort Bend County Asset in the Global Economy

American Turkic Business Council and Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce hosted a Luncheon Forum “Diversity: A Fort Bend County Asset in the Global Economy” in its headquarters in Houston, TX. Fort Bend County Judge Hon. Robert Hebert was the keynote speaker. Judge Hebert is a former business owner and a U.S. Navy Veteran. Before taking office as County Judge in 2003, he served on several boards, including Alief ISD, the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council, and as director and president for the Brazos River Authority.

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What are the National Economic Impact of EB-5 visa investments?

American Turkic Business Council and Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce hosted a Luncheon Forum “What are the National Economic Impact of EB-5 visa investments?” in its headquarters in Houston, TX. Hon. Rafael Anchia, Texas State Representative and Managing Director of Civitas Capital Group was the keynote speakers.

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The Impact of Local and Global Economy Boosting Healthcare Expansion in Houston

American Turkic Business Council and Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce hosted a Luncheon Forum “The Impact of Local and Global Economy Boosting Healthcare Expansion in Houston” in its headquarters in Houston, TX. Mr. Chris Siebenaler, Regional Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, was the keynote speakers. Mr. Siebenaler is the former President of the United Way of Baytown Area Board of Directors and since joining Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital in 2006, has served as board member for several community organizations, including the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, First Colony Property Owner’s Association, First Colony Management District and the Fort Bend Economic Development Council.

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