IACCGH Holds Power Dialogue with Gov. Greg Abbott

By Manu Shah

Houston: In a Power Dialogue hosted by IACCGH on 27 January, Governor Greg Abbott offered an update on COVID-19, vaccine distribution and the economic initiatives that were being introduced to help the economy bounce back.

Governor Abbott began by describing the “really good working relationship” he enjoyed with India’s Consul Generals in Houston during his terms in office, and stated that it was in part due to this relationship that he was able to lead a successful trade delegation to India in 2018 and meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He recognized his past interaction with the chamber (he delivered the Keynote for the 2018 IACCGH Gala) and looked forward to meeting in person again as soon as “COVID-19 is behind us.”

Expressing his optimism that the country was “in the last stages” of the pandemic, he spoke of the state’s efforts in ramping up the pace of administering the vaccine. Texas has the distinction of being the first state in the country to vaccinate more than a million people and will soon exceed two million. In mid-February, the state expected to add Johnson & Johnson to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Texas, he emphasized, has expanded the vaccine prioritization criteria from 75 years and above to 65 years and above. This was done because vaccine providers were holding on to the vials until they had fully vaccinated everyone in the category of 75 and above. The state is now urging vaccine providers “to get the vaccines into Texans” within 24 to 48 hours after receiving supplies to minimize hospitalizations and loss of life. The decision has already led to a reduction in the number of hospitalizations and fatalities and once the numbers are in “control,” Texas will open further.

Speaking about the economy, he noted that Texas had always had a “robust” economy and had been ranked number one in the US for the most economic development projects. Despite the pandemic, the state saw eight consecutive months of job increases. In the past year, Texas once again led the US in the number of corporate relocations and expansions, a reference to several Fortune 500 companies like Tesla, Oracle, and HPE who had swapped Silicon Valley for Texas. 

In a push to promote the economy, legislative proposals that are in the works are liability protection for any business that opened and is operating with all the proper safeguards in place, less red tape and speeding up the permit process. COVID-19 has also driven home the value of  high speed, high quality broadband access for tele medicine, business, and students “in every zip code” in Texas.

In response to one of the questions posed by IACCGH President Tarush Anand regarding the availability of the second dose, Governor Abbott assured the attendees that the state was holding sufficient vaccine supplies for the second round of doses.

Earlier in the webinar, India’s Consul General Aseem Mahajan highlighted the US-India comprehensive strategic partnership in sectors like energy, defense, security, trade, and commerce. He also recalled Governor Abbott’s substantive visit to India in 2018 and acknowledged his contributions in strengthening the ties between the two democracies. Texas, he added, ranks as the number one state attracting investments from Indian companies.

Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia recognized the partner organizations and Houston based Shipcom Wireless which has developed a vaccine distribution logistics solution that has been forwarded to the Governor’s office by the chamber.