City leaders eager to hold on to Continental
By JENALIA MORENO and PURVA PATEL
April 27, 2010, 10:01PM
Houston leaders said they want a chance to offer incentives to encourage Continental Airlines to keep its headquarters here if it merges with Chicago-based United Airlines.
There are indications that if the two carriers merge, the new company would be based in Chicago. Two years ago, the airlines discussed merging, and Chicago was planned as the headquarters of the new company until Continental ended those talks.
While no incentive package has been assembled yet, state and city officials said they were willing to match anything Chicago has to offer
and simply want a seat at the table.
“We may be a little bit late to the dance because we weren't aware these talks were going to suddenly go on to the front burner, but we're definitely reaching out and we feel the board and chairman of Continental know what a great place Houston is and how much we have to offer them,” Parker said during a news conference also attended by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.
On Tuesday, Mayor Annise Parker, County Judge Ed Emmett and the Greater Houston Partnership sent a letter to Jeff Smisek, Continental's chairman, president and CEO, and Glenn Tilton, United's chairman, president and CEO.
As soon as news of merger talks hit the media, Parker said, she left messages for Smisek to let him know the city was willing to work with a merged company in order to keep its headquarters in town.
She said a potential merger was a business decision and that the city doesn't need to sell leadership at Continental about Houston's assets, but does need to persuade the leaders of United.
Gov. Rick Perry made a similar call, said Aaron Demerson, director of the governor's economic development and tourism division. If the merged company leads to job creation in Texas, the state could consider an award from the Texas Enterprise Fund among incentives, he said.