Universal Weather moving HQ, 700 employees to Clear Lake


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Universal Weather & Aviation Inc., based in south Houston, has bought the 158,000-square-foot Gemini Plaza at 1150 Gemini Ave., a stone’s throw from the Johnson Space Center.
The space was put up for sale in April, after the former owner and occupant, United Space Alliance, moved out, said Dan Boyles Jr., the NAI Houston principal who brokered the deal.
Boyles said the Gemini Plaza space is a perfect example of how a commercial space returned to the market can help diversify a region’s economy.
“This was a 158,000-square-foot building that went vacant in a market that’s not seen a tremendous amount of demand with respect to (cutbacks at) NASA and associated contractors,” Boyles said.

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Universal Weather moving HQ, 700 employees to Clear Lake

  1. 1. 6A www.houstonbusinessjournal.com Week of August 17-23, 2012Universal Weather moving HQ, 700 employees to Clear LakeBY DEON DAUGHERTY en that will accommodate its foray into “This creates 700 jobs from outsideHOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL the catering business. the area and will continue to stimulate The move itself is still months in the an already good economy here,” he said. The Clear Lake region, still hurting af- making. “It was a building occupied by Unitedter cutbacks to the National Aeronautics “We’re a logistics company, and we’re Space Alliance that was empty due to HQ: Houstonand Space Administration program, is open 24/7, so it’s a little complicated layoffs and now, it’s full.” ■ REVENUE: FY 2011, $973 millionset to receive some 700 new jobs when a how we lay out the move,” he said. “The TOP EXEC: Ralph Vasami, CEOflight planning services company moves main concern is not to disrupt opera- EMPLOYEES: 700into the area later this year. tions.” DEON DAUGHERTY covers energy and law for the FOUNDED: 1959 Universal Weather & Aviation Inc., Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Houston Business Journal. Reach her at deondaugherty@based in south Houston, has bought the Area Houston Economic Partnership, bizjournals.com, 713-395-9627 or twitter.com/ INDUSTRY: air travel logistics158,000-square-foot Gemini Plaza at said the presence of Universal marks an HBJDaugherty. Follow her award-winning “Drilling OWNERSHIP: Private1150 Gemini Ave., a stone’s throw from important investment toward diversify- Down” blog throughout the week at houstonbusiness- WEB: universalweather.comthe Johnson Space Center. ing the businesses in the region. journal.com. The space was put up for sale in April,after the former owner and occupant,United Space Alliance,moved out, said Dan Special AdvertorialBoyles Jr., the NAI Hous-ton principal who bro-kered the deal. Boyles said the Gemini BUILDING YOUR TEAM:Plaza space is a perfectexample of how a com-mercial space returned Using Benefits to Attract and Keep the Bestto the market can help Boylesdiversify a region’s econ- You’ve launched your business, lined up some both tax deductible and significantly less expensive than anomy. customers and are now ready to start building your staff. increase in pay. “This was a 158,000-square-foot build- Before you start interviewing, however, you may want to At the executive level, special benefits packagesing that went vacant in a market that’s think about employee benefits. The benefits package you can be an important way to attract key employees and keepnot seen a tremendous amount of de- offer can make a big difference in both who you attract and them on board. Aimed at the highly-compensated employ-mand with respect to (cutbacks at) NASAand associated contractors,” Boyles said. whether you’ll be able to hold on to them in the future. ee, these plans can often involve some kind of executive bo- “It’s a non-NASA-related contractor “Creating a plan right at the beginning makes it nus or deferred compensation often funded with permanentthat’s come in and absorbed the build- easier to hire and retain the talented professionals your firm life insurance.ing almost overnight.” needs to thrive,” says Adam Segal, “You can be really The company is in the earliest plan- director of business marketing at creative when dealing with high-ning stages of moving, but ultimately, Houston-based Strategic Finan- ly compensated executives,” saysmore than 700 workers will occupy the cial Group LLP, a general agency When it comes to Reva Ma, a financial professionalspace, officials said. Universal is moving its global head- of Massachusetts Mutual Life designing benefits, it is with Strategic Financial Group Insurance Company (Mass- LLP. “You can custom buildquarters from its current 90,000-square-foot facility at 8787 Tallyho Road, just Mutual). “As a new company, the important to remember that a plan for each executive to last thing you want is high em- reduce taxes and maximizeeast of William P. Hobby Airport. The ployee turnover.” one size does not fit all. loyalty.”privately held companyprovides products and Often the first perk These top-tier plans, forservices, such as flight offered is health insurance, fol- example, commonly come with aplanning, weather brief- lowed shortly by some kind of retirement plan. As busi- vesting schedule to keep the employee tied to the company.ings and aircraft support, nesses grow, however, a sweetened benefits package can be A deferred-compensation plan, for example, might offer keyfor corporate and per- a particularly effective way of keeping people happy with personnel an additional $40,000 a year for 10 years, requir-sonal air travel. their jobs and loyal to the company. ing those executives to stay on the job for a decade in order Kelvin Collard, execu- At University Medical Imaging—a 20-year-old to collect the full amount.tive vice president and company that provides MRIs, CAT scans, x-rays and ultra- But these plans can offer more than golden hand-CFO at Universal Weath- Collard sound procedures—benefits planning gets a lot of attention cuffs. A supplemental employee retirement plan or SERP,er, said that after adding these days. “We look at it constantly,” says Michael Lechner, for example, can be designed to not only provide the ex-a couple dozen employees every yearfor the past several years, Universal was practice administrator, noting that the company needs the ecutive with additional retirement income, but also to payrunning out of space. right staff in order to provide quality patient care. the company a death benefit if that employee should die. In “We are busting at the seams,” he said. Finding good workers, however, is never easy, even some cases, the plan will even allow the company to recoup with today’s high unemployment. And once the staff is the cost of premium payments in the event of a death. trained and in place, Lechner says, it’s important to keep When it comes to designing benefits, it is impor-SLATED FOR AUCTION competitors from poaching the talent. “So we need to make tant to remember that one size does not fit all. “We usually To find the right location, Collard first sure that the grass always looks greener on our sit down with owners and review their workforcemapped out where his employees live. side,” he says. demographics,” asking what they careIt turns out, more than 80 percent live The good news: Many of the about, Segal says. “Sometimes it’sabout 12 miles away in the Clear Lake most valued perks are relatively health, sometimes it’s retirement,area. inexpensive for employers. and sometimes it’s tax efficient Meanwhile, the Gemini Plaza build-ing had been under foreclosure and was Moreover, companies are al- compensation strategies thatslated for auction. Collard said Universal lowed to create small classes drive the proposal.”“got a good price on it,” but declined to of employees that qualify The goal is to buildreveal the sale price. for enhanced benefits. That loyalty and make employ- Universal had been at its Tallyho facil- means a group of highly- ees feel appreciated. “Theity since 1987. Once the move to Clear valued executives might, greatest businessmen—theLake is complete, the company will likely for example, get improved Warren Buffets and thesell the south Houston property, he said. life insurance coverage or Andrew Carnegies—will tell In addition to being closer to many an upgraded disability policy. you their workforce is theiremployees’ homes, Gemini Plaza is still Such offerings—while extremely most valued asset,” he says.close to Hobby Airport, the site of manyUniversal clients. meaningful to the employee—are CRN201308-150590 And, the building has a cafeteria kitch-