Texas Business Hall of Fame Interview
A great interview of Welcome Wilson Senior about his accomplishments and what he hopes to achieve in the future with the University of Houston and his family run company, the Welcome Group, and remarks from Tilman Fertitta
Tilman Fertitta: In 2004 it was my esteemed pleasure to be inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
With great pleasure that this year to have Welcome Wilson to be a part of this unbelievable group of people and there is nobody more deserving than Welcome Wilson Sr. through all of his accomplishments thorough his real estate, through his service to his country and for everything that he has done for the University of Houston including helping University of Houston obtain it’s tier 1 status, this is a great day for all Texans for him to be a part of this organization.
Welcome Wilson Snr. is meeting today with his 2 sons at his Welcome Group headquarters in Houston and going over their growing portfolio of single tenant buildings.
Mr. Wilson: The key is single tenant facilities, we own about 4 million sq. ft. in 88 locations, 90% of them are in Metropolitan Houston, and all of them are in Texas. But we don’t take any chances anymore, like I did in my first 50 years and as a result we are relatively unaffected by a recession. For example right now our 4 million sq. ft. is 99% occupied.
Narrator: Wilson has made a career of following the advice of legendary mentors in Texas business and one of his first partnerships was with Houston Real Estate Mogul R. E. Bob Smith.
Mr. Wilson: He was the largest land owner in Harris County and I was the largest land owner in Galveston County, it was a big distance, he didn’t have any debt on his land, my land was hocked up to the hip, so I made the comment to him I said, all of the good deals are gone, I said I’m too late all of the good deals are gone and he said to me, you bone head you have no idea, don’t you realize that the boom in Houston is just beginning.
Narrator: He would always follow good advice and made a huge impact in Houston Real Estate and then pioneered the second family home business in Galveston.
Mr. Wilson: At that time, no one thought they needed a second home; there was no second home market because people were happy to have a first home, not just a second home. So we were pioneers in that sense, prosperity was gaining momentum and people began to think about it, about a second home and so we succeeded. However let me mention we sold a lot of Jamaica Beach a 1/2 an acre for as low as $625.00, for a half an acre.
Narrator: Wilson’s story career have often brought him to the forefront of history, at the age of 27, he worked for Eisenhower as the head of Civil Defense during the cold war.
Mr. Wilson: He wanted R. E. Bob Smith to take the job and Bob Smith told him, no I won’t do it but appoint Welcome and he did it. And so there I was with a civil service rank of a 3 star General, I was 27 years old.
Narrator: He witnessed the atomic bomb test, worked as a Special Assistant to President Johnson and even as a Special Ambassador to Nicaragua.
Mr. Wilson: Success has more to do with who is there to help you than it does your own so called brilliance; I promise you anybody’s success is a team effort.
Narrator: He has always been a man that dreamed big, at the University in 1947 Wilson met legendary oil man and UH Board of Regents Chairman Hugh Roy Cullen and that night over dinner, he informed his brother of a grand plan.
Mr. Wilson: We were eating the beans and I said I met Mr. Cullen I said, you know I could be the Chairman of the Board of Regents someday, and Jack didn’t even dignify my comment by looking up from his bowl, he just kept eating.
Narrator: Now as Chairman of the UH Board of Regents Wilson has been instrumental achieving the University’s goal of a tier 1 school, something the President of UH sees as an amazing partnership.
Dr. Renu Khator: Mr. Wilson has one very unique quality, once he sets his goal, he does not settle, he does not negotiate on those goals. I remember Mr. Wilson standing up in front of the faculty senate, he was invited as a speaker, he said I have 3 goals for the University of Houston, tier 1, tier 1, tier 1. He sets such high expectations and then he refuse to settle with mediocrity.
Narrator: At 83 Wilson shows no signs of slowing down, he works out every day at 4:30 a.m. and his staff struggles to keep pace with the man who is always looking for a new real estate deal.
Mr. Wilson:Well like a lot of people I love it I can’t imagine any other place I would want to be, I work 5 hours on Saturday, there is just so many opportunities out there, not only for our business GSL Welcome Company but also for the University of Houston and opportunities for my kids and grandkids, so I feel like I need to be plugging away every day.