Houston is an economic hub, one that is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies. An innovative region, Houston has diversified its economy in business sectors ranging from energy to health care and continues to attract and maintain a highly talented and skilled work force. With more than 2 million people, the city is a major metropolitan area. It also has an educated population, with 29.2 percent of individuals 25 years and older holding a bachelor's or graduate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for Houston residents was greater than $50,000 in 2014, making it a competitive location for today's professionals.
To get a better understanding of Houston's economic growth, RWM.org spoke with Bob Mitchell, President of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and Terry Higginbotham of Workforce Solutions. The core focus of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership is bringing primary jobs to the region. The organization has 270 funding members across 14 cities in two counties and will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in December. Workforce Solutions is a public workforce system and an affiliate of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board contracted to help employers meet workforce needs and residents build careers, so both can compete in a global economy.
What is the economic outlook in Houston?
Mitchell: The job market continues to grow rapidly. In fact, the economy is growing faster in the Houston region than any other area in Texas. With that said, we'd like it to grow even more quickly. Although there has been a recent downturn in the energy industry, other industries such as specialty chemical, health care, maritime and aerospace continue to make strides.
The region ranks #2 nationally for the city with the most Fortune 500 companies, 47 percent of all specialty chemical stock is produced in Houston and the region produces 60 percent of the country's gasoline. The maritime industry is especially strong and the Port of Houston was named the #1 export port for the United States, outpacing New York.
Higginbotham: Houston is a gateway for trade to Mexico, Canada and expanding markets of Latin America. Economic strategists identify Houston as one of the most robust and dynamic economies in the world. The common theme by Greater Houston Partnership is, "Houston is ready-made for business success," and has become the driving force for continuing growth.
What are some of the top employers in Houston?
Mitchell: Major employers can be found across all industries, ranging from energy to health care. However, some of the biggest include Johnson Space Center, Texas Medical Center, Exxon, Shell, Mobile, Haliburton, Bay Port Industrial Complex, and specialty chemical companies such as Dow Chemical and Lubrizol.
Higginbotham: Some of the major employers in the region include Shell Oil, Hewlett-Packard, JP Morgan Chase, Centerpoint Energy, Kroger Company, H.E.B. Foods, Memorial Hermann Health System, Aramark Corp, and Pappas Restaurants.
How is Houston attracting new industries?
Higginbotham: Houston's geographic area provides convenience to industry and attracts investors who want to expand operations to the Gulf Coast Region.
- Location: Optimal communications throughout the United States based on Central Time Zone; one hour behind East Coast and two hours ahead of West Coast. Basically midway point between both East and West Coasts; can reach destination by air in a couple of hours.
- Seaport: Port of Houston offers worldwide access as well as three other seaports within the region.
- Airport: Two major airports for passenger & air cargo operations. Ellington Airport, Houston Airport System, has letter of intent with a major corporation for potential spaceport.
- Weather: Climate allows for year-round outdoor activities.
- Taxes & Incentives: State Incentives such as Texas Enterprise Fund, Skills Development Fund, etc. Local Incentives such as Property Tax Abatement, Employer Tax Credits, Foreign Trade Zones, etc.
Why is Houston an attractive location for students?
Mitchell: Houston is a technology hub that revolves around technology and engineering. The educational institutions in the region provide engineering degree opportunities. In addition to the University of Houston and Embry Riddle, the region is also home to the University of St. Thomas, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, and more. In short, professional opportunities in the region are closely aligned with educational opportunities and providers.
Higginbotham: The Greater Houston Partnership developed UpSkill Houston, a comprehensive, industry-led approach to bridge the gap and fill jobs in middle-skills occupations. UpSkill Houston is an innovative blueprint for leaders from the business community, educational institutions and social service organizations to utilize as we lead this effort to build a quality workforce.
Why would you recommend someone move to Houston?
Mitchell: Houston has a strong economic environment and is an international city with a global economy. For example, it is home to the second largest number of embassies in the US (only behind New York). It has a business friendly climate, continues to grow, and is an affordable area to live, attend school and work. There are plenty of recreational activities for families and individuals alike -- the region has the second-largest recreational boating industry in the country.
Higginbotham: Houston is identified as "A City With No Limits" and highly multicultural with 105 different languages spoken. Here are other reasons it's a great place to live.
- Cost of Living: Third lowest overall among nation's most populated metropolitan areas.
- Affordable Housing: Cost about 36% below average.
- Health Care: Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world with 54 world-renowned medical research and academic institutions.
- Weather: Mild winters with enjoyable year round outdoor activities.
- Restaurants: Houston is known as the Culture & Culinary Capital of Texas; more than 7,500 restaurants and eating establishments.
- Arts & Culture: Museum District of Fine Arts, Natural Science, Zoo, and Outdoor Theater for live performances. Other major performing arts include Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, The Alley Theatre (Drama) and Houston Ballet.
- Sports: Houston Texans, Houston Rockets, Dynamo Soccer Team, Houston Astros, and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Bob Mitchell is President of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. He has a 34 years of experience in economic development, process controls and manufacturing management in the Houston region.
Terry Higginbotham is a business consultant at Workforce Solutions. He graduated with a degree in Business Management.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_26420.htm
- US Census Bureau, Houston, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml
- Interview with Bob Mitchell
- Interview with Terry Higginbotham