Moving in

3 tech companies ink deals in Greenway Plaza

Greenway Plaza, which has recently renovated to introduce new spaces like The Hub, has a few more tech companies calling the office park home. Courtesy of Parkway Property Investments

Three technology companies have executed new leases in Greenway Plaza. The leases represent over 20,000 square feet of space.

One of the companies has already moved in to the 52-acre Greenway Plaza, which is managed by Parkway Property Investments, LLC., while the others have move-in dates throughout the year.

"With renovations at Greenway 8 and 12 now complete, we're seeing broad-based interest from a variety of sectors drawn to an engaging, multi-faceted environment centered around convenience and collaboration with easy ingress and egress, a pedestrian-oriented layout, plus extensive and growing campus amenities such as the upcoming 80,000-square-foot Life Time Athletic club," says Parkway's COO, Mike Fransen, in a release.

Houston-based ThoughtTrace, Inc. is expected to move into its 4,358-square-foot space in Phoenix Tower the first quarter of 2019. The software-as-a-service startup uses artificial intelligence to make data entry and other tasks more efficient for oil and gas companies. The office will be the company's headquarters, and has regional sales offices in Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Pennsylvania. Allie Hubbard, Brandi McDonald, and Christina Ott with Limestone Commercial brokered the deal on behalf of ThoughtTrace, while Rima Soroka and JP Hutcheson represented Parkway.

DMC, Inc., based in Chicago, is moving its Houston office from the Upper Kirby area to Greenway Plaza. The cross-industry software and engineering services company plans to set up 6,403-square-foot space in 8 Greenway Plaza in the third quarter of this year. DMC was represented by William Padon of CBRE and Parkway by Rima Soroka and JP Hutcheson.

Industrial Internet of Things platform, Detechtion Technologies, relocated its headquarters last month to a 12,000-square-foot space at 8 Greenway Plaza. Amanda Nebel and Eric Siegrist represented Parkway in the deal, while Detechtion Technologies was represented by Joshua Brown and Evan Roland of Newmark Knight Frank.

In addition to the three new tenants, the office park saw a few lease renewals from tech tenants including 30,000 square feet of new leases for NextSeed, Joule Processing, SkillGigs, and Marker Therapeutics, as well as an 8,000-square-foot renewal by a commercial operations enterprise software provider, according to the release.

Today starts classes in San Jacinto College's new center. Photo via sanjac.edu

San Jacinto College is gearing up to open the Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology at its main campus in Pasadena — a $60 million project designed to bolster the Houston area's petrochemical workforce.

On August 21, the community college hosted media tours of the Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology (CPET). The center will welcome more than 2,800 students August 26 and host a grand opening September 18. The college broke ground on the 151,000-square-foot center in September 2017.

At CPET, future and current petrochemical workers will learn about process operations, troubleshooting, nondestructive testing, instrumentation, and myriad other aspects of the industry. In all, CPET will offer 75 courses. The center's highlights include an 8,000-square-foot glycol distillation unit, 35 labs, and 19 classrooms. San Jacinto College bills the center as the largest petrochemical training site in the Gulf Coast region.

"Four years ago, a team came together from San Jacinto College and the East Harris County Manufacturers Association to put together a long-term plan for workforce development," says Jim Griffin, associate vice chancellor at San Jacinto College and senior vice president of petrochemical, energy, and technology. "The Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology was part of that plan and is now a reality."

Griffin says the curriculum, classrooms, and labs were "designed and influenced" by the petrochemical industry.

Among CPET's more than 20 partners are:

  • Emerson, which donated more than $1.3 million worth of services and equipment.
  • INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA, which contributed $250,000 in cash.
  • Dow Chemical, which donated $250,000 in cash.

All three of those employers — and many others in the region — depend on schools like San Jacinto College to contribute to the pool of highly trained workers in the petrochemical sector.

"We expect to see a higher-than-normal level of retirements over the next five plus years; rebuilding our workforce is critical at this time," Jeff Garry, Dow Chemical's operations director in the Houston area, said when his company's CPET donation was announced. "The need to train and adequately staff our assets will continue to be a pressing concern. As the labor market becomes more competitive for talent, we understand the importance to attract and retain highly skilled and educated workers."

With four campuses in Harris County, San Jacinto College promotes itself as a training hub for the country's largest petrochemical manufacturing complex, featuring 130 plants and employing about 100,000 people. CPET will serve as the centerpiece of that hub. Overall, the community college says it "plays a vital role in helping the region maintain its status as the 'Energy Capital of the World.'"

PetrochemWorks.com — a petrochemical career initiative whose backers include JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and the East Harris County Manufacturing Association — says the local petrochemical industry will need 19,000 more skilled workers annually over the next three to five years.

"Chronic shortages of skilled labor are increasing costs and schedules and resulting in declining productivity, lower quality, more accidents, and missed objectives," according to Petrochemical Update, a news website.

Although robots are on the rise in many industries, Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who's an energy and technology expert, believes that as petrochemical companies increasingly turn to automation, productivity will go up, ultimately creating more jobs — not fewer.

"In large part," Mills writes, "it's desperation, not an infatuation with tech or cost savings, that drives employers to deploy technologies that amplify the capabilities of the employees they have and can find. It is a common misconception to think that automation is always cheaper than using labor."