Workforce growth

New report finds that Houston leads in Texas for energy efficiency jobs

Houston has the most energy efficiency jobs out of other metros in Texas, which has the second-most energy efficiency jobs in the country. Getty Images

The Houston metro area has plugged into the power of jobs linked to energy efficiency. In fact, the region is home to more than one-fourth of Texas jobs that fall into this category.

A new report shows the Houston area leads all of the metros in Texas for the number of jobs tied to energy efficiency. The report tallied 43,730 Houston-area jobs connected to energy efficiency, compared with 41,235 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 15,872 in Austin, and 12,860 in San Antonio. The report was produced by the nonprofit groups E4TheFuture and E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs).

The number of energy-efficiency-oriented jobs across Texas rose by 5.3 percent last year to 162,816, according to the report. That puts Texas second among the states, behind California, for the total number of jobs in energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency workers account for 17 percent of all energy workers in Texas, the report says.

Of the energy-efficiency jobs in the Houston area, 15,806 are in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston Republican. That's the highest number of any congressional district in the state. Crenshaw's district includes Houston, Spring, and Atascocita.

"Energy jobs are critical to our economy and must be a priority when considering any industry regulation coming out of Washington," Crenshaw says on his website. "We have to unleash the power of the Texas energy sector and become the world leader in energy that we are meant to be."

The report defines jobs in the energy-efficiency sector as those involving goods and services that reduce energy use by improving technology, appliances, buildings, and power systems. Among these positions are construction worker, architect, manufacturing sales representative, and HVAC specialist.

The report, released September 16 at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials, highlights the economic potency of energy efficiency.

"While politicians argue over the direction of our energy transition, the economic benefits of improving energy efficiency continue to unite America's business and environmental interests," Pat Stanton, director of policy at E4TheFuture, says in a release. "Not only is expanding America's energy efficiency key to solving multiple climate policy goals, it is now integral to businesses' expansion plans — saving money and creating local jobs that cannot be outsourced."

In 2018, energy-efficiency businesses added 76,000 net new jobs, representing half of all net jobs created by the U.S. energy sector (151,700). About 28,900 energy-efficiency businesses operate in Texas, with the bulk of those in the construction and manufacturing industries.

The expansion of the energy-efficiency sector aligns with push by the Greater Houston Partnership to ramp up the region's focus on energy technology and renewable energy. This year, the partnership estimates, the Houston area will add 1,900 jobs in the energy industry.

Some of the new breed of energy-efficiency workers in the Houston area could come from San Jacinto College's new $60 million Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology in Pasadena. The center's first students began classes in August.

"We all know energy efficiency saves consumers and businesses money with every month's power bill," Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, says in a release. "We should also remember that energy efficiency is creating jobs and driving economic growth in every state — and doing so while also helping our environment, not hurting it."

Energy-efficiency workers are helping the environment by, for instance, building LED lighting systems, retrofitting office buildings, upgrading outdated HVAC systems, and designing power-sipping appliances.

"State energy officials understand that energy efficiency and the jobs that come with it [are] an integral and important part of the overall economy," David Terry, executive director of the state energy officials group, says in a release. "Policymakers at the state and federal levels will hopefully keep the size and reach of energy-efficiency employment in mind as they plan for the future."

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Building Houston

 
 

AvidXchange executives explain why a crisis like the pandemic can provide opportunities for growth or realignment. Photo via Getty Images

From esports to telemedicine, some technologies are having a major moment during the COVID-19 crisis. As many businesses are operating remotely with work-from-home policies in place indefinitely, payments automation is another technology that's seen an opportunity amid the pandemic.

AvidXchange, which has invoice and payment processes automation software for mid-market businesses, is one of the companies in this payment automation space that's seen growth in spite of the economic downturn caused by the virus. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company was founded in 2000 and went on to acquire Houston-founded Strongroom Solutions Inc. in 2015.

Since the acquisition, AvidXchange has quadrupled its presence in Houston and does a good deal of business locally. Equipping companies with tools for remote work is crucial — now and especially in light of Houston's propensity for challenges. Tyler Gill, vice president of sales for AvidXchange based in the Houston office and former CEO of Strongroom, joined Houston Exponential on a virtual panel to discuss this topic.

"We've had a history of disasters in Houston. Any time we can help businesses move to a more cloud-based infrastructure is going to be better," Gill says on the livestream. "I think working from home is maybe the new normal for a lot of employees — so how do we enable this?"

Gill and his colleague, Chris Elmore, senior sales performance director at AvidXchange, joined Joey Sanchez of HX for the talk about the acquisition, the pandemic, and growth for the company. If you missed it or don't have time to stream the whole conversation, here are some impactful moments of the chat.

“Economic downturns have a tendency to put a very bright light on a feature set or a product or a service that’s underperforming."

— Elmore says on how the pandemic affects innovation and startups. "My hope is that entrepreneurs will see this as a real time to get focused on their business — what's working well and what's not working well — and my hope is that they'll say, 'I need to fix that,' not 'I wish this was better,'" he says.

“For a young entrepreneur looking to build a business, make sure you’re looking for the people who are germane to your business.”

— Gill says about starting his business in Houston. At first, he was trying to find investors in oil and gas, but he found more success working with companies with a background in finance technology. "Houston has a history and density in fintech — I just had to find it."

“The fact that Strongroom owned the automated payment process in HOA that made them so attractive to AvidXchange because we didn’t.”

— Elmore says on the 2015 acquisition. He explains that AvidXchange had set up a presence in multifamily and commercial real estate, while Strongroom had a hold on homeowner's association, or HOA, business. The two companies competed for a while, and if Strongroom hadn't had their HOA specialty that made the company ideal for acquisition, Elmore says the two companies would still be competing today.

“When Strongroom was added to AvidXchange, our culture improved. By the way, we went from 40 employees to 1,000 within 14 months, and Strongroom was right at the beginning of that.”

— Elmore says on growth following the acquisition. The company now has 1,500 employees across seven offices and just closed a $128 million round of fundraising in April.

“Customers don’t care how big you get or how much money you raise from investors. They care about if your service is still doing the things they need to operate their business.”

— Gill says, reminding entrepreneurs to always prioritize and be focused on the client experience — through mergers or acquisitions, fundraising rounds, growth, etc.

“When you replace human interaction with technology, what you have to do, is to now move that person on to something more impactful and more important for the business. I don’t like tech for tech’s sake.”

— Elmore says on the importance of automation. "When you automate something, the output of automation is time," he adds.

“Houston couldn’t be a better place to build a business — I found great investors and employees here. It’s a city that’s used to risk. But it’s got to be you, the entrepreneur, that’s got something festering — that’s how you know it’s a great idea.”

— Gill says on inspiring future innovators. "What kept me motivated was I wanted to win. I felt like we had a great product, and we had a big market to serve. … I wanted to build something lasting and build a great team."

“We continue to be a great Houston story — some of my angel investors in Houston are still benefiting."

— Gill says on AvidXchange's presence in Houston. He adds that he's proud of how his former Strongroom team members have risen through the ranks of the company following the acquisition and that he sees the company, which is still privately held, moving toward IPO.

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