eavesdropping in houston

Overheard: Energy transition experts weigh in at Houston climatetech conference

Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit from both its Houston location and its Boston-area office. Photo via greentownlabs.com

This week, world leaders are discussing climate change and the future of our planet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, but local leaders were also discussing much closer to home.

Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit on Thursday, November 4, at both its offices in Houston and Sommerville, Massachusetts. The hybrid event featured a full day of networking, panels, and thought leadership.

Missed the conversation? Here are five key moments from the event.

​"Houston cannot transition without transitioning its workforce, and we need to help with that and make sure that people understand that. Demystifying the jobs of the future is key."

— says Juliana Garaizar, Greentown Labs' head of Houston incubator and vice president of innovation, in her welcome address.

"The energy transition in Houston needs to happen in an equitable way," she says. "Houston is the most diverse city in the US. It is up to us now to make it the most inclusive."

"The world will continue to need a lot of hydrocarbons for quite a long period of time, and Houston can and should remain a leader there. But it will not be an engine for growth."

— says Bobby Tudor, former chair of the Greater Houston Partnership and chairman of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co, in his keynote.

"If we are not going to have that business, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of all jobs in Greater Houston, be an engine of growth, we sure as heck better find businesses that are, or we will not have the same kind of prosperity that we've had in our region," Tudor says.

"The Energy Capital of the World will be the leader in the global energy transition."

— says Mayor Sylvester Turner in his address.

"As a lifelong Houston, I am proud of our history and proud of the innovation, growth, and prosperity the energy industry brings to our community," he continues. "But, as leaders of the energy industry, I believe it is our responsibility to continue this legacy and develop the innovative technologies and practices needed to decarbonize the entire energy sector worldwide."

"Texas has more potential to produce clean energy — wind, solar, storage — and efficiency than any other state."

saysHARC President + CEO John Hall in his address.

"And we're fortunate that today — even though we continue to lead the country in producing oil and gas — 40 percent of the electricity being used in this state is zero emitting."

"You don't get change by wishing and hoping. You need to plan and to act."

says Quantum New Energy CEO Patricia Vega on the panel about transitioning the workforce.

"We live in a world where we can track steps, calories, and likes on social media, but if I ask each one of you what is your carbon footprint or carbon efficiency, many of us don't know how to answer those questions and don't have the tools," she adds.

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Building Houston

 
 

Fertitta and his family have gifted $50 million to UH's medical school. Photo courtesy

As Houston’s most high-profile billionaire and owner of the posh 5-star Post Oak Hotel and Houston Rockets, Tilman J. Fertitta has become synonymous with over-the-top opulence and big-time entertainment.

But the CEO of the massive Feritta Entertainment empire’s latest move has nothing to do with penthouses or point guards, but rather a legacy, game-changing appropriation meant to aid his home state’s health.

The longtime UH board member and former chairman and his family have just pledged $50 million to the University of Houston College of Medicine. In turn, the new medical school has been christened the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

The projected school, upon completion. Rendering courtesy of University of Houston

This landmark gift aims to address the state’s critical primary care physician shortage, (especially in low-income and underserved communities), as well as attract innovation-focused scholars, UH notes.

Additionally, the grant is meant to further clinical and translational research, with an emphasis on population health, behavioral health, community engagement, and the social determinants of health, according to a press release.

Here is how the Fertitta family gift will be distributed:

  • $10 million funds five endowed chairs for faculty hires who are considered national stars in their fields with a focus on health care innovation. This portion of the gift will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships, doubling the endowed principal to $20 million.
  • $10 million establishes an endowed scholarship fund to support endowed graduate research stipends/fellowships for medical students.
  • $10 million will cover start-up costs for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine to enhance research activities including facilities, equipment, program costs and graduate research stipends/fellowships.
  • $20 million will create the Fertitta Dean’s Endowed Fund to support research-enhancing activities.

No stranger to writing big checks, Fertitta donated $20 million to UH Athletics — the largest individual donation ever — in 2016 to transform UH’s basketball arena into the now high-tech Fertitta Center.

CultureMap caught up with the CEO (who just sold his Golden Nugget gaming for $1.6 billion), best-selling author, and Billion Dollar Buyer to discuss his landmark gift.

CultureMap: Congratulations on this legacy grant, which has been a long time coming. What does this gift mean to you, now that it’s finally official?

Tilman Fertitta: This was a vision of our chancellors and, you know, I’m on my third, six-year term and not been the chairman for eight years — and we started working on this, seven, eight years ago.

To be able to be in the beginning and the nucleus, and the idea, and what we wanted, and to get the approval from Austin—to watch it come to fruition, how often does somebody get to do a naming gift at the same time they had a lot to do with the creation of the school? So, it was very special in my heart.

CM: Many know you as the CEO of a hospitality empire, author, and even TV personality. But not many know of your commitment to healthcare.


TF: I think there’s one thing in this world that we definitely should always be treated equally on, and that's that’s equal health care for all. This medical school will serve the whole community.

We’re trying to recruit students who want to be primary physicians who will take care of the community that we live in. It’s just something that was very important to me in my whole family.

CM: Academia, scholarship, and research aside, this could essentially be looked at as seed capital for a fledgling operation. Is that a fair assessment?

TF: I know where you’re going with this and yes, it’s no different than business.

I have the vision to know that being in nearly the third largest city in America and a top 100 university in the United States — as University of Houston is according to U.S. News & World Report — that I know what this is going to be in 50 years. It’s no different than looking at another business that you start and you can have the vision to see how successful it'll be in the years to come.

Being on the ground floor of the University of Houston Medical School and being a part of it from its inception, and to help the seed money that will attract other money, I know that in the years to come what a special nationwide medical school this is going to be — because it’s in one of the great cities of America.

So, to be a part of it today and still be a part of it when I’m not here 50 years from now, maybe even sooner than that [laughs], you know, it’s going to be something very special to always be attached to.

CM: Other Houston medical schools here have distinctions in pivotal research or groundbreaking procedures. Is there a specific direction you’d like UH Med to take, going forward?

TF: Honestly, you know, what I’ve been saying? There’s a significant shortage of primary care physicians, not only in the country, but in the state of Texas. We ranked number 47th in the nation.

What we need in the state of Texas, as well in Houston and everywhere, is primary care physicians to take care of your everyday people—and to see them to know if you need a specialist.

I hope that this medical school looks back and we see that they’re graduating more primary care physicians than any other university in the United States and that's our goal. We’re going to be a med school of the community.

CM: You have zero problem with issuing directives, Tilman. What’s your message to the first graduating class, the one that will initially benefit from this $50 million gold mine?

TF: Go out and take care of the people.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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