Onward and upward

Here is how Houston will fare after the infamous Amazon snub, says expert

Houston's moving on from one of 2018's biggest let downs. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Who needs Amazon.com Inc.'s second headquarters? That's the sentiment of the head honcho of The Woodlands master-planned community, who believes Houston represents a "great financial opportunity."

"Houston still has a great run ahead of us," the executive, says Paul Layne, at a luncheon hosted by the Houston chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). "Generally speaking, Houston is in good shape for next year."

"We have not done a fantastic job of attracting major corporations moving here, for a whole host of reasons," Layne notes. "We had hurricanes and we've had a number of issues that kind of scare people off."

"But generally speaking," he adds, "we are a low-priced, fantastic community, a great place to raise a family — probably the most friendly city in the country. Companies love that. We don't have to get the Amazons, we don't have to get the major corporations. We're doing great with internal [job] growth."

Layne is Central Region president of The Howard Hughes Corp., a Dallas-based real estate developer that owns The Woodlands, a 28,000-acre, master-planned community. Layne, a longtime commercial real estate executive in Houston, joined Howard Hughes in 2012. Aside from The Woodlands, he oversees Bridgeland, an 11,400-acre, master-planned community in Cypress, as well as developments in Maryland and Nevada.

While Houston needs to improve its education and transportation systems, it offers the ability to develop high-density real estate at a reasonable cost "with a great quality of life," Layne notes.

Speaking as part of a ULI panel at the Junior League of Houston, Layne emphasized the Houston area's healthy job growth. In October, the region added 117,800 jobs, up 3.9 percent from the same period last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In October, a daily average of 4,188 job openings were listed in Houston — more than any other place in Texas. That's according to a review by data-mining company Thinkum of online job postings at thousands of companies.

Among the country's 12 largest metro areas, Houston ranked first for both the number of jobs added in one year and the annual rate of job growth, the bureau reported November 23.

Those figures show the Houston area has rebounded from Hurricane Harvey and the energy slump, both of which depressed the region's job growth.

Houston was one of 238 communities that bid on the second headquarters of Amazon, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. Houston failed to make Amazon's list of 20 finalists for what's known as Amazon HQ2. Austin and Dallas were the only Texas contenders among the 20 finalists. Amazon decided last month to split HQ2 — and its 50,000 jobs — between Northern Virginia and Long Island City, New York.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

SeekerPitch exists to update the job hiring process in a way that benefits both the job seekers and recruiters. Photo via Getty Images

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."

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