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

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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