Startup city

Houston named a top city to start a business

Startups fair well in Houston, a new study finds. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

Ten percent of the United States workforce — 15.3 million people — work for themselves, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In honor of National Small Business Week, a recent study sought out the best cities for starting a business, and Houston came in at No. 13.

WalletHub, a personal financial website, used 19 key metrics — such as five-year business-survival rate and office-space affordability — to compare 100 cities in the U.S.

Houston ranked highest in the business environment category with a No. 4 ranking. This ranking considered startups per capita, average growth of business revenue, length of an average work week, etc.

The other two rankings were access to resources and business costs. For those, Houston ranked No. 55 and No. 67, respectively.

The population of Houstonians starting new companies is growing every year. According to the Greater Houston Partnership's data, the greater Houston area added 11,700 firms between 2013 to 2018 — an average addition of 2,340 per year.

Aside from the unclassified new businesses starting up in Houston, the most popular industries for new companies are restaurants, individual and family services, and computer systems design and related services, per the GHP. Within computer systems alone, the region added almost 700 new companies over the past five years.

In a city named the most diverse in the country, about one-third (31.6 percent) of all Houston firms are minority-owned, according to the GHP. Asians own 17.6 per­cent, Hispanics 10.1 percent, Blacks 3.5 percent, and Native Americans, Hawaiians and other groups 0.4 percent. Houston was recently ranked as a top city for minority entrepreneurial success.

Meanwhile, one in five firms (20.5 percent) is female-owned — one in seven (13.8 percent) is equally male/female-owned. While the data varies slightly, another recent study found that Houston had the 7th most startups with female owners.

Perhaps most telling for the WalletHub's findings is that the GHP reports that nearly two-thirds (63.6 percent) of all Houston em­ployers have been in business six years or more.

Texas, which was recently named the top state for female entrepreneurs, fared well overall in the WalletHub study, with seven cities in the top 20. Here's how the rest of the state ranked:

  • Austin came in at No. 4
  • Fort Worth took the No. 11 spot
  • Dallas secured the No. 15 rank
  • San Antonio ranked at No. 16
  • Irving came in at No. 17
  • Laredo was named No. 18
  • Lubbock missed the top 20, but took the No. 23 spot
Mayor Sylvester Turner talked parks, innovation, firefighter salaries, and more at the Greater Houston Partnership's State of the City. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

In the 2019 State of the City Address hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership on May 20, Mayor Sylvester Turner took the stage at the Marriott Marquis in front of over 1,500 Houstonians.

Some of the obvious topics were of course on the table — pension reform, hurricane recovery, job growth — but Mayor Turner surprised attendees with the announcement of a public-private parks program and again alluded to the re-envisioned of Astroworld.

Here's what all the mayor promised in his address.

Public-private partnerships for Houston parks

Houston's major parks have undergone major transformations lately backed by private investments — Buffalo Bayou Park, Memorial Park Conservancy, and Bayou Greenways 2020, to name a few — but the city would like to shift focus to smaller, neighborhood parks across the city. To do this, Mayor Turner called for 50 companies to sponsor 50 parks.

"Today, I am asking the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Parks Board, and the Parks Department, to help me bring together 50 companies to form a citywide coalition for our neighborhood parks — primarily in underserved communities," Mayor Turner says.

Scott McClelland, president of HEB Food and Drug and board chair of the GHP, offered up HEB as a corporate partner for the program on the spot, despite the formal details of the program not yet being disclosed. Mayor Turner did specify that the park sponsorship would be a commitment over a few years.

"The 50 for 50 effort will touch every district in the city. All Houstonians should have easy access to welcoming, well-maintained, safe, and fun parks," he says.

A developed innovation corridor and a resurgence of AstroWorld

In both in his introductory address and fireside chat with McClelland, Mayor Turner talked about the emergence of Houston's innovation ecosystem. He cites the 140 percent increase in technology jobs as well as the 3,000 reported startups that call Houston their home. He mentions that Silicon Valley-based accelerator program Plug and Play is preparing to enter the market and another 25 million investment from the Houston Exponential fund of funds is expected.

"We're not walking; we're sprinting," Mayor Turner says. "There is no better place for an [innovation] ecosystem to take place than Houston."

Mayor Turner also credited Rice University's The Ion project as a major source of growth for the city's innovation ecosystem.

"We are building an innovation hub and corridor — in collaboration with academia, thank you, Rice, for loaning us the Sears building on South Main, and the energy and tech companies."

When discussing the innovation district, the mayor also gave a shout out to Travis Scott for being the "instigator" of a new AstroWorld-like theme park the city has in the works, but no details were disclosed in the address.

Rethinking Houston's transportation system

As Houston's population continues to grow, Houstonians spend more and more time in their cars fighting traffic. The mayor called for action to reimagine Houston's transportation.

"Our city has changed, the region is changing, and our transportation, transit, and mobility must change," he says. "People want options, and we must give them options."

Mayor Turner alluded to the Metro Next plan that will be on the ballot this November. While he didn't go into much detail, he encouraged support for the plan.

A raise for the Houston Fire Department

McClelland started the fireside chat with a question about the state of things after Proposition B's repeal following being deemed unconstitutional. The proposition, which originally passed last fall, would have matched Houston firefighters' salaries with police officers.

The mayor says that with the repeal, no layoffs or job cuts will be made within the Houston Fire Department. He recognizes that firefighters are in need of a raise, but it must be one the city can afford.

"Our firefighters are deserving of a pay raise," Mayor Turner says. "What I've put forth is 9.5 percent over three years, but look, my door is open."

The best is yet to come

Mayor Turner wrapped up his address on a positive note, saying that the city's growth will continue.

"The state of our city is strong, resilient, and sustainable," he says. "The best for us as a city has yet to come."

All of these initiatives on the mayor's agenda are working for toward uniting and enhancing Houston.

"We are building one complete city," he says. "And we work together, we win."