Anchors Aweigh

Houston Ship Channel poised for integral $1 billion expansion

Improvements include widening and deepening the 52-mile ship channel. Photo courtesy of Houston Port Authority

The busiest port in the U.S. is about to get a major upgrade. The Houston Ship Channel is set for a massive $1 billion expansion, the Port of Houston announced.

The new project, dubbed Project 11, is the 11th major improvement that the ship channel has undergone in its more than 150-year history. Improvements aim in part to widen and deepen the 52-mile ship channel, creating two-way traffic flow, and thus, safer and more efficient vessel navigation, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Al Green.

Project 11 will also aid the local ecosystem. By utilizing dredged materials, improvements will create 20 acres of new bird islands, build three marshes totaling 800 acres, and create more than 300 acres of new oyster reefs supported by reef pads to aid in their survival of natural disasters. Yet another ecological benefit: The expansion and development promises reduced emissions, potentially meaning better air quality for the ship channel and even the Greater Houston area.

Green has been an ardent supporter of Project 11 since its conceptualization in 2010. He arranged for more than $140 million in federal funding by working with the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and both sides of the aisle in Congress, a press release notes. Current goals are for the project to be completed by 2025.

“I am proud to help advance Project 11 for the host of environmental benefits it offers and because of the critical role it will play in fostering commerce,” Green noted in a statement, adding, “I look forward to advocating for the Port of Houston’s future activities keeping Texas and the City of Houston as a top exporter across our nation and leading competitor around the world.”

Each year, Houston’s port sustains more than 3 million U.S. jobs, supports more than 200 industrial facilities along the ship channel, and generates more than $800 billion in economic value, according to Port of Houston data. Statewide, the ship channel, which extends through the Gulf of Mexico, supports economic activity totaling $339 billion, the Houston Port Authority estimates.

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A version of this article originally appeared on CultureMap.com.

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Building Houston

 
 

This Houston staffing firm has tapped into tech to support the growing gig economy workforce. Photo via Getty Images

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

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