Report card

See where Texas falls among best states, according to a recent report

We're more so the worst than the best, a study finds. Photo by gguy44/Getty Images

How does Texas measure up to the rest of the United States? A new study comparing the 50 U.S. states in terms of healthcare, education, the economy, and numerous other factors shows that we aren't the worst state in the country, but we're certainly not the best, either.

Texas ranks 38th overall in U.S. News & World Report's best states rankings for 2019, down two spots from 2018. Washington takes the top spot, while Louisiana has the misfortune of being in last place.

For the study, U.S. News asked Americans "how satisfied they were with various state government services and where they thought their state governments should focus resources." The site took those results and rated each state on the areas above, as well as infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment. The most weight was given to healthcare, followed by education.

The Lone Star State, which is home to many notable companies (AT&T, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Dell, and others), ranks best in fiscal stability (No. 12) and economy (No. 15).

America's oil boom in the early 1900s transformed Texas, and the state continues to be a key player in the industry, as well as a leading destination for business, the study explains.

"Texas' diverse industrial base has drawn many businesses and workers in recent decades because of light regulation, low taxes and a low cost of labor," U.S. News says. "Entrepreneurs are particularly attracted to Austin, which emerged as a major player in the technology industry in the 1990s. Its 'South by Southwest' is one of the preeminent national tech conferences."

What else is working in Texas? "Traditionally, agriculture has been among the state's largest industries, and it produces the most livestock and livestock product in the country," the study adds. "The state also is a leader in export revenues, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Other industries driving growth include business, education and health, hospitality and manufacturing."

Texas, however, could stand to improve in many areas: infrastructure (33), crime and corrections (33), education (34), healthcare (37), opportunity (39), and natural environment (40).

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Wyzerr, a member of Station Houston's Ion Smart Cities Accelerator, has a way to better collect information from citizens. Photo courtesy of Wyzerr

In a 2019 report card handed out by Cincinnati-based startup Wyzerr, Houston didn't do too well — It got a C, a 2.5 out of 4. Houston is passing, but just barely.

Wyzerr didn't give the city a bad rating; Houstonians did. In July, Wyzerr sent two researchers downtown to hang out near public places — bus stops, street corners, etc. Overall, respondents said they are satisfied with dining options, shopping, and the airports but were really struggling to embrace long commutes, poor local transit, and even public services: the police department, local government, schools and parking all got grades of C minus.

Wyzerr, which has ventured to Houston to partake in the ongoing Ion Smart Cities Accelerator out of Station Houston, is focused on creating surveys that make it easier for companies — and, increasingly, cities and airports — to collect useful information to improve their offerings.

"You can't build perfect cities," says Natasia Malaihollo, founder of Wyzerr. "But if you make small, incremental improvements, you can start to see a difference in communities (through Wyzerr's smart surveys)."

Wyzerr began in June 2014 and focused on designing smart survey for retailers. Now, the company works with more than 2,100 small and large businesses, including Kroger, Walmart, Facebook, Unilever — a lot of consumer packaged goods, Malaihollo says.

Wyzerr is focused on creating engaging surveys to better collect information. Photo courtesy of Wyzerr

Consumers interact with many of these brands on a near-daily basis, and Malaihollo estimates a person might get his with 7 surveys in a day — some of which require dialing in, or going online, or filling out responses on a sheet of receipt paper.

But Wyzerr makes surveys fun — they're interactive and game-like. Most importantly, though, they're short. Nearly every survey is designed to wind a customer through 25 questions about their experience with a certain retailer, product or service in 30 to 60 seconds. There's a science to it — shorter word counts on survey questions, for example, and making the final questions as engaging as possible, because people usually start answering more quickly, and maybe less thoughtfully, toward the end of a survey form.

Malaihollo calls this a design-focused approach to market research, and it has gotten results. In some surveys, Wyzerr was able to gather data on up to 20 percent of total consumers. Unlike most survey engagement, which usually falls lower, Wyzerr's data meets the threshold for statistical analysis — a valid sample size, in mathematics, is 10 percent of the population.

Two years ago, the Cincinnati Airport approached them. Amid a stream of reports that airports would develop into great hubs for the future of retail, the Cincinnati Airport team wanted a way to track shoppers' satisfaction as they trafficked through the terminals. Wyzerr created a survey that connected to the airport's Wi-Fi system — if users wanted to log on, they had to take a brief survey first.

"That ended up being our most successful campaign," Malaihollo says.

Wyzer, which has a team of 12, has raised $2 million and is getting ready to raise more. Upon completion of the accelerator program, the company will work with a Houston neighborhood for a pilot program, and the team hopes to get their survey system on the Wi-Fi system in Houston airports early next year.

Now, Wyzerr focuses on gathering data for smart cities — urban spaces that offer higher-tech solutions to regular city activities, like parking, and use electronic sensors to collect data that helps monitor the public. For example, cities across the U.S. have adapted free Wi-Fi on public transit, parking lot trackers, smart traffic lights to reduce congestion, automated bike-sharing programs and pedestrian detectors at intersections.