Was Houston snubbed? Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

In a recent report analyzing metrics for best cities for tech hubs, Houston failed to crack the top 20 — unlike a few other Texas cities.

The new report, "The Top Tech Cities in the US: Ranking 100 Cities in 2024," by online security experts Cloudwards, examined 100 tech-reliant cities in the nation across 17 key indicators, including salaries for information technology professionals, a city's cost of living, internet quality, job opportunities and tech-related companies, and more.

Austin is the No. 7 best tech city in the nation, yet somehow not the best in Texas; The Dallas suburb of Plano outshone the capital city at No. 4, and its neighbor Frisco came in at No. 10. Houston, however, came in at No. 22.


Courtesy of: Cloudwards.net

Here's how Houston stacked up in the major categories in the study:

  • No. 13 – Cost of Living and Tech Salaries
  • No. 16 – Career and Education
  • No. 40 – Tech Community
  • No. 44 – Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • No. 53 – Internet Coverage and Quality

Austin's spot in No. 7 behind Plano's No. 4 might be surprising, but, according to the report, the Texas capitol's higher cost of living is to blame.

"Texas’s capital, Austin is a good place for startups since it’s easy to find top talent, initial capital and inexpensive office space," wrote the report's author. "However, due to the rapid rise in population (3 percent between 2021 and 2022), the cost of living has increased and access to good real estate has become more costly. Even so, the city’s distinct culture, access to educational opportunities and work-life balance continue to make Austin a popular choice for many IT professionals."

With many employers still embracing remote work, having a good wifi connection can make or break a person's ability to work from home. It seems that helped Plano get a leg up on Austin; 96 percent of Plano households have internet access, which was the single best connection rate of any city in the study. Austin didn't make the top five — but at least it didn't make the bottom five either.

Frisco also topped out in one category in particular, earning the title as "the most livable city in the U.S." according to Cloudwards.

Average salaries for IT professionals in Frisco come out to about $95,516 annually, which is only a $217 difference from Plano at $95,733. Given Austin's middling rank on the list above, no data was shared.

Central Texas didn't have much representation on the list. Although there were several North Texas suburbs, the only city near Austin was San Antonio, which came in at No. 18. It was the "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" category that brought it down, ranking No. 72.

Nationally, the cities that round out the top five most tech-savvy cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – New York City, New York
  • No. 2 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 3 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 4 – Plano, Texas
  • No. 5 – Jersey City, New Jersey

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Six-figure earners live well in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Houston earns top-10 rank among best U.S. cities for workers making $100K

the good life

In Houston, $100,000 per year goes much farther than many other Texas cities. A new study by personal finance website GOBankingRates.com ranked Houston No. 7 on its list of the best cities for six-figure earners in the U.S.

The annual net pay after taxes for a six-figure earner in Houston comes out to $78,089, according to the study. When factoring in major expenses like rent, groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation costs, and miscellaneous expenses, that adds up to $43,105.46 per year, which leaves just under $35,000 leftover. Houston's continuing inflation troubles surely aren't helping, either.

Here's how GOBankingRates breaks down Houston's expenses:

  • Annual rent: $19,215.67
  • Annual groceries: $5,594.64
  • Annual healthcare: $5,563.35
  • Annual utilities: $4,389.79
  • Annual transportation costs: $7,364.29
  • Annual miscellaneous costs: $977.72
Houston appears one spot lower than its No. 6-rank in a similar 2023 study by SmartAsset. That study said Houstonians' six-figure salary was reduced to $74,515 after taxes, but was technically worth $81,350 when adjusted for the cost of living.

Houston wasn't the only Texas city to earn a spot in the top 10 where a six-figure salary goes the farthest. Higher up on the list is El Paso (No. 2) and San Antonio (No. 3).

After taxes and annual expenses, six-figure earners in El Paso have $37,685 left over, which is over $2,700 more than what a Houstonian would have with the same salary. In San Antonio, residents making $100,000 per year average about $41,008 in annual expenses, which leaves $37,081 in their pockets after paying all the bills.

For the second year in a row, the U.S. city where a $100,000 salary goes the furthest is Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis residents have nearly $40,000 leftover after taxes and annual expenses on a $100,000 salary, the study says. Like Texas, Tennessee also doesn't impose an income tax on its residents.

The top 10 U.S. cities where a $100,000 salary goes the farthest are:

  • No. 1 – Memphis, Tennessee
  • No. 2 – El Paso, Texas
  • No. 3 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • No. 6 – Wichita, Kansas
  • No. 7 – Houston
  • No. 8 – Tucson, Arizona
  • No. 9 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 10 – Indianapolis, Indiana

In the study's analysis of the top 10 most expensive cities for six-figure earners, New York City took the crown as the city where residents are left "in the red" by the end of the year. Following close behind is San Francisco, California (No. 2); San Jose, California (No. 3); San Diego, California (No. 4); Boston, Massachusetts (No. 5); Oakland, California (No. 6); Los Angeles, California (No. 7); Washington, D.C. (No. 8); Miami, Florida (No. 9); and Long Beach, California (No. 10).

The report analyzed the average expense costs in 50 of the most populous American cities, and subtracted those costs from each city's annual net annual pay after taxes on a $100,000 salary. Rankings were determined based on the amount of annual income leftover. Data was pulled from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the Zillow Observed Rental Index, and more.The report and its methodology can be found on gobankingrates.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston scored high marks for food, culture, and diversity. Photo viaIdeasLaboratory.com

Houston named best city in Texas and No. 11 in U.S. in prestigious report

best in tx

At least according to one new report, Houston is not only the Energy Capital of the World but also the livability capital of Texas.

A new study from Best Cities, powered by Resonance Consultancy, puts Houston at No. 11 among the best cities in the U.S. That’s the top showing among the six Texas cities included in the ranking. Houston appeared at No. 17 on last year’s list.

“Educated, diverse and hard-working, Houston is America’s stealthy powerhouse on the rise,” Best Cities proclaims.

Best Cities notes that while Austin grabs much of the best-city attention, “the promise of the Lone Star State drawing Californians and New Yorkers is quietly being fulfilled in Houston.” The website points out that the Houston metro area has gained nearly 300,000 residents in the past year, thanks to both domestic and international migration.

Here are some of the individual rankings that contribute to Houston’s 11th-place finish:

  • No. 4 for restaurants
  • No. 7 for culture
  • No. 8 for foreign-born population

“Houston is a diverse and vibrant metro where individuals can start a family, grow their business, attend world-class institutions and universities, or be immersed in the 145 languages that are spoken by our residents,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. “The quality of life we have in Houston is second to none, and the data we receive from placements such as … Best Cities further reaffirm the strength and resiliency that has come to define this great city of ours.”

A few spots behind Houston on the Best Cities list are No. 14 Dallas and No. 15 Austin.

What lifts Dallas to the No. 14 spot? These are some of the factors cited by Best Cities:

  • Location of more than 10,000 corporate headquarters
  • Strong showing (No. 2) in the airport connectivity category
  • Kudos for the soon-to-be-expanded Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas
  • Home of the country’s sixth largest LGBTQ+ community
  • Presence of the 28-block, 68-acre Dallas Arts District

Austin comes in at No. 15, one notch behind Dallas.

Best Cities praises Austin as “a place that’s incredibly livable. Talk to any entrepreneur leaving Silicon Valley or Seattle and chances are they’ve considered Austin.”

The website points to a number of Austin’s assets, such as:

  • Growing presence of Fortune 500 headquarters
  • Comparatively low unemployment rate
  • Location of the University of Texas’ flagship campus
  • Status as the Live Music Capital of the World
  • Home of the annual SXSW gathering

Two other Texas cities make the Best Cities list: No. 34 San Antonio and No. 94 McAllen.

Best Cities bases its list of the best U.S. cities on Resonance Consultancy’s combination of statistical performance plus qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors. Those figures are grouped into six main categories. This year’s ranking features 100 U.S. cities. To come up with the ranking, Resonance Consultancy assessed all U.S. metro areas with at least 500,000 residents.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How this Houston clean energy entrepreneur is navigating geothermal's hype to 100x business growth

houston innovators podcast Episode 237

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."