Folks are making a run to Missouri City. Photo Courtesy Missouri City

More movers hauled their belongings to Texas than any other state last year. And those headed to the Greater Houston area were mostly pointed toward Missouri City and Conroe, according to a new study.

In its recently released annual growth report, U-Haul ranks Missouri City and Conroe at No. 13 and No. 19, respectively among U.S. cities with the most inbound moves via U-Haul trucks in 2022. Richardson was the only other Texas cities to make the list coming in at No. 15.

Texas ranks No. 1 overall as the state with the most in-bound moves using U-Haul trucks. This is the second year in a row and the fifth year since 2016 that Texas has earned the distinction.

“The 2022 trends in migration followed very similar patterns to 2021 with Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and the Southwest continuing to see solid growth,” U-Haul international president John Taylor says in a news release. “We still have areas with strong demand for one-way rentals. While overall migration in 2021 was record-breaking, we continue to experience significant customer demand to move out of some geographic areas to destinations at the top of our growth list.”

U-Haul determines the top 25 cities by analyzing more than 2 million one-way U-Haul transactions over the calendar year. Then the company calculated the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a specific area versus departing from that area. The top U-Haul growth states are determined the same way.

The studies note that U-Haul migration trends do not directly correlate to population or economic growth — but they are an “effective gauge” of how well cities and states are attracting and maintaining residents.

Missouri City is known for its convenient location only minutes from downtown Houston. The city’s proximity to major freeways, rail lines, the Port of Houston, and Bush and Hobby Airports links its businesses with customers “around the nation and the world,” per its website.

The No. 19-ranked city of Conroe is “the perfect blend of starry nights and city lights,” according to the Visit Conroe website. Conroe offers plenty of outdoor activities, as it is bordered by Lake Conroe, Sam Houston National Forest and W. Goodrich Jones State Forest. But it also has a busy downtown area with breweries, theaters, shopping and live music.

To view U-Haul’s full growth cities report, click here.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Conroe is tops in Texas and No. 3 in the nation's list of boomtowns. Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Houston neighbor clocks as one of the best U.S. cities for remote workers

working from home

Working remotely is increasingly part of the modern lifestyle, and a new report cements a Houston neighbor as one of the top places for remote workers.

Apartment search website RentCafe ranks Conroe No. 15 in its Top 50 Cities for Remote Workers, released in November.

The study looked at 150 U.S. cities, comparing them across five main categories: leisure, affordability, comfort, rental demand, and remote work readiness. Scores were based on 19 metrics, from cost of living, availability of apartments with short-term leases, and rental demand to coworking spaces, percentage of remote workers, and internet speed.

"With remote work migration on the rise, we uncovered the most desirable cities to move to across the nation if you work remotely," the website says. It suggests that remote workers on the move "look toward the South and Southeast, where we identified several cities that offer the perfect balance between comfort, value, leisure and remote work-readiness."

Conroe ranks best for:

  • Number of high-end units
  • Share of new apartments
  • Number of apartments with access to sports amenities

Three other Texas cities join Conroe in the top 15. College Station (No. 9) makes the cut for remote workers due to its high availability of short-term rentals, large population of rentals, and access to sports amenities.

In the Austin metro area, both Austin (No. 13) and Round Rock (No. 11) appear, thanks in part to access to internet connection, average download speed, and the number of remote workers.

Lower on the list, but still in the top 50, are: Plano (No. 23), Lubbock (No. 27), Houston (No. 35), Amarillo (No. 36), San Antonio (No. 41), Dallas (No. 42), and Fort Worth (No. 46).The top city for remote workers, according to RentCafe, is Greenville, South Carolina.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Conroe is tops in Texas and No. 3 in the nation's list of boomtowns. Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Hardworking Houston suburb tops list of biggest boomtowns in Texas

growth spurt

The Houston suburb of Conroe has come a long way since Civil War veteran Isaac Conroe planted roots there in October 1881 with the purchase of a tract of land and the establishment of a sawmill.

Fast forward 140 years, and Conroe now reigns as the leading boomtown in Texas. On November 2, personal finance website SmartAsset released a study ranking Conroe as the No. 1 boomtown in the state. Even more impressive: The city ties with Meridian, Idaho, for the No. 3 spot among the nation's top boomtowns. The No. 1 city overall is Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.

Conroe did not show up among the country's top 50 boomtowns in SmartAsset's 2019 study.

SmartAsset evaluated data for 500 of the largest U.S. cities to come up with its list of the top boomtowns. It looked at growth factors for each city such as five-year population change, average yearly growth in economic output (GDP), five-year change in number of businesses, five-year growth in housing, and August 2021 unemployment rate.

Among the 500 cities, Conroe ranks fifth for the five-year population change (26.03 percent) and fourth for the five-year growth rate in housing (39.69 percent). On SmartAsset's 100-point boomtown scale, Conroe earns a score of 97.59.

As of April 2020, Conroe was home to nearly 90,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Population growth in Conroe is not slowing. The increase continues to be steady. Conroe's median age and educational attainment [are] ideal for businesses looking to locate here," Danielle Scheiner, executive director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, said in April.

Conroe is the only city in the Houston area to make the top 50 on SmartAsset's boomtown list. However, five other Texas cities did break into the top 50:

  • New Braunfels (San Antonio metro area), tied for No. 14 with Concord, North Carolina. Boomtown score: 89.83. New Braunfels appeared at No. 6 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • Austin, No. 17. Boomtown score: 89.52. Austin appeared at No. 12 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • Round Rock (Austin metro area), tied for No. 25 with Charleston, South Carolina. Boomtown score: 86.98. Round Rock appeared at No. 10 in SmartAsset's 2019 study.
  • Denton (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area), No. 36. Boomtown score: 83.87. Denton appeared at No. 2 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • McKinney (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area), No. 39. Boomtown score: 83.59. McKinney appeared at No. 14 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.

Four Texas cities dropped out of the boomtown ranking from 2019 to 2021: Frisco, which ranked 13th two years ago; College Station, ranked 16th; Flower Mound, ranked 24th; and Allen, ranked 37th.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Rice University announces leader of new materials and nanotechnology institute

at the helm

A recently established institute at Rice University has revealed its new leader.

The Rice Advanced Materials Institute has named Lane Martin as director. Martin will also serve as Welch Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering in the George R. Brown School of Engineering. He begins both roles on July 1.

“Lane is everything we expect our faculty to be — hard-working, committed to excellence, dedicated to students and collaborative across disciplines,” says Howard R. Hughes Provost Amy Dittmar in a news release. “I look forward to seeing Rice faculty and students reap the benefits of his leadership.”

Prior to his appointment at Rice, Martin was the chancellor’s professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He also served as chair of the materials science and engineering department, faculty scientist in the material sciences division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and co-director of the Collaborative for Hierarchical Agile and Responsive Materials, according to the release.

“I had the privilege of mentoring Lane when he was a doctoral student at Berkeley,” says Ramamoorthy Ramesh, vice president for research, professor of materials science and nanoengineering and professor of physics and astronomy. “He is a gifted scientist with the boldness and vision to build this new institute into a research powerhouse.”

The new institute was created following a $100 million gift from Houston-based Welch Foundation. It will bring together chemistry, materials science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to revolutionize the future of industry.

“This institute will keep Rice at the forefront of high-impact research related to energy transition, advanced materials and future computing,” says Luay Nakhleh, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the school, in the release. “It will empower our faculty and students to help solve some of the most pressing problems of our day.”

Report: Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states

moving on up

The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita
For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

Investor advocates now is the time to position Houston as a leading biomanufacturing hub

houston innovators podcast episode 178

Houston has all the ingredients to be a successful synthetic biology hub, says Veronica Wu. She believes so strongly in this that she relocated to Houston from Silicon Valley just over a year ago to start a venture capital firm dedicated to the field. Since then, she's doubled down on her passion for Houston leading in biotech — especially when it comes to one uniquely Houston opportunity: biomanufacturing.

While Houston's health care innovation scene is actively deploying synthetic biology applications, Wu points to Houston-based Solugen, a plant-based chemical producer, as an example of what Houston has to offer at-scale industrial biomanufacturing. Houston has the workforce and the physical space available for more of these types of biomanufacturing plants, which have a huge potential to move the needle on reducing carbon emissions.

"This is really fundamental technology that's going to change the paradigm and whole dialogue of how we are making a significant impact in reducing a carbon footprint and improving sustainability," says Wu, founder and managing partner of First Bight Ventures, on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Several aspects — government funding, corporate interest, advances in technology — have converged to make it an ideal time for synthetic biology innovators and investors, Wu explains on the show, and she has an idea of what Houston needs to secure its spot as a leader in the space: The BioWell.

First introduced at a Houston Tech Rodeo event at the Texas Medical Center's Innovation Factory, The BioWell is a public-private partnership that aims to provide access to pilot and lab space, mentorship and programming, and more support that biomanufacturing innovators critically need.

"The way we envision The BioWell is it will provide a holistic, curated support for startups to be able to get across the Valley of Death," Wu says, explaining that startups transitioning from research and development into commercialization need extra support. The BioWell will provide that, as well as allow more engagement from corporations, investors, and other players.

Now that her plans for The BioWell have been announced, Wu is looking for those who want to be a part of it.

She shares more about her mission and what's next for First Bight Ventures on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.