Three Houston companies have been recognized for their superior work environments. Getty Images

Hunting for a job in Houston? A new ranking from Fortune magazine suggests you might consider three local companies.

Camden Property Trust, David Weekley Homes, and Hilcorp Energy Co. all rank on Fortune's 2020 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, published February 18.

Fortune bases its annual list of the best workplaces on a nationwide study done by analytics firm Great Place to Work. This time around, the study featured input from more than 4.1 million U.S. workers who responded to over 60 survey questions.

Houston-based apartment owner and operator Camden Property Trust comes in at No. 18, an improvement over last year's rank of 19. The real estate owner and operator is known for a lighthearted corporate culture that has seen executives willing to poke fun at themselves and others at company events and celebrations, according to the list.

Camden Property Trust continues to be one of Houston's best places to work. Camden Property Trust/Facebook

There are also perks to working for an apartment landlord; 44 percent of employees live in Camden-owned apartments and take advantage of a 20 percent rent-discount benefit that collectively saves them more than $1.9 million per year.

Not far down the list, at No. 23, is Houston-based homebuilder David Weekley Homes, which makes a big leap over last year's rank of 41. Family comes first at this nationwide homebuilding company, says the report. Prospective employees often participate in Key Influencer Visits, where they are interviewed (often in their homes) alongside family members or close friends to help hiring managers better understand their personalities and backgrounds.

There's also an internship program designed specifically for employees' children and a discount on homes sold to staffers and their family members (a set percentage based on tenure). One worker says, "It really exemplifies how the company puts the employees first, even before customers."

New to the list this year is Houston-based oil and gas production company Hilcorp Energy Co. The largest privately held oil and natural-gas production company in the U.S., Hilcorp challenges its employees to think in terms of Big Hairy Audacious Goals, the lofty performance goals it sets every five years. For every BHAG met, employees are rewarded with significant cash bonuses and even new cars.

To meet these goals, CEO Greg Lalicker believes, total transparency is a must, from frontline employees to the CFO, according to the report. All financials, cash flow, investments, oil- and gas-price impacts, BHAG progress reports, and other critical information are shared in monthly, companywide "lifting cost" meetings. "It blows your mind to be in your first lifting-cost meeting and hear supersecret information," recalls one new hire.

Five other Texas-based employers also appear on this year's list:

  • No. 15. - Arlington-based Texas Health Resources ranks first among Texas-based employers and 15th nationwide on Last year, the organization ranked ninth nationwide.
  • No. 55. - San Antonio-based financial services provider USAA. Last year's rank: 30.
  • No. - 66. Dallas-based Ryan LLC, a provider of tax software and services. Last year's rank: 52.
  • No. 86. - San Antonio-based oil pipeline and terminal operator NuStar Energy LP. Last year it was unranked.
  • No. 88. - Dallas-based Encompass Health Home Health & Hospice, part of Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health Corp. Last year's rank: 54.

Nationwide, McLean, Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. ranks first on this year's Fortune list, followed by Weston, Florida-based Ultimate Software Group Inc., Rochester, New York-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., San Jose, California-based Cisco Systems Inc., and Pleasanton, California-based Workday Inc.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A.J. "Jim" Teague received glowing reviews from ex-employees. EnterprisePartnersProducts

Houston energy exec scores well on list of top CEOs at Fortune 100 companies

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Correction: The original article referenced information from a ranking from Upslide that mistakenly reported Jim Teague's Glassdoor employee approval ratings as 9 percent, rather than his actual approval rating of 96 percent. The corrected story is below.

CEO A.J. "Jim" Teague, of Houston-based pipeline company Enterprise Products Partners LP, has received top marks according to Glassdoor data. Teague receives 96 percent approval rating from employees who've reviewed him on the platform, according to Glassdoor.

The Money Inc. website says Teague, who became CEO in 2016, is working to reconfigure the culture at Enterprise Products Partners. "His goal is to shape that culture so that the company itself can become more popular with the general public," the website notes.

Teague has also received positive reviews locally. In December, the Greater Houston Port Bureau named him its 2020 Maritime Leader of the Year to recognize his support of the Houston Ship Channel.

"Building on the legacy of the late Dan L. Duncan, who started Enterprise in 1968, Teague has remained loyal to the founder's values of hard work, integrity, and perseverance, with an uncompromising commitment to safety," the bureau says in a release.

Fellow Texans also received top marks. As Fortune magazine once observed, Michael Dell's leadership style revolves around "vision, inspiration, curiosity, and ultimately passion." And as it turns out, employees of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies Inc. are equally passionate about their company's chairman and CEO.

According to Glassdoor reviews, Dell has a 97 percent approval rating from employees of Dell Technologies.

In October 2013, Forbes magazine offered a glimpse into how Dell interacts with employees of the tech company he founded in 1984.

After speaking to a group of Dell workers for about 45 minutes, "more than a dozen employees rush forward to have their picture taken with their iconic chief," Forbes wrote, "because they know he'll happily pose — something not many other tech executives would do. He doesn't disappoint. And he leaves them laughing and cheering again after answering a question about what's keeping him up at night. 'I've been sleeping pretty well lately.'"

You might be sleeping pretty well, too, if your net worth were $31.4 billion, making Dell the richest person in Austin and the 18th richest person in the U.S.

Another Fortune 100 company exec, Kelcy Warren, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, scores highly on Glassdoor as well. Warren's employee rating stands at 97 percent.

The respect paid to Warren by Energy Transfer Partner employees almost certainly stems, at least in part, from his laid-back demeanor. He reportedly favors a "non-hierarchical, collaborative management style."

"For all of his success, Warren remains a small-town sort of guy who likes to have buddies to his Dallas mansion on Wednesdays for beers, shuffleboard, and chain yanking," according to a 2015 article published by the Bloomberg news service.

With a net worth of $4.3 billion, Warren ranks 159th on Forbes' list of the richest Americans.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

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Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.