Based on business activity in town, a new study ranks Houston as a top city for Asian Americans. Photo via Getty Images

Known for its diversity, Houston ranks as the third best major metro area in the U.S. for Asian American entrepreneurs, according to a new study.

Personal finance website SmartAsset analyzed data for 52 of the largest metro areas to come up with the ranking. The analysis looked at nine metrics in three categories: prevalence of Asian-owned businesses, success of new businesses, and income and job security.

About 9 percent of the Houston metro area’s residents identify as Asian.

The SmartAsset study puts Houston in fifth place for the number of Asian-owned businesses (nearly 19,900) and in fourth place for the share of Asian-owned businesses (almost 17.9 percent) among all businesses. Furthermore, Houston ranks 14th for the increase (nearly 9.6 percent) in the number of Asian-owned businesses from 2017 to 2019.

Leading the SmartAsset list is the San Francisco metro area, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth. Austin comes in at No. 11 and San Antonio at No. 14.

The largest minority-owned business in the Houston area, as ranked by annual revenue, is Asian-owned private equity firm ZT Corporate.

Founded in 1997 by Chairman and CEO Taseer Badar, who was born in Pakistan, ZT Corporate is valued at more than $1 billion. ZT Corporate generates more than $900 million in annual revenue, according to the company, and employs over 3,000 people.

“As we look ahead, the vision for ZT Corporate is limitless. Our team will continue pushing boundaries and finding the bright spots in the economy that produce consistent financial gains for our investors,” Badar says in a news release marking his company’s 25th anniversary.

ZT Corporate’s flagship businesses are:

  • Altus Community Healthcare, a provider of health care services.
  • ZT Financial Services, a wealth management firm.
  • ZT Motors, which owns and operates auto dealerships. Last year, ZT Motors bought three Ron Carter dealerships in the Houston area.

“ZT Corporate is a vital asset to our citizens as a longtime local employer,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says, “and has positively affected many lives through their health care organizations and philanthropic efforts.”

The city tapped key partners for the initiative, including a Houston startup. Photo courtesy

City of Houston launches annual career development and internship program for young adults

for the kids

City officials and business leaders in Houston are recruiting employers to collectively offer at least 12,000 paid jobs and internships this summer for local 16- to 24-year-olds.

Organizers on March 8 kicked off this year’s Hire Houston Youth initiative. It encourages employers in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to bring aboard youth for summertime jobs and internships.

One of the program's partner is Ampersand, a Houston-based startup and tech platform that has designed a career-readiness curriculum for this age group. In partnership with the City of Houston, Ampersand customized a portion of its curriculum to upskill and prepare young Houstonians for the workforce across 35 lessons, five modules, and four hours of content — all of which provide essential job skills ranging from email best practices to mental health management in the workplace.

Employers can sign up for Hire Houston Youth online. The deadline for youth to apply for jobs or internships through this program has been extended from March 11 to April 8.

“Employment plays a pivotal role in reducing gender, ethnic, racial, and other social inequalities,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. “Therefore, providing meaningful employment experiences for our youth is in the best interest of all, including young people, their communities, and Houston as a whole.”

In 2021, as the city coped with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hire Houston Youth offered more than 9,500 opportunities. This year, Turner hopes the program can produce at least 12,000 jobs and internships, and as many as 15,000.

The National League of Cities recently awarded a $150,000 grant to Hire Houston Youth. In addition to the grant, Houston will receive assistance from National League of Cities staff and other experts to advance the city’s efforts to expand STEM career opportunities for marginalized young people.

The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. ranks as the highest among all age groups. In the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the national unemployment rate for the 16 to 24 age group stood at 8.4 percent. No other age group had an unemployment rate above 4.1 percent in 2019.

The jobless rate for people of color and lower-income people in this age group has historically been higher than the overall rate for that age group.

The pandemic exacerbated unemployment woes for 16- to 24-year-olds in the Houston area around the country. Data compiled by the Schultz Family Foundation and Mathematica shows that during the peak of the pandemic, youth unemployment rates in the Houston area ranged between a low of 12.6 percent from July to December 2020 and a high of 16.1 percent from January to June 2021.

The Measure of America project estimates that more than 4.1 million Americans in the 16-24 group are neither working nor attending school. In Harris County, 13.4 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in Harris County met that definition in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

“The years 16-24 are crucial for the development of human capital — through activities such as education and workforce preparation that pay dividends in the form of higher wages, lower unemployment, and other benefits later in life. Yet even before the pandemic, many young people were disconnected from school and work and the economic opportunities that follow,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says in a 2021 report.

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs." Photo via Getty Images

Houston real estate report reflects growth in flex space

flexing on Hou

Flex office space is finding favor with businesses in Houston.

While the Houston area’s office vacancy rate climbed as high as 25 percent last year, the region recently added more flex office space than any other U.S. office market on a percentage basis. From the fourth quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021, the Houston market gained a little over 5 percent more flex space compared with the previous 12-month period, according to a data analysis by Dallas-based commercial real estate services provider CBRE.

Dallas-based Common Desk, a provider of flex office space being acquired by coworking giant WeWork, accounted for 84 percent of the Houston market’s net expansion of flex office space during the 12-month span analyzed by CBRE. Of the 152,977-square-foot net expansion during that time, Common Desk represented 129,000 square feet, CBRE says.

Common Desk has six open or soon-to-open spaces in the Houston area: five locations in Houston and one location in Spring. Aside from Common Desk, flex space operators in the Houston market include Houston-based Boxer Property Management and Austin-based Firmspace, as well as New York City-based companies Industrious, Serendipity Labs, and WeWork.

As of the third quarter of 2021, Houston’s inventory of flex office space stood at 3.1 million square feet. That was the seventh largest inventory among the 49 North American markets examined by CBRE. Flex space made up 1.4 percent of overall office space in Houston.

Flex office space appeals to a variety of tenants, such as startups looking to cut costs, businesses needing short-term space, and companies navigating the pandemic-driven rise in hybrid work arrangements.

“During the pandemic, flexible space has become a more important office amenity in Houston as companies respond to employee desires for flexibility in how they work,” Rich Pancioli, executive vice president in the Houston office of CBRE, says in a news release. “As companies seek to optimize their office portfolios, many are using flexible space as a key tool to test new strategies in a fast-changing environment.”

At one time, CBRE clients heavily emphasized amenities like food services, fitness centers, and health care facilities during their office searches, Pancioli says. Now, many clients are placing a greater priority on flex space or coworking space.

As demand goes up, developers such as Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management and Houston-based Hines (whose offering is known as The Square) have dipped their toes into the flex office pool. Hines has two flex office spaces in Houston and one space in Salt Lake City. When Hines rolled out The Square in 2019, it identified Atlanta, Boston, Denver, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., as potential expansion markets.

While Houston’s availability of flex office space increased during the period studied by CBRE, flex space providers in North America collectively trimmed their portfolios by 9 percent. That led to a decline in the sector’s share of the overall office market from about 2 percent to about 1.75 percent. However, a CBRE survey of 185 U.S.-based companies finds a growing appetite for flex space.

“Flex space has become a skeleton key that companies can use to address their changing office needs,” says Julie Whelan, CBRE’s global head of occupier research.

“They can use it to adjust their office portfolio as they figure out how hybrid work will affect their employees’ office use patterns. They can use flex space to quickly secure a foothold in new markets to tap a different base of talent,” she adds. “Some will use flexible office space to offer employees more choice like access to physical space closer to their homes. In short, flex space allows companies to be more nimble.”

Houstonians and visitors alike have a new technology to help them find their way around town. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

Houston installs new smart city tech to better engage community and visitors

upgrade

Finding your way around Houston is going digital.

On February 7, city officials and others unveiled the first in a series of interactive wayfinding kiosks in Houston. The inaugural kiosk sits at Walker Street and Avenida De Las Americas, adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

IKE (Interactive Kiosk Experience) Smart City, a venture of Columbus, Ohio-based Orange Barrel Media, secured the city contract for the kiosks.

According to a City of Houston news release, the citywide IKE initiative is designed “to build smart city infrastructure that enhances the pedestrian experience for residents and visitors, while adding vibrancy to Houston’s urban landscape.”

The new IKE kiosks are touch screen. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

Installation of the 25 IKE kiosks will happen in phases. Among the areas where kiosks will appear are downtown, Uptown, Midtown, Montrose, the Museum District, the Texas Medical Center, the Greater Third Ward, EaDo, Upper Kirby, Gulfton, and Sunnyside.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says Houston “has so much to offer, and the IKE digital kiosks will be an exciting new amenity to help guide people in various directions to enjoy events, restaurants, and much more. These kiosks are one of the many ways Houston is moving forward with creating more walkable spaces that make for a safer and more pleasant experience.”

Each free-to-use kiosk serves as a geo-located Wi-Fi hotspot that enables information about what’s in the vicinity to be displayed on dual-sided touchscreens. The multilingual kiosks feature detailed listings of nearby restaurants, shops, businesses, cultural institutions, events, social services, and other resources. The kiosks also supply information about transportation modes such as public transit, bike share, scooters, ride-hailing, and walking.

Furthermore, the IKE system spreads critical real-time emergency information. This could include alerts about hurricanes, active-shooter situations, and missing people.

As if that weren’t enough, IKE has teamed up with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston to promote their exhibitions and artwork on the kiosks.

“We are excited to partner with the City of Houston, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the country. IKE will further activate the pedestrian experience providing widespread connectivity and equal access to information to all communities,” says Pete Scantland, CEO of IKE Smart City. “We look forward to serving Houston’s residents and visitors through IKE.”

The first IKE kiosk was unveiled February 7. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

Houston job growth is taking a while to bounce back, according to a new report. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Houston scores surprising ranking in new U.S. job growth report

growing pains

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hammer job markets around the country.

In Houston, a booming metropolis by any measure, latest figures from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s recent report give the Bayou City a 27th-place ranking among the 50 biggest metro areas in the U.S.

That works out to a negative 2 percent growth, per the study and a far cry from Austin. From February 2020 to November 2021, the Austin area posted a job growth rate of 4.11 percent, landing the Capital City at No. 2 on the jobs list of the best-performing markets among the top 50 metros, slightly below the 4.14 percent rate for the No. 1 rated Salt Lake City area, according to the chamber’s report.

For February 2020 to November 2021, here are the job growth rates for Texas’ other major metro areas, according to the Austin chamber:

  • Dallas-Plano-Irving — 4.1 percent, fourth-place ranking among the 50 biggest metro areas.
  • Fort Worth-Arlington — 2.2 percent, fifth-place ranking among the 50 biggest metro areas.
  • San Antonio — 1.3 percent, ninth-place ranking among the 50 biggest metro areas.

In an employment forecast, the Greater Houston Partnership calls for some 75,500 jobs to be created in 2022. The greatest gains, per the report, will occur in administrative support and waste management; government; health care and social assistance; and professional, scientific and technical services.

Yet, with this healthy job growth, Houston will likely fall 10,000 to 20,000 jobs shy of pre-COVID employment levels at the end of 2022, the report surmises.

Despite Houston’s job market not having rebounded to its pre-pandemic level, Austin-based job website Indeed recently ranked Houston one of the best U.S. cities for recent graduates seeking employment. Indeed cited opportunities in Houston sectors such as aerospace, aviation, and digital technology.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston adds yet another feather to its cap and has been recognized as the best place to be after graduating college. Photo via Getty Images

Houston ranks as top spot for young professionals based on standard of living

moving to Houston

Recruiting talent in the Houston area? Might want to share this tidbit of information.

A new study by two California researchers names Houston as the No. 1 place among the country’s 50 largest spots for college graduates to enjoy the highest standard of living. Why? Because, the study says, “local income is relatively high, cost of living is moderate, and there are no state taxes.”

Among places of all sizes, the study ranks Houston second in terms of the standard of living for college graduates. McAllen nabs the No. 1 spot, followed by Houston; Huntington, West Virginia; Beaumont; and Charleston, South Carolina.

In December, job website Indeed named Houston one of the 10 best cities in 2022 for recent college graduates. The 10 cities offer “many outstanding entry-level positions in a range of industries,” Indeed says.

More good news for Houston: The study ranks puts it at No. 2 (behind Buffalo, New York) among the 50 largest places in the U.S. for providing the highest standard of living for high school graduates.

According to the study, the five places with the highest standard of living for those with a high school diploma are Gallup, New Mexico; Summersville, West Virginia; Natchez, Mississippi; Graham, a town in North Texas; and Marquette, Michigan.

The study characterizes Houston and other regions as “commuter zones.” Each zone encompasses urban, suburban, and rural areas that feed into a single labor market.

As NPR explains, the researchers — Stanford University economist Rebecca Diamond and University of California, Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti — spent four years assembling and crunching data about the finances of 3 million U.S. households to come up with their findings.

“With their treasure trove of data, Diamond and Moretti constructed a cost-of-living index that paints a vivid picture of prices and typical consumption patterns throughout the United States,” NPR says.

That index puts Houston in a good light when it comes to the standard of living for both high school and college graduates.

“When we look at the factors that go into where a person chooses to live and work, overall standard of living and quality of life are critical components,” says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer at the Greater Houston Partnership. “Houston today offers abundant parks and green spaces with millions of dollars in new investments, a world-class arts and culinary scene that continues to grow in global awareness, and the lowest cost of living among major cities.”

These combined attributes create a quality of life that enables Houston employers to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce, Davenport says. This, in turn, helps Houston woo employers seeking access to that workforce.

“It’s a robust and thriving ecosystem,” she says, “and it continues to work to our advantage.”

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Experts: How to better prepare Houston to combat climate related challenges

guest column

Houston is no stranger to hurricanes, and in recent years winter storms have become an increasing concern. Following the winter freeze in 2021, more than 4 million Texans were left without power, water, or heat. The state’s infrastructure system was adversely impacted concurrently — including workplaces, hospitals, transportation, homes, drinking water distribution, electric power generation, agriculture, and grocery stores. Now, a new potential disaster is on the horizon. Recent research shows Houston is most likely to be affected by wildfires, a climate-related challenge that our city has not previously faced.

According to the Gensler Research Institute’s 2022 U.S. Climate Action Survey, since 2019, only 18 percent of Americans believe their communities are built to withstand climate change. The good news is Americans overwhelmingly agree that addressing climate change is urgent. The question many are asking is — “How can we take action to better prepare buildings and cities to weather the climate challenge?” The solution is simple. In order to understand where we need to go, we must understand how we got here.

With a population that has more than doubled in the past 50 years, it is challenging for most Houstonians to imagine a time when The Bayou City was nothing more than agricultural lands and oil fields. Today, Houston is known for being the fourth-most populous city in the United States. It is a sprawling concrete jungle home to the world’s largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions. When reflecting on the past 50 years, one can’t help but evaluate the city’s successes and shortcomings. While Houston has succeeded in becoming a diverse, international city, we have sacrificed the very ecology that once made up one of the country’s most productive agricultural areas. By 1980, Houston possessed the least amount of green space per person in the country.

As new developments popped up across the city, it became difficult to convince developers to pursue third-party certifications such as LEED, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability that provides the framework for designing healthy, efficient, carbon saving buildings. We can credit Hines with being one of the few developers in Houston to prioritize green design during the early-2000s. City leaders also began advocating for resilient strategies and more green space to attract and retain international talent and businesses. In recent years, we have seen an increase in buildings that are achieving LEED certification, and soon it will become the baseline.

The Houston Advanced Research Center, Photography by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography

An example of a project leading the way for resilient design is The Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). In 2017 the organization completed work on its LEED Platinum Certified headquarters which was designed to meet the ENERGY STAR certification rate of 99 (out of 100). This means that the building is more efficient than 99 percent of all office buildings in the United States. Skanska is another construction and development company bringing a sustainable mindset to downtown Houston with its work on Bank of America Tower. In 2019, the 775,000 square foot building became the largest LEED v4 Platinum Core and Shell certified project in the world to date and was developed with harvesting technology that will significantly reduce energy usage.

It’s also important to understand the impact that the climate crisis is having on people. 91 percent of U.S. Gen Z/Millennials have been affected by extreme weather events since 2019, the most of any generation. These experiences have resulted in two generations preparing to react and combat climate change and has encouraged a spirit of transparency among companies who choose to share their environmental goals and strategies.

For architects and designers, addressing building and energy codes is proving to be the next big design consideration. As codes progress in the coming years, the result will be more unique and unexpected building designs.

When reimagining the use of buildings, Architects Paulina Abella and Tayler Trojcak propose an experimental process for repurposing vacant buildings called High Hackers. The concept provides an opportunity for developers to offer prime downtown real estate to people with diverse skill sets, whom they call “hackers,” to pursue projects shaped by their individual ideas. These hackers—makers, artists, and academics—will work alongside one another in spaces that encourage them to coexist with creatives from other fields and disciplines. More importantly, it fosters a collaborative, organic, and innovative workflow.

When examining how you can better prepare and respond to ongoing climate-related challenges, we encourage prioritizing marginalized communities that are already experiencing most of the negative impacts. Promoting awareness and optimism in our communities is another simple yet effective way to make a difference. For businesses, creating a sense of continuity in the face of climate events, investing in energy and resource efficiency and adaptation, and addressing insurability and the long-term value of real estate will ultimately help lead Houston and its community members toward a place of preparedness and resiliency.

------

Rives Taylor directs Gensler’s Global Design Resilience teams and initiatives and has been a faculty member of both Rice University and the University of Houston for 30 years. Maria Perez is a design resilience leader for Gensler’s South Central region and director of sustainable design based in Gensler’s Houston office.

Houston-based organization premieres space health tech documentary

watch now

A Houston space health organization has launched a film that is available to anyone interested in how space affects the human body.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, which is housed out of Baylor College of Medicine in consortium with Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced a new documentary — “Space Health: Surviving in the Final Frontier.” The film, which covers how space affects humans both physically and mentally. It's free to watch online.

“This documentary provides an unprecedented look into the challenges – physical and mental – facing space explorers and the types of innovative research that TRISH supports to address these challenges,” says Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director and associate professor in Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine, in a news release. “We hope the film inspires students and researchers alike to see how their work could one day soon improve the lives of human explorers.”

The documentary interviews a wide range of experts — scientists, flight surgeons, astronauts, etc. — about all topics related to health, like food, medicine, radiation, isolation, and more. Some names you'll see on the screen include:

  • Former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott
  • Active NASA astronaut Victor Glover
  • NASA Associate Administrator Kathy Lueders
  • Inspiration4 Commander Jared Issacman
  • TRISH-funded researchers Level Ex CEO Sam Glassenberg and Holobiome CEO Philip Strandwitz

“Understanding and solving the challenges that face humans in space is critical work,” says Dr. Jennifer Fogarty, TRISH chief scientific officer, in the release. “Not only does space health research aim to unlock new realms of possibility for human space exploration, but it also furthers our ability to innovate on earth, providing insights for healthcare at home.”

TRISH is funded by NASA’s Human Research Program and seeks both early stage and translation-ready research and technology to protect and improve the health and performance of space explorers. This film was enabled by a collaboration with NASA and HRP.

New report shows why now is the time for Houston to emerge as a hub for hydrogen innovation

clean energy

Houston, known for being the energy capital of the world, has potential to lead innovation within the hydrogen space, and a new report lays out how.

The report, which was released today by the Center for Houston’s Future, is titled "Houston as the epicenter of a global clean hydrogen hub." The information explains how Houston-based assets can be leveraged to lead a global clean hydrogen innovation.

“The Houston region has the talent, expertise and infrastructure needed to lead the global energy transition to a low-carbon world. Clean hydrogen, alongside carbon capture, use, and storage are among the key technology areas where Houston is set up to succeed and can be an example to other leading energy economies around the world,” says Bobby Tudor, chair of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Houston Energy Transition Initiative, in a news release.

Together, GHP's HETI and over 100 experts representing 70 companies and organizations produced the report, along with McKinsey and Company, which donated significant research and economic analyses. Here are some highlights from the study, according to the release:

  • Clean hydrogen production could grow 5 times over current hydrogen production by 2050.
  • The establishment of a clean hydrogen industry could create 180,000 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) statewide, while adding $100 billion to Texas' GDP growth.
  • Globally, a Houston-led clean hydrogen hub could abate 220 million tons (MT) tons of carbon emissions by 2050.

“This report gives additional weight to the already strong case that Houston is uniquely positioned to lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub with global impact,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We can also deliver economic growth, create jobs and cut emissions across Houston and the Gulf Coast, including in underserved communities.”

The Houston region already produces and consumes a third of the nation’s hydrogen, per the release, and has more than 50 percent of the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines. These assets can be utilized to accelerate a transition to clean hydrogen, and the report lays out how.

"Using this roadmap as a guide and with Houston’s energy sector at the lead, we are ready to create a new clean hydrogen economy that will help fight climate change as it creates jobs and economic growth,” says Center for Houston’s Future CEO Brett Perlman. “We are more than ready, able and willing to take on these goals, as our record of overwhelming success in energy innovation and new market development shows.”