H-Town jumped 43 spots into No. 97 this year. Photo via Getty Images

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

For better or for worse, automation is going to have an affect on specific jobs in Houston. Getty Images

New report identifies the Houston jobs that are most likely going to be affected by automation

the robots are coming

A new report from UpSkill Houston, a workforce initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership, puts the implications of workplace automation into stark focus. According to the report, more than 50 percent of middle-skill jobs in the Houston area face a higher-than-average risk of being upset by automation.

Peter Beard, who leads UpSkill Houston and is senior vice president for workforce development at the Greater Houston Partnership, says this means technology will "get embedded even more in the workplace than it's ever been before. … People's jobs will change because they have to work alongside technology. And there will be some jobs that get displaced because of that technology."

"Robots are coming," he adds, "but they're not going to replace us. We're going to have to figure out how to work beside them."

Middle-skill jobs require less than a four-year bachelor's degree but more than a high school diploma. In other words, jobs fitting into this middle ground might demand a two-year associate's degree or a training certificate from a technical school.

The report, released July 16, points out that middle-skill occupations in manufacturing and construction, for instance, face a high risk of disruption as companies adopt technologies that automate tasks, such as prefabrication of building materials. By contrast, the report notes, automation places jobs in the health care and service sectors in far less jeopardy because they generally rely on tasks that can't easily be automated. For example, jobs in health care often require social skills that can't be replicated through automation, which includes artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning.

However, jobs in health care aren't entirely immune from shifts in the workplace. The report indicates jobs in workforce segments like health care, sales and office support, IT, management, and drafting now require a medium or high level of digital skills.

That being said, all workers — regardless of their industry, occupation, or education — must embrace solid digital skills in order to succeed in the workforce, the report states. Beard says that to compete in today's workforce, a high school graduate must be proficient in Microsoft's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs as well as in a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce.

The findings in the UpSkill Houston report come at a pivotal time for the Houston economy, given the job-slashing double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and the oil slump. The pandemic "has accelerated and accentuated a fundamental change that has been underway — a change in the education and skills needed to be successful in the workforce today and into the future," the report states.

That change poses particular challenges for low-skill and middle-skill workers in the Houston area, according to the report. The report recommends that workforce development stakeholders, including employers, schools, and community organizations, build a regional "framework" aimed at ramping up skillsets so workers can seize increasingly elevated career opportunities.

"It all starts with the employer. The employer is in the best position to know what skills they need today and what skills they are likely to need tomorrow," Beard says. "Fundamentally, we're trying to create a supply chain of talent that meets the needs of our economy and the needs of our employers."

But that takes employers collaborating with schools to ensure those skills are being taught, he says, and employers and schools motivating students to consider jobs that incorporate those skills.

Beard assigns those skills to four categories:

  • Technical skills
  • Digital skills
  • Soft skills, such as communication
  • Problem-solving skills

"This whole push we've had that everyone should go to college and get a four-year degree has made folks consider jobs that don't require a four-year college degree to be menial," Beard says. "That same mentality has also permeated the employers. How many job descriptions have we seen that put a four-year degree requirement on them but that don't require four years of college education?"

New study shows Houston has more job openings than any other Texas city. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Houston becomes job capital of Texas with highest number of openings in the state

Get to work

As all good Houstonians know, the Bayou City reigns as the energy capital of the world. But, as it turns out, Houston also ranks as the job capital of Texas.

In October, a daily average of 4,188 job openings were listed in Houston — more than any other place in Texas. That's according to a review by data-mining company Thinkum of online job postings at thousands of companies.

In terms of the sheer number of daily job postings, Houston ranked fifth among U.S. cities in October, according to Thinkum. Seattle held the No. 1 spot (10,291 average daily job listings).

Thinkum's top 20 also included Austin (No. 6), with a daily average of 3,227 job postings, and Dallas (No. 12), with 2,685.

The abundance of job listings in Houston can be attributed, in part, to its status as one of the top U.S. metro areas for corporate relocations and expansions, as ranked by Site Selection magazine. In 2017, the Houston welcomed 196 new and expanded corporate facilities.

"Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. and companies thrive in our region. We are powered by a highly skilled and well-trained talent base that enjoys an excellent quality of life," Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said in March.

Career website LinkedIn says hiring in the Houston metro area climbed 14.3 percent in September 2018 compared with September 2017. On a seasonally adjusted basis (removing predictable variations for seasonal hiring), hiring went up 0.8 percent from August to September, according to LinkedIn.

That's good news for the Houston area, as the unemployment rate in September was 4.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with 3.4 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth and 2.9 percent in Austin.

A February report from Taylor Smith Consulting noted that the Houston economy had been in recovery mode after the collapse in oil prices and in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. However, one expert says Houston has now mostly bounced back from the economic slump.

Helping fuel Houston's economic recovery are initiatives like Houston Exponential, a new nonprofit designed to accelerate startup growth and, as a result, job growth. Formation of Houston Exponential was announced in October.

"The world calls Houston a knowledge capital because of the incredible concentration of ideas and innovation in our great city," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in October. "Technology innovation and a vibrant startup community are key drivers to Houston's present as well as our future. Through [Houston Exponential], we will create new, high-paying jobs, grow our startup and technology community, make accessing entrepreneurship capital available to all of our citizens, improve our quality of life, and lead this culture of innovation that inspires each and every one of us."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Houston organizations launch study to explore hydrogen-powered travel

sustainability takes flight

A few major players have teamed up to look into making air travel more sustainable — and it's all happening in Houston.

The Center for Houston’s Future, Airbus, and Houston Airports have signed a memorandum of understanding intended to study the “feasibility of a hydrogen hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport." The study, which will conclude in March of 2025, will include the participants that will collaborate ways to rethink how their infrastructures could be designed and operated to reduce an overall environmental footprint, and lead to hydrogen-powered aircrafts like the ones Airbus plans to bring to fruition by 2035.

In 2020, Airbus debuted its ZEROe hydrogen-powered aircraft project. The “Hydrogen Hub at Airports'' concept by Airbus unites key airport ecosystem players to develop ways to decarbonize all airport-associated infrastructure with hydrogen. The study will include airport ground transportation, airport heating, end-use in aviation, and possibly ways to supply adjacent customers in transport and local industries.

The use of hydrogen to power future aircraft aims to assist in eliminating aircraft CO2 emissions in the air, and also can help decarbonize air transport on the ground. With Houston being such a large city, and a destination for some many visiting on business, the Houston airports was an easy spot to assign the study.

"Houston’s airports are experiencing tremendous growth, connecting our city to the world like never before,” Jim Szczesniak, the aviation director for the city of Houston, says in a news release. “As we continue to expand and modernize our facilities, participating in this sustainability study is crucial. Continuing to build a sustainable airport system will ensure a healthy future for Houston, attract top talent and businesses, and demonstrate our commitment to being a responsible global citizen.

"This study will provide us with valuable insights to guide our development and position Houston as a global leader in sustainable aviation innovation for generations to come.”

The CHF was a founding organizer of the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, which was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of seven hydrogen hubs in the nation, and will work in the Houston area and the Gulf Coast. The HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub is eligible to receive up to $1.2 billion as part of a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production.

“The Center for Houston’s Future is pleased to have played a crucial role in bringing together the partners for this study,” Brett Perlman, the center's outgoing CEO and president, adds. “With Houston’s role as the world’s energy capital, our record of energy innovation and desire to lead in the business of low-carbon energy, Houston is the perfect place to develop our airports as North American clean hydrogen pioneers.”

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 fast-growing geothermal company, a human resources expert, and an outgoing climatetech CEO.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy

Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Fervo Energy, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Fervo Energy

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. Read more.

Karen Leal, performance specialist at Insperity

Karen Leal, performance specialist at InsperityTime to think ahead, business owners. Here's what this expert thinks you need to prioritize. Photo courtesy

Not only is upskilling your workforce on a regular basis good for performance purposes, it also contributes to a positive company culture, writes Karen Leal, performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, in a guest column.

"Learning and development (L&D) programs give employees the resources to grow within their current role and ready them for their possible advancement into new positions and/or another role or function," she writes. "This development should be a collaborative effort with the employee to support the employee’s growth goals. L&D programs build and strengthen your organization’s learning culture, which encourages employees to lean into the overall corporate culture and promotes employee engagement."

She goes on to outline the major benefits when developing L&D programs that impact business success. Read more.

Kevin Knobloch, CEO of Greentown Labs

Kevin Knobloch is stepping down as Greentown Labs CEO, effective on July 31. Photo via LinkedIn

While not based full time in Houston, Kevin Knobloch has led Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, as president and CEO for the past several months. Last week, he announced he's stepping down.

Knobloch will continue in his role until the end of July 2024.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.” Read more.

Houston investors back new platform for retail traders looking to follow financial influencers

making a splash

As anyone who witnessed the impact Gamestop's meme stock had on the country already realizes, influential investors can drive momentum within the financial sector. And one company with fresh funding from a Houston firm is betting on that exactly.

CashPool is a new mobile platform that gives everyday investors the opportunity to derive influence from the investment strategies and trades made by trusted and influential stock traders who have built substantial followings on social media platforms. By allowing retail traders the chance to join social media influencers’ various “pools” on its platform, CashPool is primed to change the way the masses acquire wealth.

This is the kind of algorithmic trading aimed at a new generation of investors that gets the attention of early-stage venture capital funds like Houston-based Ten X Labs, a pre-seed angel fund that recently invested in CashPool to help the trading platform continue its mission of transforming the investment landscape.

"We are thrilled to receive funding from Ten X Labs, as it validates our innovative approach to trading and investing," CashPool Founder and CEO Averett Barksdale says in a news release. "This investment will enable us to further enhance our platform, expand our user base and continue to revolutionize the industry. We believe that everyone should have transparent, governed access to profitable trading and investment opportunities, and through CashPool we are making that vision a reality."

Connecting the dots

CashPool is broker agnostic connector, allowing its users to keep their current brokers like Robinhood, Coinbase, Charles Schwab, Acorns, Fidelity, ETRADE, Stash, Sofi and Betterment and creates a seamless investment experience.

“We are that middle piece,” says Barksdale. “So your money stays on whatever brokerage you’ve connected to the platform, and we just execute the trades on your brokerage for you.”

Considering that users’ money remains with their original brokerage, how does CashPool monetize its platform?

“We don’t charge users to execute trades,” says Barksdale. “We charge per pool you join. So, on our platform, strategies are called pools and a user can join as many strategies as they want.”

Financial influencers set the strategies. These are profitable traders who have become influencers on various social media platforms and built-up followings comprised of people who are or are desiring to be retail traders themselves.

“There are a ton of people out there who actually are profitable traders,” says Barksdale. “Same as what we saw happen with GameStop and the whole Reddit situation. That was a financial influencer, right? It just so happens that he had a strategy that he thought would work and it turned out for a while it did work, right?

“We want to not only empower the retail trader, but empower these financial influencers who are profitable as well. Just because it's a whole marketplace out there for it. But a lot of times the retail trader doesn't quite understand who to go with. On our platform, you could see the results of these financial influencers right before your eyes on our platform. So you can see if they're profitable or not, or if someone's just on Instagram or whatever, social media platform posting screenshots but aren’t actually executing those trades.”

Increasing transparency

With trading, past success can be an arbiter for future performance, so with CashPool, users can choose to join the pools of influencers who have documented success as a trader on the platform.

“On our platform you can't hide,” says Barksdale. “We're connected to their brokerage account, so we see what trades they're making in real time. We also see their performance in real time, and we display that on the platform. That's something that you really can't get around. So if someone on Instagram says they traded this stock, then I made X amount of dollars and had this percentage of return, then you go to the platform and look at your pool and see they didn't do that and were lying the whole time, it’s literally just putting everything out there in the open. We have the kind of transparency that doesn't exist currently right now in the space.”

Broadcasting one’s successes is easy, but what about the losses?

“I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult just thinking, do people really want to show what they're doing?” says Barksdale. “But the thing that I've seen is a lot of these traders are a whole lot more competitive. And the traders who are doing it, they're constantly talking out against people who aren't actually doing it in real life.

“A lot of the traders who are actually profitable, they do live trades every day. But how do users if they should pay to get into a specific trader’s live trading session? Like, how do they know they're profitable already?

“On CashPool, users can see an actual influencer's win rate and say, 'Okay, 86 percent of the time they are profitable, and I could see how many trades they've made in total.' From that standpoint, users can make an educated decision on what pools to join and pay for.”

CashPool users can join as many pools as they see fit, but the cost of each pool’s membership may vary due to the popularity or success percentage rate of the financial influencer.

“You can join as many pools as you want, but what we suggest is you start by joining the pools of influencers that you already follow and trust, that you're already following like on Twitter or YouTube or Instagram or whatever it may be,” says Barksdale. “We are suggesting that you follow them first and you join their pools first. What we do is on the monetization side is we allow the creators on our platform who are the influencers to set their own price for their pool.”

Building a secure network

Outside of who or what to follow, information security is likely a concern for potential users. Financial influencers’ trade information is readily available (win percentages and number of trades, not dollar amounts), but users’ won’t be able to see other users’ information on the platform.

“Currently, we have a list of 10 brokerages who are on board, and then we're working to onboard more as we keep going on,” says Barksdale. “So, we have like your Interactive brokerages, and we also have a few other ones that are UK specific and Canada specific. We would love to have every single brokerage on the platform, but unfortunately, there are a couple that are still kind of playing hard to get, so to speak.”

The first rollout of CashPool is set, but version two will likely include content creation from the financial influencers.

Barksdale, who has a background in product development and experience working at companies like Charles Schwab and Fidelity, is mostly excited about the prospect of CashPool unlocking expert financial strategies for everyone, not just the financial advisors behind the closed doors of Wall Street.

“Yes, my philosophy is that financial health and financial growth should be accessible for all,” says Barksdale. “The thing that gets me is it needs to be responsible. So, for example, RobinHood is a platform that doesn't necessarily care if you are making responsible decisions, they just care that you're trading on that platform.

“Our platform is strictly focused on actually being the place where these retail traders can make responsible decisions centered around investing and trading.”