Watch out, world. Here comes Houston.
Houston ranks fifth on a new 2019-20 list of the 10 North American Cities of the Future produced by the fDi Intelligence division of the Financial Times. New York grabbed the No. 1 spot, followed by San Francisco, Toronto, and Montreal. Following Houston were Chicago; Boston; Los Angeles; Palo Alto, California; and Seattle.
The ranking is based on data in five categories:
- Economic potential
- Business friendliness
- Human capital and lifestyle
- Cost effectiveness
Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership, says Houston's "ethnically and culturally diverse population" coupled with its "robust and globally connected economy" help form a solid foundation for the city's future.
The North American Cities of the Future ranking is certainly not the only such accolade that Houston has garnered. Hailing Houston as "the American city of the future," Resonance Consultancy, a consulting firm, ranks Houston the 11th best large city in the U.S.
"Positive rankings and recognition like this help us continue to attract the best and brightest minds both domestically and around the world," Davenport says. "Houston has long been a place that solves the world's most complicated problems — from putting humans on the moon to pioneering open-heart surgery. But we make a conscious choice to measure ourselves not on past accomplishments but on what we do next."
Davenport cites Houston's vibrant startup scene, 21 Fortune 500 companies, and burgeoning innovation corridor, along with the presence of the world's largest medical complex, as helping position the city for economic growth.
She also mentions the fact that nearly one-fourth of local residents are foreign-born and that more than 145 languages are spoken. In April 2019, personal finance website WalletHub named Houston the most diverse city in the U.S.
"In short, the Houston of today looks like the United States of tomorrow," Davenport says.
In a March 2019 report, the Center for Houston's Future noted that Houston's economic growth — namely in the construction, healthcare and IT sectors — depends heavily on the continued influx of immigrants. Immigrants already make up nearly one-third of the region's workforce, the report says.
Between 2016 and 2036, almost 60 percent of all jobs added in the region will be filled by foreign-born workers, the report indicates.
Also on the international front, more than 5,000 Houston companies do business abroad, Davenport says, and more than 500 foreign-owned companies have invested in Houston in the past decade.
As Houston looks toward the future, business leaders will continue to diversify the economy through such sectors as life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and technology, according to Davenport. In addition, business leaders will keep driving the transition from traditional fossil fuels to "new energy" sources (like wind and solar), she says.
"Houston's future is a bright one," Davenport says. "Our young and well-educated workforce, coupled with targeted infrastructure investments, will help us become a hub for innovation in the years ahead."
Business Facilities magazine agrees with that assessment. In July 2018, it ranked Houston the No. 1 metro area for economic growth potential, stressing that the region's economy has expanded beyond Big Oil and that it's brimming with "innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship."
"Houston has a distinctly favorable business climate. The region benefits from a skilled workforce, world-class infrastructure and transportation system, and a pro-business environment that stimulates rather than stifles business growth," the magazine says.