Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

Houston fell from No. 42 last year to No. 66 Photo by Rome Wilkerson on Unsplash

Houston surprisingly plummets in prestigious list of best cities in the world

htown down

Economic investments and population growth are definitive highlights of Houston's success over the last year, but they weren't enough to keep it within the top 50 best cities in the world, according to a prestigious report by Canada-based real estate and tourism marketing advisors Resonance Consultancy.

The annual "World's Best Cities" report quantifies the relative qualities of place, reputation, and competitive identity for the world's principal cities with metropolitan populations of 1 million or more.

London topped the list again for 2024, followed by Paris (No. 2), New York (No. 3), Tokyo (No. 4), and Singapore (No. 5).

Houston slipped from its position as No. 42 last year to a surprising No. 66 in 2024.

However, the report primarily focuses on the city, its cultural diversity, and its astronomical prospects, rather than its ranking.

"In the past year, immigration both domestic and international has swelled the metro population to above seven million and the city today is one of America’s most ethnically diverse metropolises," the report said.

Houston's cultural footprint has always been significant, and has substantially developed throughout the years. According to the report (which cited the latest U.S. Census data), there are over 145 languages being spoken "at home" which is nearly as many as New York. And the city will soon have a new community center for those of all faiths and backgrounds: the nation's first Ismaili Center.

But it's Houston's stellar ambitions as Space City that is a major highlight in its shining overview.

"[The] Houston Spaceport is an FAA-licensed urban commercial spaceport offering unprecedented access to a thriving aerospace community," the report said. "The head start the city has in building a cluster of aerospace companies manufacturing locally is staggering, especially considering that the spaceport can eventually serve as the country’s takeoff point for passenger jets capable of flying at supersonic and hypersonic speeds."

Austin and Dallas also earned spots on the World's Best Cities list for 2024, but only one took a weighty tumble from the previous year's rankings. Dallas fell from No. 47 in last year's report to its current rank as No. 66.

Austin maintained its position as No. 43 for the second consecutive year, but the report suggests Houston is a much bigger player than what others have been led to believe about the Texas capital.

"Austin may get the attention, but the promise of the Lone Star State drawing Californians and New Yorkers is quietly being fulfilled in Houston," the report said.

The top 10 best cities in the world, according to Resonance Consultancy, are:

  • No. 1 – London, United Kingdom
  • No. 2 – Paris, France
  • No. 3 – New York, New York
  • No. 4 – Tokyo, Japan
  • No. 5 – Singapore
  • No. 6 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • No. 7 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 8 – Barcelona, Spain
  • No. 9 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • No. 10 – Seoul, South Korea
The full list of cities and the report's methodology can be found on worldsbestcities.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

San Antonio, Austin, and the space in between could be the state's next big mega-metro. Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

Surprising new documentary explores emerging Texas mega-metro that could rival Houston

bigger in texas

It's no secret that Austin and San Antonio are becoming some of the biggest cities in Texas, and that together, they just might rival the likes of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth one day.

A new documentary called San Antonio-Austin: The Emerging Mega-Metro takes a deep dive into the booming 80-mile region between the Central Texas cities

Produced by KLRN, San Antonio's local PBS station, the program centers on the region's growth and the challenges that arise with such rapid expansion, such as water scarcity, environmental impacts, and increasingly common transportation and traffic woes.

They're issues that Houston residents know well, as the city's population continues to explode at a staggering rate.

"We know the area between San Antonio and Austin is growing at a tremendously rapid pace, but what is really happening is the development of a mega-metro that will be one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world," says Shari St. Clair, the documentary's executive producer, in a release.

“We delve into the questions that need to be asked right now — how do we retain quality of life as we grow? How do we build a sustainable workforce?" St. Clair continues. "And, can San Antonio and Austin truly join forces and work together to make the most of this incredible opportunity?"

The hour-long documentary is hosted by former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, who also authored The Texas Triangle: An Emerging Power in the Global Economy. The special highlights several prominent Central Texas leaders, including interviews with Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenburg, U.S. Congressman Greg Casar, and more.

As Texas is also a state of committed sports fans, the idea of a mega-metro between Austin and San Antonio is additionally explored through a sports lens. The documentary interviewed legends like Nolan Ryan, Sean Elliot, and Spurs Chairman Peter J. Holt.

San Antonio-Austin: The Emerging Mega-Metro can be watched online at klrn.org.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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

2 Houston suburbs roll onto top-15 spots on U-Haul’s list of growing cities

on the move

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.

We're welcoming more and more new Texans every day. Photo via Getty Images

Texas population shatters records with massive new number milestone

howdy, partners

The adage "everything's bigger in Texas" has never been more apropos than with this news: For the first time ever, the population of Texas officially reached 30 million.

Or 30,029,572 in July 2022, to be exact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2022 national and state population estimates, released on December 22.

We predicted this milestone last year when our population clocked in at 29,558,864, as long as Texas maintained its then-year-over-year growth of 1.1 percent.

We bested that percentage and then some, growing 1.6 percent and coming in fourth for total percentage growth. Florida, Idaho, and South Carolina were the only states ahead of us in that race.

The numbers also revealed that Texas saw the most numeric growth in 2022, adding 470,708 residents year over year from July 1, 2021, to July 1, 2022.

But wait, that's not all: Texas is also officially the second-most populous state, joining California in the 30 million-plus club. For reference, Texas is 268,597 square miles and California is 163,696 square miles — we do treasure our wide open spaces.

Growth in Texas last year was fueled by gains from all three of the main components: net domestic migration (230,961), or people moving in and out of the state; net international migration, or the number people moving in and out of the country (118,614); and natural increase, or births minus deaths (118,159).

“There was a sizable uptick in population growth last year compared to the prior year’s historically low increase,” says Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau. “A rebound in net international migration, coupled with the largest year-over-year increase in total births since 2007, is behind this increase.”

The Population Estimates Program uses current data on births, deaths, and migration to calculate population change since the most recent decennial census date and produce a time series of estimates of population, demographic components of change, and housing units.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Based on recent population growth figures, you should probably get ready for more traffic. Photo courtesy of TxDOT

Texas population is barreling toward eye-popping milestone in 2022

growth spurt

Texas is edging closer to a milestone — a population of 30 million.

Estimates released December 21 by the U.S. Census Bureau show the population of Texas grew 1.1 percent between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021. During that period, the state added 310,288 residents, going from 29,217,653 to 29,527,941. The tally takes into account births, deaths, people moving to Texas, and people moving out of Texas.

Texas ranked first among the states for the number of residents added from 2020 to 2021, which worked out to 850 new residents per day, and seventh for percentage growth. At 2.9 percent, Idaho ranked first for percentage growth.

If Texas maintains a year-to-year growth rate of at least 1.1 percent, the state might break the 30 million mark sometime in 2022. Driving the state’s continued population explosion are people of color, who’ve made up 91 percent of new Texas residents in the 21st century, according to The Texas Tribune.

Lloyd Potter, the state demographer, says it’s conceivable that Texas could be home to 30 million residents in 2022.

“However, our rate of growth has slowed noticeably between 2020 and 2021, with lower fertility, higher mortality, and less international migration. If we add the same number of people estimated to have been added between 2020 and 2021, then it looks like we’ll come up a bit short of 30 million in 2022,” Potter says.

Throughout the country, the COVID-19 pandemic helped drag down population growth from July 2020 to July 2021. The U.S. population rose just 0.1 percent during that period — the smallest one-year increase since the nation was founded.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” Kristie Wilder, a demographer at the Census Bureau, says in a news release. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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6 Houston startups graduate early-stage accelerator

ready to grow

The latest cohort of promising Houston startups has made it through the local program for the the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator.

The Houston Founder Institute graduated its 2024 cohort this month, celebrating the class on May 21. The organization also opened applications for its next round.

"After meticulous selection process and intense four months of aggressive business-building sprints, constant evaluation, and feedback from investors and mentors, just 6 companies were able to make it through," the organization writes in a blog post. "Each of these Founders have demonstrated a high level of perseverance and creativity, and their businesses have been thoroughly vetted and supported by a panel of Houston's top startup experts and investors."

The newest alumni of the Houston program include:

  • Quickgredients, a company that's empowering diners with dietary needs and attract new customers for food businesses through targeted marketing and efficient management.
  • Truckersfinder, a platform connecting trucking companies to essential service providers to streamline their operations.
  • SEKCO, which is developing a technology to help laundry business operators offer a service to wash and press in five minutes or less by integrating wet vacuum cleaning and pressing in manual or automated stations.
  • Gym Rat, a hardware-software integration to improve and better track the fitness experience.
  • ReachAI is impowering small and medium-sized enterprises to elevate their digital footprint and online visibility through cutting-edge marketing strategies and comprehensive web presence optimization solutions.
  • STEMperts, a platform that's helping students learn better and improve grades by engaging them through a combination of interests and learning styles.

Houston Founder Institute is run by local directors James Phelan, Martín Martinez, Mery Ramirez, and Natasha Gorodetsky.

Following the completion of the program, the portfolio companies continue to have access to the Founder Institute's global network and post-graduate support programs to continue building their business.

How this Houston innovator is using his personal connection to ALS fuel his fight for a cure

guest column

We can never predict how our lives will turn out, but then maybe some of us can. Genetic testing showed that I, like my grandfather, aunt, uncle and father before me, would most likely die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, and/or frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) in my 40s.

Being 36, it’s possible that fear could have overtaken my life, but instead I chose to fight for every chance to change not only my life, but the lives of millions who are suffering or may one day suffer from neurodegenerative disease.

ALS is a rare disease that robs one of their ability to control their muscles, leading them to lose their ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. Eighty percent of cases are sporadic (of unknown origin) and 20 percent have known genetic causes.

When I learned that I carried the C9ORF72 genetic variant, a causative genetic variant for ALS/FTD) my first instincts were to help others understand their status and where they could turn for help. I saw a vacuum for resources and understanding in the genetic ALS space and I knew that thousands were suffering in darkness.

Through the efforts of many, we created the first ever nonprofit – Genetic ALS & FTD: End the Legacy – focused on fighting for the genetic ALS and FTD communities. After making great strides to fight for our rights and access to care, I was asked if I could help my current CEO, Howard Berman, commercialize Dr. Stanley Appel’s regulatory T Cell (Treg) therapy for ALS.

I joined Coya Therapeutics in 2021 as the first employee, working to build a company that would one day bring life changing therapies to patients. Coya’s therapies are based on Dr. Appel’s discovery that neurodegenerative diseases drive an inflammatory response. As inflammation rises, it damages regulatory T cells, and when Tregs are damaged, inflammation becomes a persistent condition driving degeneration and eventually death.

It was at that point that my life changed from the advocacy world to the therapeutic world. Now over three years later, we are closer than ever to making a paradigm change for how patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases are treated.

At Coya, we believe that combination biologics are the future of treating neurodegenerative diseases. COYA 302 is our lead asset, which has shown promising results in a proof-of-concept study released in March of 2023. We are currently working towards a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial for COYA 302 in ALS set to kick off later this year.

I never wanted to live a life so damned by disease, but when put between a rock and a hard place, the only choice is to fight. I don’t know how my life will end, but I hope that my children will know that I faced a great challenge head on with pride and resilience.

In the end, it is the combination of both the worlds I work in that lead to better outcomes for patients, raising awareness and lifesaving research. This ALS Awareness Month, please join us and our partners like the ALS Association, End the Legacy, and I AM ALS in raising awareness about these conditions, their risks, and treatment options.

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Daniel Barvin is the vice president of operations and patient advocacy at Coya Therapeutics.