Get the resources you need. Courtesy photo

Last May, Pearland launched the Innovation Hub, proving just how much the city values businesses of all sizes.

When the Pearland Prosperity Community Strategic Plan called for the creation of a hub for entrepreneurship and small business assistance, the idea of the Innovation Hub was born.

Customized for Pearland, the valuable program connects local entrepreneurs and small businesses with the resources they need to grow and succeed.

In order to identify market opportunities and create a supportive plan, the Market Assessment and Business Plan stepped in. It laid out how to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship culture, and connect entrepreneurs and small businesses to resources within the region.

The hub provides valuable programming, events, resources, and establishes partnerships that entrepreneurs need to start, scale, and sustain a business.

This incudes networking events and activities geared to the unique needs of startups and small business owners such as assistance programs, service providers, and funding sources to maximize growth potential and overall success.

Business-plan competitions, proactive coaching, networking events, and student programs are also offered.

Through the events — which feature members as speakers and panelists — and through business spotlights, the hub provides additional business exposure for its members in hopes that it will lead to increased clientele and growth.

Members also have exclusive access to learning opportunities as they relate to starting or scaling their business. This may include topics such as tax advisory, human resources, marketing, operations, IP and patents, and fundraising opportunities.

Pearland Innovation Hub also hosts various educational opportunities such as small business pop-ups, business-plan competitions, pitch parties, hackathons, and reverse pitches.

Upcoming events include Understanding Your Value Proposition on September 17, Addressing Your Pain Points on October 5, and Pitch Desk Prep on October 27.

Pearland Innovation Hub is funded through the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC). Oversight of the hub is provided by an advisory board and it will transition into its own nonprofit organization.

From sports to education, it's all here. Photo courtesy of PEDC

How living in Pearland puts a priority on health and happiness

Home Sweet Home

Texas is full of small towns, big cities, and everything in between, which gives residents a wide range of options when choosing where to live.

A closer look at Pearland, located south of Houston just outside of Beltway 8, reveals why it offers an ideal lifestyle for both employers and families looking to relocate.

Education is a priority in the community, evidenced by an educational attainment level that's well above the national average.

An impressive 49.7 percent of Pearland’s adult population holds a four-year degree or higher, compared to the national average of 32.9 percent, according to the latest American Community Survey estimates.

Located just off Pearland Parkway, the University of Houston-Clear Lake Campus provides the Pearland community convenient access to nationally accredited, career-building education opportunities. It offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in areas such as healthcare, education, business, criminology, and more.

Younger students in Pearland can benefit from the excellent public-school systems, with most students attending either Pearland Independent School District or Alvin Independent School District.

In Pearland, sports and recreation are a key component in the community. There are ample opportunities for children of all ages to participate in youth sports programs, and Pearland is home to the 2010, 2014, and 2015 Little League World Series finalists.

Between Pearland High School and Shadow Creek High School, a local school has played in four football state championship games in the last decade alone.

The city features world-class recreational opportunities for members of the community at any age. The 107,000-square-foot Pearland Recreation Center and Natatorium contains a gymnasium, weight room, activity room, racquetball courts, locker rooms, elevated indoor track, and a 50-meter competition pool.

With miles of trails and nearly 20 community and neighborhood parks, residents of Pearland are never far from accessible ways to prioritize their family’s health and wellness.

Pearland recently celebrated the grand opening for the second phase of the Sports Complex at Shadow Creek Ranch, which includes two turf fields and a multipurpose Miracle Field area designed to accommodate special needs athletes.

Pearland also offers public golf courses, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, soccer and multipurpose fields, numerous playgrounds and dog parks, a local YMCA, and several national and local health clubs.

To see more of what Pearland has to offer, head here.

Tool-Flo Manufacturing chose Pearland for its approachability. Photo courtesy of PEDC

More major manufacturing companies are moving to Pearland

Pretty Popular

You may already be familiar with why major life sciences companies are putting down roots in Pearland's Lower Kirby, but did you know that manufacturing companies are also following suit?

Current manufacturing companies in Lower Kirby include Tool-Flo Manufacturing, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International Corporation, and Dover Energy, along with life science manufacturers Lonza, Merit Medical, and Cardiovascular Systems, Inc.

Tool-Flo Manufacturing produces tools and products for the oil and gas, automotive, aerospace, and medical industries. When the team at Tool-Flo was searching for a location, the approachability of Pearland’s Lower Kirby stood out.

“We spent a lot of time searching for property and when we drove into Pearland on Kirby Drive, it immediately felt like we were at home,” says former Tool-Flo president Dennis Flolo.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International Corporation (MHI) also selected Lower Kirby for its office, manufacturing, and service facility, and the first U.S.-based manufacturing and service location for the Japanese-owned company.

The 180,000-square-foot facility located on Kirby Drive houses packaging and assembly, vertical and horizontal rotor storage, repair and maintenance services, administrative offices, and a training center. MHI also constructed a 49,500-square-foot warehouse facility.

Dover Energy is the energy division of diversified global manufacturer Dover Corporation, and a manufacturer of specialized products and valves. Dover Energy opened a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing and operations facility in Pearland’s Lower Kirby with a facility that consolidated multiple Texas locations into one regional location that's home to over 200 employees.

“Dover was looking to consolidate the manufacturing and operations of several stand-alone businesses into one site that was convenient and would best position it for future growth, and we found a great location for them that will suit all of their needs in a modern business park environment,” says executive vice president Jarrett Venghaus, regional director at Jones Lang LaSalle (which represented Dover in its purchase of the land).

Merit Medical Systems, Inc. serves hospitals worldwide by manufacturing more than 2,000 proprietary, disposable medical devices used in diagnostic and interventional cardiology and radiology procedures.

Merit Medical chose Lower Kirby as the site for its new research and development and manufacturing facility due to an educated workforce and proximity to Houston. Approximately 400 of Merit’s 6,000 employees work out of the company’s 120,000-square-foot facility.

“Merit was looking for a large growing workforce, an educated community, an array of services immediately around the facility for the employees, and the proximity to the Greater Houston area,” says Merit Medical Systems managing director Richard Jepson.

Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. (CSI), a leading medical device manufacturer of innovative interventional treatment systems for vascular disease, selected Lower Kirby as the home of its second manufacturing facility in the U.S. CSI manufactures a minimally invasive medical device.

Lower Kirby is a 1,200-acre mixed-use development in northwest Pearland, at the intersection of South Beltway 8 and State Highway 288, that is home to office, retail, commercial, and industrial projects and is continuing to expand. In addition to manufacturing, Lower Kirby is also the location for several biotech and energy companies.

Another life science company locks in site at Pearland's Lower Kirby

Welcome to Pearland

In December 2021, life-science company Millar, Inc. hopped on the Pearland bandwagon and broke ground on a headquarters, R&D, and manufacturing facility in Lower Kirby.

It joins fellow big names Lonza, Merit Medical, Cardiovascular Systems, and Endress+Hauser, among others, which are already located in the area that's popular with life science, energy, and manufacturing businesses.

“We looked everywhere, all over, when we were deciding where to move, but ultimately we decided that Pearland, with its life science presence, was the place for us,” says Millar CEO Tim Daugherty. “We know that this facility is going to take us to the next level as a company.”

Located on a five-acre site on Kirby Drive, just south of Beltway 8, the 56,000-square-foot facility will be home to approximately 120 employees and is scheduled to open in 2022. The headquarters and manufacturing facility will also house the company’s R&D and warehouse functions.

Pearland Economic Development Corporation and Pearland city officials began working with Millar on its relocation to a tract within Lower Kirby, furthering their reputation as a city that supports new and small businesses.

Lower Kirby is a 1,200-acre mixed-use development in northwest Pearland, at the intersection of South Beltway 8 and State Highway 288, that's home to office, retail, commercial, and industrial projects and continuing to expand.

Founded in 1969, Millar, Inc. pioneered the development of pressure sensor technology, directing its design and manufacturing expertise toward integrating that technology into catheters for life sciences and clinical applications.

Today, it's a leading developer and manufacturer of those pressure sensor-enabled devices, and partners with global leaders in technology, manufacturing, and healthcare to turn breakthrough technologies into life-saving medical innovations.

Pearland Town Center. Photo courtesy of PEDC

Why small businesses are a big deal in Pearland

Small Business, Big Success

Here's a fun fact: 83 percent of businesses in Pearland are locally owned.

Besides providing a warm, fuzzy feeling, that fact actually has a big impact on what the Lower Kirby city has to offer other companies that are looking to relocate.

Understanding that small businesses are vital to the local economy, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation does all it can to support the formation and growth of new businesses.

To gain a better understanding of the needs of local businesses, PEDC recently conducted a survey of all businesses in the community. The survey found that 92 percent of business owners felt that Pearland is a great place to live, work, and operate a business, and more than 80 percent of survey respondents gave excellent or good marks to Pearland as a place to do business — higher than the national comparison.

The city recently launched an online permitting portal that helps emerging businesses navigate the business registration process with a streamlined, easy-to-use interface that can be accessed anywhere, any time.

By answering just a few questions, potential new business owners can see all the necessary requirements and fees. And commercial permits are reviewed and approved within 20 days, on average.

Additionally, PEDC and community partners are creating an Entrepreneurship Hub, which will enhance Pearland's innovation entrepreneurship culture by creating events, programs, and activities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to inspire ideation and entrepreneurship.

The Hub will connect the city to local and regional entrepreneurship assistance programs, service providers, and funding sources to help businesses maximize their growth potential and overall success. Offerings of the Hub will include business plan competitions, proactive coaching, networking events, and student programs.

In addition to the resources offered, many small businesses that have relocated to Pearland cite the safety of the community and ease of access via multiple thoroughfares as top reasons that led them to the community.

Brask Neela, a small business founded in Louisiana, constructed a new manufacturing facility in Pearland to custom fabricate heat transfer equipment on 9.45 acres in Pearland's Industrial Drive Business Park. After its move to the Pearland area, the company can better service petrochemical and chemical customers in Texas City, Freeport, and Baytown, as well as global clients.

In addition to PEDC's assistance with land acquisition and attractive incentives, Brask Neela was drawn to the location's proximity to the workforce, the area's infrastructure, and open communications with the City of Pearland.

"Pearland provided incentives, proximity to workforce both for shop and office, infrastructure, and clear communication to address any needs with city officials," says Kevin Sareen, Brask Neela's business development manager.

Rollac Shutters manufactures exterior rolling shutters, solar zip shades, and awnings, and opened a 105,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility that allowed the company to engage in environmentally responsible manufacturing practices and integrate sustainability principles in its day-to-day operations.

"As a family-owned business, location and incentives were most important to us," says Eva Konrad, vice president at Rollac Shutters. "Pearland offered both and we love it here."

The new HCA Healthcare Center in Houston. Photo courtesy of PEDC

New Pearland healthcare training center will raise the bar for nursing in Houston

Training for More

As if those in the healthcare field needed another reason to relocate to Pearland: the HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement opened its doors on July 27.

Located at the Pearland Town Center at 11200 Broadway St., building 200, the two-story, 48,400-square-foot training center houses hospital simulation labs, virtually-connected classrooms, and debriefing rooms.

The center provides ongoing education for HCA Houston Healthcare's 7,000 nurses and will help standardize training across the system's 13 Greater Houston-area hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, emergency centers, and imaging facilities.

The utilization of simulcast technology will also facilitate education and training opportunities for colleagues working in locations across the HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast Division, which includes facilities in Corpus Christi and South Texas.

"The HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement is a significant part of our strategic nursing plan to support and grow our nurses as the differentiator at our hospitals and other facilities," says Kelli Nations, chief nurse executive at HCA Houston Healthcare, one of the city's largest healthcare systems. "It certainly helps us raise the bar for nursing care in Houston."

The first floor is designated for nurse training, which can last up to 22 weeks, depending on their specialty. Additional classroom and conference room space on the second floor will serve as a hub for new-hire orientations and the system's leadership and organizational development training for up to 250 employees at a time.

"Bringing the latest teaching technologies under one roof in a new, advanced facility is a major step in preparing our nurses to provide the highest level of care," says Nations.

Additional facility features include a simulated hospital supply room, a large break room, a mother's room for employees who are nursing, and several lounge areas.

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Houston company premieres new platform for gig economy workforce

tech support

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

NASA launches new research projects toward astronauts on ISS

ready to research

For the 26th time, SpaceX has sent up supplies to the International Space Station, facilitating several new research projects that will bring valuable information to the future of space.

On Saturday at 1:20 pm, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida — bringing with it more than 7,700 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo. The anticipated docking time is Sunday morning, and the cargo spacecraft will remain aboard the ISS for 45 days, according to a news release from NASA.

Among the supplies delivered to the seven international astronauts residing on the ISS are six research experiments — from health tech to vegetation. Here's a glimpse of the new projects sent up to the scientists in orbit:

Moon Microscope

Image via NASA.gov

Seeing as astronauts are 254 miles away from a hospital on Earth — and astronauts on the moon would be almost 1,000 times further — the need for health technology in space is top of mind for researchers. One new device, the Moon Microscope, has just been sent up to provide in-flight medical diagnosis. The device includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining tool, which can communicate information to Earth for diagnosis.

"The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars," reads a news release. "The hardware also may provide a variety of other capabilities, such as testing water, food, and surfaces for contamination and imaging lunar surface samples."

Fresh produce production

Salads simply aren't on the ISS menu, but fresh technology might be changing that. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie, which has successfully grown a variety of leafy greens, and the latest addition is Veg-05 — focused on growing dwarf tomatoes.

Expanded solar panels

Thanks to SpaceX's 22nd commercial resupply mission in 2021, the ISS installed Roll-Out Solar Arrays. Headed to the ISS is the second of three packages to complete the panels that will increase power for the station by 20 to 30 percent. This technology was first tested in space in 2017 and is a key ingredient in future ISS and lunar development.

Construction innovation

Image via NASA.gov

Due to the difference of gravity — and lack thereof — astronauts have had to rethink constructing structures in space. Through a process called extrusion, liquid resin is used to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process, per the news release.

"The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment," reads the release. "The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab."

Transition goggles

It's a bizarre transition to go from one gravity field to another — and one that can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness, according to the release.

"The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance," reads the release.

On-demand nutrients

Image via NASA.gov

NASA is already thinking about long-term space missions, and vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life. The latest installment in the five-year BioNutrients program is BioNutrients-2 , which tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage, per the release.

"The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration," reads the release.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from esports to biomaterials — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Zimri Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO

Zimri T. Hinshaw, CEO of BUCHA BIO, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss how he's planning to scale his biomaterials startup to reduce plastic waste. Photo courtesy of BUCHA BIO

After raising a seed round of funding, BUCHA BIO is gearing up to move into its new facility. The biomaterials company was founded in New York City in 2020, but CEO Zimri T. Hinshaw shares how he started looking for a new headquarters for the company — one that was more affordable, had a solid talent pool, and offered a better quality of life for employees. He narrowed it down from over 20 cities to two — San Diego and Houston — before ultimately deciding on the Bayou City.

Since officially relocating, Hinshaw says he's fully committed to the city's innovation ecosystem. BUCHA BIO has a presence at the University of Houston, Greentown Labs, and the East End Maker Hub — where the startup is building out a new space to fit the growing team.

"By the end of this month, our laboratories will be up and running, we'll have office space adjacent, as well as chemical storage," Hinshaw says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Listen to the episode and read more.

Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston

A nonprofit organization has rolled out an esports platform and event to raise awareness and funding for those with disabilities. Photo via Easter Seals

For many video games is getaway from reality, but for those with disabilities — thanks to a nonprofit organization —gaming can mean a lot more. On Saturday Dec. 3 — International Day of Persons with Disabilities — from 1 to 9 pm, Easter Seals Greater Houston will be joining forces with ES Gaming for the inaugural Game4Access Streamathon.

Gaming helps enhance cognitive skills, motor skills, improve mental well-being, and can help reduce feelings of social isolation due to the interactive nature of playing with others.

“This is really a unique way for (people) to form a community without having to leave their house, and being part of an inclusive environment,” says Kelly Klein, development director of Easter Seals Greater Houston. ”The adaptive equipment and specialized technology just does so many miraculous things for people with disabilities on so many levels — not just gaming. With gaming, it is an entrance into a whole new world.” Read more.

John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines

Levit Green has announced its latest to-be tenant. Photo courtesy

Levit Green, a 53-acre mixed-use life science district next to the Texas Medical Center and expected to deliver this year, has leased approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial lab and office space to Sino Biological Inc. The Bejing-based company is an international reagent supplier and service provider. Houston-based real estate investor, development, and property manager Hines announced the new lease in partnership with 2ML Real Estate Interests and Harrison Street.

“Levit Green was meticulously designed to provide best-in-class life science space that can accommodate a multitude of uses. Welcoming Sino Biological is a testament to the market need for sophisticated, flexible space that allows diversified firms to perform a variety of research,” says John Mooz, senior managing director at Hines, in a press release. “Sino is an excellent addition to the district’s growing life science ecosystem, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth and success.” Read more.Read more.