Don't forget about quality of life when choosing where to put your headquarters. Photo courtesy of PEDC

Employees consistently say that quality of life is an important factor when choosing which corporations to align themselves with, and more and more companies are discovering the appeal of Pearland, in Lower Kirby.

Global facilities such as Lonza have chosen the area based on its many attractive factors, adding another incentive when recruiting.

Here's a look at what Pearland has to offer:

Education
The school districts serving the Pearland area, such as Pearland ISD and Alvin ISD, are all highly rated, plus it's home to the University of Houston – Clear Lake Pearland campus.

Eight bachelor's degree programs are offered, along with six programs to obtain a graduate or professional degree.

Recreation
Got a little slugger or aspiring quarterback in the family? Pearland boasts both a champion Little League World Series team and state champions in high school football.

Organized sports aside, families will soon be able to enjoy the 21-mile Clear Creek Trail, which is currently in development and will span the entire length of the Pearland community when finished.

Developments in recent years have added a variety of retail and restaurant options, with the largest being the Pearland Town Center.

Housing
Texas in general is experiencing a housing surge, but Pearland is especially booming. More than 10,000 single-family homes have been constructed over the past 10 years, with no signs of the growth slowing.

Plus, employees moving from dense urban areas are delighted to discover the Lone Star State's wide-open spaces.

Healthcare
Pearland is a community that values healthcare — the 77584 ZIP code is home to more Texas Medical Center employees than any other in the region.

In fact, more than 13 percent of Pearland residents work in healthcare. They have many opportunities from which to choose, as many entities have opened new campuses in the past several years, including Memorial Hermann, HCA Healthcare, and Kelsey-Seybold.

Explore more about Pearland and what makes it great for businesses here.

The Lonza facility in Lower Kirby. Photo courtesy of Pearland Economic Development Corp.

Why one of the world's leading life science companies chose Pearland

Love Your Location

In 2018, Switzerland-based company Lonza debuted a 300,000-square-foot life science facility in Pearland, the largest dedicated cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility in the world at the time.

What made one of the world's largest companies for contract development and manufacturing choose Lower Kirby for this groundbreaking building?

"The location was ideal for the expansion capability, proximity to the Texas Medical Center, and ease of access from major freeways 288 and Beltway 8," says Frank Bugg, Lonza's site head. "Many Lonza employees also reside in the Pearland area."

The company also sought a location for this "Center of Excellence" that would maintain a presence on the "third coast" of biotech. Lonza currently employs more than 500 at its Pearland facility.

Additional factors that made Pearland's Lower Kirby District an attractive choice for Lonza were the nearby life sciences community, infrastructure, and quality-of-life benefits such as top-rated schools and a reasonable cost of living.

The team at this location is currently leading efforts in four categories: research and development, process development, cell and gene therapy manufacturing, and viral vector manufacturing.

Cell and gene therapy is growing and these novel medicines are getting established as a validated treatment option — the field is transforming the way cancer or genetic diseases can be treated.

In 2019, Lonza provided manufacturing services for more than 300 commercial molecules and supported the development of more than 700 pre-clinical and clinical molecules in small and large molecules, as well as supporting the launch of pioneering autologous cell therapies.

These novel drug candidates provide drastically improved patient outcomes and, in some cases, can be curative. However, manufacturing of such medicines pose complex new challenges.

Today, the cost of production still represents a major hurdle for clinical translation and commercialization of these potentially groundbreaking therapies. New technologies are needed to enable robust and cost-efficient manufacturing of high-quality medicines.

While the therapeutic opportunities for patients are exciting, the stakes for patients and drug developers are high.

Lonza serves as a partner to its customers, keeping manufacturing costs under control and following the process through the regulatory bodies through to commercialization.

The company also helps develop and commercialize its customers' innovative new therapies. Lonza scientists and engineers bring decades-long development experience across a broad spectrum of cell types and technologies. With this background, they can tailor services in process and analytical development, manufacturing, and regulatory support.

The work done at Lonza is at the forefront of medical breakthroughs. These cell and gene therapies are shaping the way we treat modern diseases, and now it's being done right in Houston's own backyard.

Since the Pearland facility's opening in 2018, Lonza has continued to expand with the addition of laboratories, clean rooms, and additional parking.

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Energy company with U.S. HQ in Houston acquires local business

M&A

A renewable energy retailer based in the United Kingdom is once again expanding its presence in Texas with another strategic acquisition.

Octopus Energy US, which is based in Houston, announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Houston-based energy provider Brilliant Energy LLC in a $2.23 million deal. With the acquisition, Octopus Energy will take on the 9,000 residential customers currently supplied by Brilliant Energy. These users will be transitioned onto Octopus Energy's technology platform Kraken.

"Brilliant Energy is a company that has always stood for quality and unique brand experiences. It complements our strong dedication to bringing unparalleled customer experience to our users," says Michael Lee, CEO of Octopus Energy US, in a press release. "This is a major moment for us, as we work to bring our 100% renewable energy supply and outstanding technology to more Texans and their homes."

The acquisition is the latest move from Octopus Energy's plans to invest $100 million into the U.S. energy market and target 25 million U.S. energy accounts by 2027, according to the release.

Last fall, Octopus acquired Houston-based Evolve Energy in a $5 million deal. Evolve was founded by Lee, and he transitioned into his role as Octopus CEO following the deal.

Octopus Energy, which was founded around five years ago, reached Unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation in April 2020.

Michael Lee is CEO of Octopus Energy US. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston ranks among fastest growing tech hubs amid the pandemic, report finds

When Americans think of tech hubs, Silicon Valley or even Austin may initially come to mind. However, Houston appears to be making a play for tech-hub status.

Citing data from career platform LinkedIn, the Axios news website reports that Houston has seen a healthy influx of tech workers since the start of the pandemic. In fact, Houston ranks second among 14 major U.S. labor markets for the number of relocating software and IT workers between March 2020 and February 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Miami grabs the No. 1 spot for the gain in software and IT workers (up 15.4 percent) between the two periods, with Houston in second place (10.4 percent) and Dallas-Fort Worth in third place (8.6 percent), according to the LinkedIn data.

"Young engineers and recent college graduates see Miami, Houston, and Philadelphia — not San Francisco, New York, or Seattle — as the hot new places to jumpstart a technology or creative economy career," Axios notes.

At the bottom of the barrel sits the San Francisco Bay Area, which suffered a loss of 34.8 percent when comparing the arrival and departure of software and IT workers. Interestingly, Austin experienced a loss of 8 percent in this category.

The shift from traditional tech hub to emerging tech hub is likely to continue as employers and employees alike further embrace remote work. A survey commissioned in April by the nonprofit One America Works found 47% of tech workers had moved during the pandemic. In addition, 3 in 10 tech workers anticipate living somewhere different than they did during the pandemic.

The CompTIA tech trade group says the Houston metro area is home to 243,908 tech workers. The Houston area's tech workforce grew 12.3 percent from 2010 to 2019, according to the group.

"Houston has been a center for world-changing innovations in energy, life sciences and aerospace for over a century. With science and engineering breakthroughs ingrained in the fabric of Houston's economy, the region has become a thriving hub of digital technology talent and companies thanks to our access to customers and expertise," says a report released in March by the Greater Houston Partnership.

One employer taking advantage of that talent is Bill.com. In 2019, the digital payments company opened a Houston outpost — the company's first office outside Silicon Valley.

"Though the city's technology industry is still developing, it offers a breath of fresh air compared to overcrowded late-stage tech markets like Austin and Denver. Ultimately, the breadth and depth of Houston's talent pool and the neighboring educational pipelines made it an ideal location for a second home," Vinay Pai, senior vice president of engineering at Palo Alto, California-based Bill.com and a Rice University graduate, wrote in April 2020 on LinkedIn.

Energy giant makes Houston sole headquarters in massive move

HQ move

Power player NRG Energy is laser focused on Houston. The Bayou City will be the energy giant's new sole headquarters; the company will no longer split between Houston and Princeton, New Jersey.

The move to a single headquarters simplifies business operations, as a large number of the company's employees and customers reside in Texas, the company noted in a press release and report.

The company, having recently acquired Direct Energy, will maintain regional offices in the markets that it serves and "evaluate real estate needs and consolidate as appropriate," the report adds.

Mayor Sylvester Turner welcomed the news in a statement, relaying that he and his team have had "substantive conversations" with NRG president and CEO Mauricio Gutierrez. "I believe the decision is confirmation that Houston is a smart city for business," said Turner.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also chimed in, adding in part:

With this move, NRG joins 50 other Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Texas, including 22 in the Houston area alone. America's leading businesses continue to invest in Texas — and grow jobs in Texas — because of our welcoming business climate, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and our young, growing, and skilled workforce.
I thank NRG Energy for designating Texas — the energy capital of the world — as their corporate headquarters, and I look forward to our continued partnership as we ensure a more prosperous future for all who call the Lone Star State home.

Turner noted that more than a year ago, the City of Houston committed to purchasing 100 percent renewable energy through a renewed partnership with NRG Energy as the City's retail electric provider. "The plan is helping us build a more sustainable future, save over $9 million on our electric bill, and reduce emissions," he said.

NRG Energy boasts some 3,000 employees in Houston alone. In its report, the company reported a net loss of $83 million due the impact of Winter Storm Uri.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.