There's a much greater need for biotech workers. Photo courtesy of Lonza

Biotech companies in Pearland are thriving, with big names such as Lonza, Millar Inc. Inc., and Abbott all experiencing tremendous growth in recent years.

The only challenge to this success is the increased demand for a faster workforce pipeline. Fortunately, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) has a solution.

PEDC has partnered with Alvin Community College (ACC) and Lonza to create a two-level Biotechnology Certificate Course designed to address the need for a better-equipped entry-level workforce.

This initiative offers two options to quickly train individuals for employment in the biotech field: Level 1, a six-week commitment for Biotech: Material Handler; and Level 2, a twelve-week commitment for Biotech: Lab Technician. Each level consists of 64 contact hours, with lectures delivered online and labs and assessments conducted on-site.

Alvin Community College is offering this course, which commenced on August 21, under its Continued Education and Workforce Development (CEWD) department. This department provides programs that incorporate current and new technical courses, training partnerships with businesses and industries, and other opportunities for individuals to acquire and upgrade skills or pursue personal enrichment.

Before this initiative, the region's two- or four-year programs were only graduating a dozen or so individuals. Early discussions focused on how to expedite workforce development through a local community college's certificate program. Alvin Community College was prepared to respond to the local workforce's needs.

PEDC played a pivotal role in establishing an advisory committee comprised of industry partners responsible for vetting the Biotechnology Certificate Course curriculum. Industry partners included the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL) at Pearland, Lonza, Millar Inc., Merit Medical, and the nonprofit organization BioHouston.

These partners are invaluable as plans continue to expand these certification programs.

Given the ever-increasing demand for a biotechnology workforce in the Pearland area, the future wish list includes expanding the certification program to other education partners.

For more information about the Biotechnology Certificate Program at Alvin Community College, visit this link.

Photo courtesy of Kemlon

One business reveals how relocating to Pearland has paid off — and then some

Growing and Thriving

The city of Pearlandhas been ramping up its assistance and support for local businesses over the last several years, but it's long been an ideal choice for companies seeking a place for their companies to grow and thrive.

One major reason is its location, which was certainly a draw for multi-discipline energy and manufacturing company Kemlon Products.

Kemlon's vice president of engineering, Chris Ring, says relocating to Pearland in 1998 was a strategic move — one that has definitely paid off.

"We're located only four miles south of William P. Hobby International Airport, and are accessible to customers and employees via State Highway 35 and Beltway 8," says Ring.

Kemlon's 120,000-square-foot headquarters on State Highway 35 secured it as the first major high-tech manufacturing company to relocate to Pearland.

Since then, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) has assisted Kemlon with expansion efforts, providing incentives and helping it acquire 23.5 acres purchased from the City of Pearland, as part of Catalyst No. 2 Business Park North outlined in the State Highway 35 redevelopment strategy.

But that's not all. Pearland’s affordability was another reason the company chose the city, along with exceptional schools and a potential employee base.

In 2021, PEDC conducted a survey of all businesses in the community to gain a better understanding of their needs. 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.

With such satisfied employees and the support and incentive to continue to grow, Kemlon has now invested more than $10.8 million in the community and employs more than 120 people on its 30-acre campus.

"Many of our customers are from outside the Houston area, and especially abroad," Ring says. "As soon as these customers enter Pearland from Beltway 8, it is evident they are entering a quality community that has quality businesses."

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This Pearland-based CEO explains why his city is the best HQ for small businesses

Serial Entrepreneurship

Small businesses often need a supportive home base from which to work, and there’s one Texas city in particular that has worked hard to become that haven for business owners over the years.

Pearland offers assistance and a diverse workforce for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. In fact, 83 percent of businesses in Pearland are locally owned. And when it comes to having an entrepreneurial spirit, no one is more passionate than David Graham, CEO of Pearland’s FranchiCzar.

Graham has been focusing on FranchiCzar, which provides franchise development, consulting, marketing, and vendor networks in a suite of services to help franchisees develop and scale their business.

FranchiCzar joins a collection of life science, energy, and manufacturing companies that have expanded their reach in Pearland: Millar, Inc., Lonza, Merit Medical, Cardiovascular Systems, and Endress+Hauser, to name a few.

One of Graham’s most exciting ventures launching this year is Valhallan, a youth e-sports program. Valhallan was born from the belief that video games can enrich lives and create community for young people and was developed to provide premier e-sports programming while teaching life skills. Twenty Valhallan arenas are opening soon around the country.

Graham’s serial entrepreneurship not only extends to franchise development and e-sports, but to exercise and education.

In the “exercise” category, Graham created the Iron 24 concept to offer a convenient gym experience that's accessible 24/7, all from an app. The Iron 24 app allows members to manage membership details and unlock the gym at any time, day or night, with no staff required on-site. Currently, five locations are opening around the Greater Houston area, including two in Pearland.

Going back to his educational and enrichment roots, Graham hopes to launch Math Reactor in the near future. Math Reactor is a revolutionary, fun-first approach to math that helps children in grades five through eight learn math concepts in an engaging and relevant way. Math Reactor was created from the knowledge that the best way for kids to learn math is to make it fun and practical.

Graham is also the founder and creator of a children's code-learning platform Code Ninjas, which sold just last year.

Most recently, Graham recently acquired Pinot’s Palette, a popular paint and sip franchise with more than 80 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Graham takes pride in being a longtime Pearland resident; other cities throughout the nation have failed in their attempts to poach him from Texas.

During the times when other communities were trying to entice him to leave the city, Graham shares that he was impressed by how the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) and local business leaders “stepped up in a big way to ensure Pearland kept me here, by offering us incentives.”

One way PEDC enhances Pearland's innovation entrepreneurship culture is through its Pearland Innovation Hub, which launched in May 2022. The Hub connects the city to local and regional entrepreneurship assistance programs, service providers, and funding sources to help businesses maximize their growth potential and overall success.

Additionally, Graham shares that he appreciates how “PEDC is helping to bring in powerhouse companies every year, and it has really rejuvenated our business community here.” Pearland’s diverse population has long been known as an asset, and in recent years the city has become even more racially and ethnically diverse.

“While there is no lack of diverse opinions and abilities in Pearland, everyone stands together as residents of Pearland and can all rally around making our community a better place to live and work," Graham says.

In 2021, PEDC conducted a survey of all businesses in the community to gain a better understanding of their needs. 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.

Photo courtesy of Lonza

How Pearland is setting local businesses up for growth and success

Becoming the Best

Over the past few years, Pearland has worked hard to become a desirable home for major life sciences and manufacturing companies. Building on that, it's also leading the way in workforce development, providing access to the tools and resources necessary to create and grow a successful business.

Here's a closer look at just a few of the many resources the community offers to local businesses:

This virtual job board and resource center is an immersive and interactive website launched through a partnership between the Pearland Chamber of Commerce and the Pearland Economic Development Corporation (PEDC), where participants can register to view local jobs, regional training programs, workforce support services, and workforce ecosystem partners in the region.

Area businesses can showcase their organization and career opportunities to the community through a customizable virtual booth. The WorkInPearland platform will be launched to the community in March 2023.

Pearland Innovation Hub
Created in 2022, the hub provides valuable programming, events, and resources and establishes partnerships to start, scale, and sustain a business.
The hub cultivates Pearland’s entrepreneurship culture through networking events and activities geared to the unique needs of startups and small business owners, such as assistance programs, business coaching, service providers, and funding sources, to maximize their growth potential and overall success.

This resource is another result of a Pearland Chamber of Commerce and PEDC partnership, and it helps businesses expand and create jobs in the Pearland area.
Through the BizConnect program, participants can access a network of professionals willing to help with any business need.

Pearland’s workforce strategy aspires to achieve the vision of the workforce and talent focus area by leveraging existing workforce strategies and initiatives being performed by area partners, as well as implementing new strategies that respond to the needs of businesses.

It strives to bring together representatives from the business community, education and training providers, relevant nonprofits, and other vital partners dedicated to strengthening Pearland’s talent pipeline and ensuring employers have access to a competitive workforce.

To find out more about Pearland's initiative, visit here.

Get the resources you need. Courtesy photo

Pearland's Innovation Hub gives entrepreneurs and small businesses a leg up

The Hub Spot

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.

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Houston tech platform raises series C round backed by Mastercard

money moves

Hello Alice, a fintech platform that supports 1.5 million small businesses across the country, has announced its series C round.

The amount raised was not disclosed, but Hello Alice reported that the fresh funding has brought the company's valuation to $130 million. Alexandria, Virginia-based QED Investors led the round, and investors included Mastercard, Backstage Capital, Guy Fieri, Golden Seeds, Harbert Growth Partners Fund, How Women Invest I, LP, Lovell Limited Partnership, Tyler “Ninja” and Jessica Blevins, and Tamera Mowry and Adam Housley, per a news release from the company.

“We are thrilled to hit the milestone of 1.5 million small businesses utilizing Hello Alice to elevate the American dream. There are more entrepreneurs launching this year than in the history of our country, and we will continue to ensure they get the capital needed to grow,” Elizabeth Gore and Carolyn Rodz, co-founders of Hello Alice, say in a news release. “In closing our Series C, we welcome Mastercard to our family of investors and continue to be grateful to QED, How Women Invest, and our advocates such as Guy Fieri.”

The funding will go toward expanding capital offerings and AI-driven tools for its small business membership.

“Our team focuses on finding and investing in companies that are obsessed with reducing friction and providing superior financial services solutions to their customers,” QED Investors Co-Founder Frank Rotman says in the release. “Hello Alice has proven time and time again that they are on the leading edge of providing equitable access to capital and banking services to the small business ecosystem."

Hello Alice, which closed its series B in 2021 at $21 million, has collaborated with Mastercard prior to the series C, offering small business owners the Hello Alice Small Business Mastercard in 2022 and a free financial wellness tool, Business Health Score, last year. Mastercard also teamed up with other partners for the the Equitable Access Fund in 2023.

“With Hello Alice, we’re investing to provide support to small business owners as they look to access capital, helping to address one of the most cited business challenges they face,” Ginger Siegel, Mastercard's North America Small Business Lead, adds. “By working together to simplify access to the products and services they need when building and growing their business, we’re helping make a meaningful impact on the individuals who run their businesses, the customers they serve, and our communities and economy at large.”

While Hello Alice's founders' mission is to help small businesses, their own company was threatened by a lawsuit from America First Legal. The organization, founded by former Trump Administration adviser Stephen Miller and features a handful of other former White House officials on its board, is suing Hello Alice and its partner, Progressive Insurance. The lawsuit alleges that their program to award10 $25,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses constitutes racial discrimination. Gore calls the lawsuit frivolous in an interview on the Houston Innovators Podcast. The legal battle is ongoing.

Inspired by the lawsuit, Hello Alice launched the Elevate the American Dream, a grant program that's highlighting small businesses living out their American dreams. The first 14 grants have already been distributed, and Hello Alice plans to award more grants over the next several weeks, putting their grant funding at over $40 million.

NASA awards $30M to Houston space tech company to develop lunar rover

moon rider

Houston-based space technology company Intuitive Machines has landed a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Intuitive Machines is one of three companies chosen by NASA to perform preliminary work on building a lunar terrain vehicle that would enable astronauts to travel on the moon’s surface so they can conduct scientific research and prepare for human missions to Mars.

The two other companies are Golden, Colorado-based Lunar Outpost and Hawthorne, California-based Astrolab.

NASA plans to initially use the vehicle for its Artemis V lunar mission, which aims to put two astronauts on the moon. It would be the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 that astronauts would step foot on the lunar surface.

The Artemis V mission, tentatively set for 2029, will be the fifth mission under NASA’s Artemis program.

“This vehicle will greatly increase our astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct science on the lunar surface while also serving as a science platform between crewed missions,” says Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Intuitive Machines says the $30 million NASA contract represents its entrance into human spaceflight operations for the space agency’s $4.6 billion moon rover project. The vehicle — which Intuitive Machines has dubbed the Moon Reusable Autonomous Crewed Exploration Rover (RACER) — will be based on the company’s lunar lander.

“Our global team is on a path to provide essential lunar infrastructure services to NASA in a project that would allow [us] to retain ownership of the vehicle for commercial utilization during periods of non-NASA activity over approximately 10 years of lunar surface activity,” says exploration,” says Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines.

Intuitive Machines’ partners on the RACER project include AVL, Boeing, Michelin, and Northrop Grumman.

Intuitive Machines plans to bid on the second phase of the rover project after finishing its first-phase feasibility study. The second phase will involve developing, delivering, and operating the rover.

In February, Intuitive Machines became the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon with no crewmembers aboard. NASA was the key customer for that mission.

Houston expert: How to avoid 'ghost hiring' while attracting top talent

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One of the latest HR terms grabbing attention today is “ghost hiring.” This is a practice where businesses post positions online, even interviewing candidates, with no intention to fill them. In fact, the role may already have been filled or it may not exist.

Usually, an applicant applies for the job, yet never hears back. However, they may be contacted by the recruiter, only to learn the offer is revoked or a recruiter ghosts them after a first-round interview.

Applicants who are scouring job sites for the ideal position can become discouraged by ghost hiring. Employers do not usually have any ill intentions of posting ghost jobs and talking with candidates. Employers may have innocently forgotten to take down the listing after filling the position.

Some employers may leave positions up to expand their talent pool. While others who are open to hiring new employees, even if they do not match the role, may practice ghost hiring when they want a pool of applicants to quickly pull from when the need arises. Finally, some employers post job roles to make it look like the company is experiencing growth.

When employers participate in ghost hiring practices, job candidates can become frustrated, hurting the employer brand and, thus, future recruiting efforts. Even with the tight labor market and employee turnover, it is best not to have an evergreen posting if there is no intention to hire respondents.

There are several ways employers can engage candidates and, likewise, build a talent pool without misleading job seekers.


A recruiter at their core is a professional networker. This is a skill that many have honed through the years, and it continues to evolve through social media channels. While many recruiters lean on social media, you should not discount meeting people face-to-face. There is power in promoting your organization at professional meetings, alumni groups and civic organizations. Through these avenues, many potential candidates will elect for you to keep them in mind for future opportunities.

Employee Referrals

When recruiters want to deepen their talent pool, they cannot discount the employee referral. Simply letting employees know and clearly stating the exploratory nature of the conversation can lead to stellar results. Employees understand the organization, its culture and expectations, so they are more likely to refer the company to someone who would be a good fit and reflect highly on them.

Alternative Candidates

In recent years, organizations and recruiters are more dialed into skills-first recruiting practices. Creating job postings that emphasize the skill sets needed rather than the years of experience, specific college degree or previous job titles, can yield a crop of candidates who may be more agile and innovative than others. Fostering relationships with people who fit unique skills needed within the organization can help you develop a deeper bench of candidates.

Contingent Workforce

Part-time workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are a great way to build connections and the talent pool. These workers and their skills are known entities, plus they know the organization, which makes them valuable candidates for open roles. If their expertise is needed on a regular basis, it is easier to have open conversations about a potential expansion of their duties or offer full-time work.

Internal Talent

Human resources and recruiters need to work with managers and leadership to intimately know what kind of talent lies within their own organization. Current employees may have the strengths, skills, and capabilities to fill new positions or roles. Through conversations with employees and their managers, you can identify who can flex different skills, but even more importantly, the ambition to grow within the company.

In every instance, it is crucial for recruiters and hiring managers to be transparent in their intentions. Communicating within your network that you are always looking for great talent to fill future roles sets the tone. When communicating with candidates, whether there is a pressing job opportunity or not, be clear from the onset regarding your intentions for hire. With a transparent approach to hiring and candidate development, you will keep the employer brand intact and maintain recruiting power.


Jaune Little is a director of recruiting services with Insperity.