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.”

H-Town jumped 43 spots into No. 97 this year. Photo via Getty Images

Houston jumps significantly on annual list of best places to live in 2024

by the numbers

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston needs to lighten up a little, sheesh. Photo by Rome Wilkerson on Unsplash

Houstonians are pretty miserable, new study finds

frowns in H-town

Not-so-happy news for Texans living in Houston – they're living in one of the "unhappiest" cities in the nation.

A recent SmartAsset study ranked Houston the No. 81 happiest city in the U.S., based on an analysis of 90 large cities for their residents' quality of life, well being, and personal finances.

The city's rank in the bottom 10 — alongside Texas neighbors Dallas (No. 80), El Paso (No. 83), and Laredo (No. 89) – shows not everything about Houston is as easygoing as people think it is. We can hear Ken Hoffman's disagreement from here.

The study found 28.5 percent of all Houston households make a six-figure salary or more, and 16.2 percent of residents are burdened by their housing costs. Houston's poverty rate is 20.7 percent, so maybe it really is more difficult to live comfortably in the city, after all.

Houston has a marriage rate of 39.4 percent, and its residents have a life expectancy of 79 years old. Nearly 76 percent of residents have health insurance, and a Houstonian has nearly five "mentally unhealthy" days per month on average.

Our beloved city has had some bad press recently: H-Town isn't exactly revered for having the best drivers; the city and its suburbs are apparently less appealing for new residents making the move to Texas; and its popularity in the tech industry seems to be waning.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. There's always plenty of new restaurants to try, our city's inventive art scene remains unmatched, and plenty of hometown hero celebrities, Hall of Fame athletes, and talented musicians praise Houston for its culture and hospitality.

While money can't necessarily buy happiness, SmartAsset suggests that having a higher quality of life can influence a person's financial decisions, therefore leading to a greater probability of beneficial outcomes. Of course, that's assuming high financial literacy and strong money management skills.

"Depending where you live, certain quality of life factors, including metrics like life expectancy, infrastructure and the rate of marriage, can ultimately impact your happiness," the report's author wrote.

Elsewhere in Texas, the Dallas suburb of Plano soared to the top as the No. 2 happiest city in the nation. More than half (52.5 percent) of all Plano households make a six-figure salary or more, and only 12.1 percent of residents are burdened by their housing costs. Plano's poverty rate is less than five percent, its marriage rate is 56 percent, and nearly 90 percent of Plano residents have health insurance.

Other Texas cities that earned spots in the report, that notably aren't as happy as Plano, include: Fort Worth (No. 38), Arlington (No. 47), Irving (No. 64), Austin (No. 65), San Antonio (No. 70), Corpus Christi (No. 77), and Lubbock (No. 78).

The top 10 happiest cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Arlington, Virginia
  • No. 2 – Plano, Texas
  • No. 3 – Fremont, California
  • No. 4 – San Jose, California
  • No. 5 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 6 – Boise City, Idaho
  • No. 7 – Raleigh, North Carolina
  • No. 8 – Chesapeake, Virginia
  • No. 9 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 10 – Anchorage, Alaska
The report ranked the 90 most populous U.S. cities based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year American Community Survey for 2022 and from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps for 2023. Data that factored into each city's ranking included a city's household income, poverty level, life expectancy, health insurance rates, marriage rates, overcrowding rates, and more.The full report and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The study examined used the average annual salary for white-collar "business" jobs in Houston. Photo by Zview/Getty Images

Salaries stretch further in Houston than most metros

Bayou city banks

It truly pays to live and work in Houston. A new ranking from BusinessStudent.com puts the Bayou City — and Dallas and Fort Worth, too — among the top 10 places in the U.S. for stretching your salary.

To come up with its ranking, BusinessStudent.com examined the average annual salary for 127 white-collar "business" jobs listed on career website Indeed — such as HR director, marketing manager, and IT manager — and subtracted the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment, based on data from apartment search website Rent Jungle. According to that measure, Houston is No. 7. Dallas is tops in the Lone Star State at No. 4, while Fort Worth is No. 9.

In all, BusinessStudent.com sifted through data for 65 major U.S. markets.

"When deciding where to work and live, it is critical to look at more than just what salary you can make," BusinessStudent.com says. "Because if rents are sky high, you may net out at zero, or even worse with mounting credit card debt."

The BusinessStudent.com study calculated an average yearly salary of $79,579 in Houston and an average monthly rent of $1,401 for a two-bedroom apartment. The difference: $62,767.

BusinessStudent.com also computed an average yearly salary of $82,609 in Dallas and average monthly rent of $1,422 for a two-bedroom apartment. That resulted in a difference of $65,545, behind Palo Alto and San Jose, both in Northern California, and Detroit.

In Houston, at least, all types of workers are benefiting from stable rent growth. According to apartment search website Apartment List, the growth of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Houston has gone up 3.6 percent over the past year, 0.8 percent in Austin, 0.4 percent in San Antonio, flat in Dallas, and 1.8 percent statewide.

For Fort Worth, the average yearly salary for a white-collar job added up to $75,797, according to BusinessStudent.com, with average monthly rent of $1,108 for a two-bedroom apartment. That left a gap of $62,501.

Aside from Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, Irving (No. 12) and Plano (No. 19) showed up in BusinessStudent.com's top 25.

In Irving, BusinessStudent.com discovered the average yearly salary was $77,527, with average monthly rent of $1,327 for a two-bedroom apartment. The difference was $61,603.

Plano had an average yearly salary of $75,988, with average monthly rent of $1,350 for a two-bedroom apartment. The gap: $59,788.

At the other end of the spectrum, College Station ranked No. 1 in the country for the lowest after-rent salary. There, the average yearly salary for a white-collar job was calculated at $55,086, with average monthly rent of $906 for a two-bedroom apartment. The leftover amount: $44,214.

San Antonio was the only other Texas city in the bottom 25. In the Alamo City, the average yearly salary was computed as $67,195, with average monthly rent of $1,195 for a two-bedroom apartment. The difference: $52,855. That put San Antonio at No. 12 among the bottom 25.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Houston businesses score spots on prestigious list of most influential companies

leading the pack

Five companies with strong ties to Houston have been named among this year’s 100 most influential companies by Time magazine.

The five companies are:

  • South Korea’s Hanwha Group, whose Hanwha Power Systems Americas subsidiary is in Houston. Hanwha, known as the “Lockheed Martin of Asia,” was praised for winning approval last year from the American Bureau of Shipping for the world’s first large-scale, carbon-free liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel.
  • Houston-based Intuitive Machines. In February, the company’s Odysseus spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to land on the moon. The feat also marked the first U.S. landing on the moon since 1972.
  • Saudi Aramco, whose Americas headquarters is in Houston. Time cited Saudi Aramco’s dominance in the global oil market as a $1.9 billion “giant.”
  • Germany-based ThyssenKrupp Nucera, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston. The company builds alkaline water electrolyzers to power steel mills and other fossil-fuel-dependent industrial sites.
  • United Airlines, which operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Chicago-based United was lauded for funding startups that help produce sustainable aviation fuel.

To come up with the fourth annual list, Time solicited nominations and polled in-house contributors and correspondents, along with external experts. Editors at Time then evaluated each company based on factors such as impact, innovation, ambition, and success.

“The result is a diverse group of 100 businesses helping chart an essential path forward,” the magazine says.

In a news release, Time’s editor in chief, Sam Jacobs, says the list of 100 companies “is more than an index of business success.”

“It is an argument for what business influence looks like in 2024,” Jacobs adds. “At a time when leadership in other sectors is battered, surveys suggest that many look to corporate leaders first for direction …. Each show us how companies can provide new models and new inspiration for the future of humanity.”

Houston climatetech incubator brings in new automation tools for startup use

Houston’s Greentown Labs announced new resources and equipment for its members thanks to two corporate partnerships.

Greentown Houston is now home to new tools from Emerson and Puffer to help members implement strong foundations for access to contextualized data.

Automation is the theme with the latest resources, as the process assists with a startup's journey to “standardization and scalability” according to a news release from Greentown Labs. Members will have access to these two units and platforms. The DeltaV Automation Platform is a data-driven decision-making resource that aims to improve operational performance while reducing risks, costs, and downtime. It integrates real-time analytics, advanced automation solutions, sophisticated control systems, and lifecycle services.

Puffer-Sweiven is a localized, single point of contact for sales, service, and applied engineering for Emerson Automation Solutions in the Texas Gulf Coast and Central Texas area with the capabilities to combine with other members in North America to leverage global reach and technologies. Puffer is an Emerson Impact Partner.

With access to the two units, Greentown Labs member companies can further explore easy-to-use, integrated-by-design DeltaV Distributed Control System. With the system, companies and members can better scale new technologies into pilot scale, optimize processes for high quality products, and implement a smart foundation for access to contextualized data. Global ROC is one company that is already utilizing the new resources at Greentown Labs.

“Our member Global ROC, which is developing a solution for cooling tower systems that reduces chemical consumption, saves water, and reduces energy costs, plans to use the system in two ways,” Global ROC CEO Ely Trujillo said to Greentown Labs via LinkedIn.

The startup will be able to create a control method that can be applied to future projects by using and comparing Global ROC’s products with the Delta V’s advanced function blocks. Trujilloalso plans to train team members to set up a Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller. The PID involves building a lab test box that connects to the DeltaV’s CHARM modules to control a process to a temperature by varying amperage through the DeltaV’s PID controller.

As part of the 3-year kickoff of the Texas Exchange for Energy and Climate Entrepreneurship (TEX-E), Greentown Labs also celebrated 87 Texas students from The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, University of Houston, Rice University, Prairie View A&M University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been accepted into this year's Fellowship. The students will gain access to hands-on experiences including internships, pitch competitions, entrepreneurship bootcamps, courses, and conferences geared to help the climate and energy-transition innovation field.

In

March, Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space were named the newest accelerator for the Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL. The seven selected startups will have a year-long curated curriculum, incubation at Greentown's two locations, and a non-dilutive $25,000 grant.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.