Everything is better in Texas, including the state economy. Photo by via Getty Images

Despite growing sentiments that the U.S. is on a path towards a recession, Texas is pulling a lot of weight as one of the best state economies in the nation, according to a new annual report from WalletHub.

Texas' strong state economy ranked No. 4, with Washington (No. 1), Utah (No. 2), and Massachusetts (No. 3) claiming the top three spots.

The study analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 28 metrics to determine the "Best & Worst State Economies" in 2024. Each state was ranked across three major categories: Economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential.

The Lone Star State earned a score of 60.08 out of 100 possible points, nipping at the heels of Massachusetts, which earned 61.52 points. For comparison, Washington claimed its No. 1 title with a score of 71.10.

Here's how Texas performed within the three major categories in the study:

  • No. 2 – Economic activity
  • No. 7 – Economic health
  • No. 24 – Innovation potential

Most notably, Texas tied with Louisiana for the No. 1 most exports per capita nationwide, according to the report's findings. Texas also had the second-highest change in GDP (gross domestic product) from 2022 to 2023.

Texas has the 10th highest amount of "startup activity," which WalletHub calculated as the rate of newly established firms. Texas also scored No. 10 in the country for its annual median household income of $75,647.

Nonfarm payrolls – defined as the number of workers employed in the U.S. (excluding those the farming, nonprofit, active military, and private household sectors) – is another indicator for measuring each state's economy. Texas had the third-highest change in nonfarm payrolls from 2022 to 2023, according to WalletHub, behind Nevada and Florida.

Although the overall state of Texas' economy may be strong, that doesn't guarantee all Texans will reap the benefits from that success. WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe explained there's more to improving state residents' financial success than just relying on the economy.

"Factors like a low unemployment rate and high average income help residents purchase property, pay down debt and save for the future," Happe said. "The best state economies also encourage growth by being friendly to new businesses and investing in new technology that will help the state deal with future challenges and become more efficient."

On the other end of the economic scale, Hawaii and Mississippi flopped with the worst state economies in the U.S. in 2024, ranking No. 50 and No. 51, respectively.

The top 10 states with the best economies are:

  • No. 1 – Washington
  • No. 2 – Utah
  • No. 3 – Massachusetts
  • No. 4 – Texas
  • No. 5 – California
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Florida
  • No. 8 – North Carolina
  • No. 9 – District of Columbia
  • No. 10 – Arizona
The full report can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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

Report ranks Houston as a top global city — with one thing holding it back

take note

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.”

Texas continued its year-over-year improvement on an annual report of most innovative states. Photo via Getty Images

Texas again improves on annual ranking of most innovative states

making progress

It's another year of slow but steady progress for the Lone Star State on an annual report on the top states for innovation.

Texas ranked No. 14 with a score of 48.43 points on personal finance site WalletHub's Most and Least Innovative States in 2024 ranking. Last year, Texas ranked No. 15. The state has steadily inched up the list — Texas was No.16 on the list in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

According to the report, Texas had the following ranking across the following categories:

  • No. 19 – Share of STEM Professionals
  • No. 16 – Projected STEM-Job Demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – Eighth-Grade Math & Science Performance
  • No. 19 – Share of Science & Engineering Graduates Aged 25+
  • No. 13 – Share of Technology Companies
  • No. 31 – R&D Spending per Capita
  • No. 15 – Venture-Capital Funding per Capita
Source: WalletHub

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 25 key metrics and across two key dimensions, “Human Capital” and “Innovation Environment," per the report. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

“The most innovative states are especially attractive to people who have majored in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, as they offer abundant career opportunities and investment dollars, both for jobs at existing companies and for startups," says Cassandra Happe, a WalletHub analyst in the report. "These states also instill young students with the skills they need to succeed in the current workforce, skills which are useful whether or not they pursue a STEM career.”

The report's top 10 included:

  1. District of Columbia with a score of 71.65
  2. Massachusetts with a score of 69.93
  3. Washington with a score of 66.36
  4. California with a score of 65.63
  5. Colorado with a score of 63.93
  6. Maryland with a score of 62.41
  7. Virginia with a score of 59.86
  8. Delaware with a score of 54.58
  9. Utah with a score of 53.66
  10. New Jersey with a score of 53.2
This is a Houston resident's sign to launch that small business they've been dreaming of. Photo by Mickey Dziwulski on Unsplash

Houston ranks among best U.S. metros to start a small business, per report

by the numbers

Houstonians whose New Year's resolution is to start their own small business will be happy to learn they're in the right city to do it. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land has been ranked among the 25 best metropolitan areas to start a small business in a new report.

The report by personal finance website The Credit Review placed Houston in the No. 22 spot, touting the city's rapid growth, its diverse economy, and its ever-expanding population as several attractive reasons for its rank.

Small business owners in Houston specifically thrive in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors, the report found. Houston has proved its big on business, as several major employers have invested in the city while earning high recognition for their efforts in improving the workplace atmosphere for employees.

With the shift to remote work, it's now much easier for Houston residents to launch their business than ever before, the report claims. But in order to ensure longevity with a small business, the study suggests launching the venture in a place with the right number of resources and connections.

"The more resources a small business owner has, the better chances they have to succeed," the report says. "This is why, despite the overall shift to a remote-centric world, geographic location matters more than ever for a small business’s long-term success."

Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown earned the gold medal as the No. 1 metro for starting a small business. The Central Texas region is also the No. 1 hotspot for businesses in the information services sector, and the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry.

Another thriving Texas metro that earned a spot in the top 10 is Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, claiming the No. 8 spot. Elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio-New Braunfels ranked below Houston as No. 32.

The top 10 U.S. metros for starting a small business are:

  • No. 1 – Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
  • No. 2 – Provo-Orem, Utah
  • No. 3 – Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
  • No. 4 – Salt Lake City, Utah
  • No. 5 – Boise, Idaho
  • No. 6 – Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
  • No. 9 – Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, North Carolina-South Carolina
  • No. 10 – North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida

The report analyzed the top 100 U.S. metro regions across 10 factors to determine the rankings, including unemployment rates, growth rates, new business success rates, and more.

The full report can be found on thecreditreview.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

UH ranked No. 8 in Texas. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

3 Houston universities rise to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024

top schools

Houston universities are ramping up high quality educational experiences for their students as three local universities earn top 10 ranks for the best Texas colleges in 2024, according to a new report by U.S. News and World Report.

Rice University claimed the top spot in Texas, and ranked No. 17 in the national ranking. Houston's "Ivy League of the South" had an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 4,500 students in fall 2022. In April, Rice's Jones School of Business ranked No. 2 in U.S. News' ranking of the best graduate programs in Texas.

According to Rice's profile, the university also prides itself as a top-tier research institution. In fact, Rice just opened a massive new research facility on campus.

A degree from Rice University in Houston was ranked most valuable in the state of Texas. Rice University

"From your first semester on campus, no matter your major, you'll have the opportunity to conduct research alongside experts," the school said. "You'll be able to apply your skills, gain valuable professional experience and interact with industry leaders as you address real-world issues."

The University of Houston ranked No. 8 in the Texas rankings, and No. 133 in the national report. With a total undergraduate enrollment of nearly 38,000 students in fall 2022, U.S. News says the university has a rich campus culture that encourages students to participate in different organizations and activities.

"Each year, students turn the campus into a town called Fiesta City in time for the Frontier Fiesta, a string of concerts, talent shows, cook-offs and more," U.S. News' overview said. "There are more than 400 student organizations to check out, including fraternities and sororities."

Completing the Texas top 10 is the University of St. Thomas, which ranked No. 216 nationally. The private Catholic university has the smallest fall 2022 undergraduate enrollment out of all three Houston universities: 2,729 students.

Elsewhere in Texas, nearby Texas A&M University in College Station earned the title for the third-best college in Texas, and No. 47 in the nation. That's big news for one of the fastest-growing college towns in the U.S.

U.S. News' top 10 best colleges in Texas in 2024 are:

  • No. 1 – Rice University, Houston
  • No. 2 – University of Texas at Austin
  • No. 3 – Texas A&M University, College Station
  • No. 4 – Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • No. 5 – Baylor University, Waco
  • No. 6 – Texas Christian University, Fort Worth
  • No. 7 – The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson
  • No. 8 – University of Houston
  • No. 9 – Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • No. 10 – University of St. Thomas, Houston

The full rankings can be found on usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Texas has seen year-over-year improvement on an annual list that ranks states based on their innovation economies. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states

moving on up

The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita
For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

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University of Houston lab report breakthrough in cancer-detecting technology

making moves

T-cell immunotherapy is all the rage in the world of fighting cancer. A Houston company’s researchers have discovered a new subset of T cells that could be a game changer for patients.

CellChorus is a spinoff of Navin Varadarajan’s Single Cell Lab, part of the University of Houston’s Technology Bridge. The lab is the creator of TIMING, or Time-lapse Imaging Microscopy In Nanowell Grids. It’s a visual AI program that allows scientists to understand the functions of cells by evaluating cell activation, killing, and movement.

Last month, Nature Cancer published a paper co-authored by Varadarajan entitled, “Identification of a clinically efficacious CAR T cell subset in diffuse large B cell lymphoma by dynamic multidimensional single-cell profiling.”

“Our results showed that a subset of T cells, labeled as CD8-fit T cells, are capable of high motility and serial killing, found uniquely in patients with clinical response,” says first author and recent UH graduate Ali Rezvan in Nature Cancer.

Besides him and Varadarajan, contributors hail from Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Kite Pharma, and CellChorus itself.

The team identified the CD80-fit T cells using TIMING to examine interactions between T cells and tumor cells across thousands of individual cells. They were able to integrate the results using single-cell RNA sequencing data.

T-cell therapy activates a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, but not every patient responds favorably to it. Identifying CD8-fit cells could be the key to manufacturing clinical response even in those for whom immunotherapy hasn’t been effective.

“This work illustrates the excellence of graduate students Ali Rezvan and Melisa Montalvo; and post-doctoral researchers Melisa Martinez-Paniagua and Irfan Bandey among others,” says Varadarajan in a statement.

Earlier last month, CellChorus recently received a $2.5 million SBIR grant. The money allows the company to share TIMING more widely, facilitating even more landmark discoveries like CD8-fit cells.

Newly named CEO to lead Houston gold hydrogen biotech co. into high-growth phase

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 239

Using microbes to sustainably unlock low-cost hydrogen sounds like the work of science fiction, but one Houston company is doing just that.

Gold H2, a spin-off company from Cemvita, has bioengineered subsurface microbes to use in wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen. The technology was piloted two years ago by Cemvita, and now, as its own company with a new CEO, it's safe to say Gold H2's on its way.

"First of all, that was groundbreaking," Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, says of the 2022 pilot in the Permian Basin, "to be able to use bugs to produce hydrogen within a couple of days."

"2024 is supposed to be the year where Gold H2 takes off," Sekhon, who joined the company in April, tells the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It was one of those opportunities that I couldn't turn down. I had been following the company. I thought, 'here is this innovative tech that's on the verge of providing a ground-breaking solution to the energy transition — what better time to join the team.'"

Sekhon shares on the show how his previous roles at NextEra Energy Resources and Hess have prepared him for Gold H2. Specifically, as a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team, he says he was tasked with figuring out what the energy industry looks like in the next five, 10, and 20 years.

"Green hydrogen was a huge buzz, but one of the things I realized when I started looking at green hydrogen was that it's very expensive," Sekhon says. "I wanted to look at alternatives."

This journey led him to what Cemvita was doing with gold hydrogen, Sekhon says, explaining that the ability to use biotechnology to provide a new revenue stream from the mostly used up wells struck him as something with major potential.

"The idea of repurposing existing oil and gas assets to become hydrogen assets, leveraging current infrastructure to drive down overall deliver costs — to me I thought, 'wow, if they can make this works, that's brilliant,'" he says.

Now, as CEO, Sekhon gets to lead the company toward these goals, which include expanding internationally. He explains on the show that Gold H2 is interested in expanding to any part of the world where there's interest in implementing their biotech. In order to support the growth, Sekhon says they are looking to raise funding this year with plans for an additional round, if needed, in 2025.

"When we compare our tech to the rest of the stack, I think we blow the competition out of the water," Sekhon says, explaining that Gold H2's approach to gold hydrogen development is novel when you look at emerging technology in the space. "We're using a biological process — cheap bugs that eat oil for a living."

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for June

WHERE TO BE

From networking meetups to expert speaker summits, June is filled with opportunities for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post may be updated to add more events.


June 6 — Ion Block Party and Chef Showcase

On the first Thursday of each month, Block Party brings together startups, tech enthusiasts, and business visionaries in a dynamic and festive environment.

June’s special edition of Block Party will be a Chef Showcase! The District’s robust food and drink offerings showcase hyper-local concepts that reflect Houston’s reputation for having a culturally diverse restaurant industry.

This event is Thursday, June 6, from 4 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 6 — Houston Blockchain Alliance Monthly Meetup

This in-person event is a great opportunity to connect with fellow blockchain enthusiasts in the Houston area. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, come and engage in lively discussions, share insights, and network with like-minded individuals. Discover the latest trends and advancements in blockchain technology while enjoying a friendly and casual atmosphere.

June's guest speaker, Alex Guerra of SYS Labs, will talk about DeFi today v. DeFi tomorrow. Alex is a business developer at SYS Labs and co-founder of Pachira Finance.

This event is Thursday, June 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at The Cannon. Click here to register.

June 8 — Celebration of Entrepreneurship

Head to IAG Technology for an exciting evening dedicated to all things entrepreneurship. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, this event has networking, learning, and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit.

Come celebrate entrepreneurship and the launch of Earn On Purpose, a business mentoring and coaching company. At Earn on Purpose, entrepreneurship is simplified through solid fundamentals and practical strategies for success.

This event is Saturday, June 8, from 5 to 10 pm at IAG Technology. Click here to register.

June 10 — 2024 Energy Drone & Robotics Summit

Connect with 1500+ global energy & industrial robotics, drone & data leaders at a time of rapid growth in the robotics sector. Hear from expert speakers on the latest ideas, use cases, best practices, tech, and trends as innovators, regulators, the most energy asset owners & service firms and more break these topics down.

This event begins Monday, June 10, from 4 to 6:30 pm at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Click here to register.

June 11 — Software Day at the Ion: From Seed to Success

Software Day at the Ion is a program series hosted by the Ion and Mercury, where software founders can connect with mentorship at Houston’s HQ for innovation.

This monthly series provides support, inspiration, and connections needed to help startups on their path to rapid, sustainable growth. Each month, Software Day will include office hours (by application), a keynote session, and networking.

This event is Tuesday, June 11, from 3:30 to 7 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 13 — 2024 Speaker Series: Dynamic Innovations in Energy Efficiency

Co-hosted by the TEPRI, in partnership with the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, this event will spotlight just and effective strategies to boost energy efficiency, ensuring equitable access to sustainable energy solutions for all Texans. Keynote addresses by Dr. Robert D. Bullard, renowned environmental justice advocate and recipient of the 2024 Time Magazine Earth Award, and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower and inaugural recipient of TIME’s 2022 “Dreamer of the Year.”

The event is Thursday, June 13, from 2 to 4 pm at Melcher Hall. Click here to register.

June 13 — Out In Tech Monthly Mixer

Out in Tech Houston is the local chapter for Out in Tech, the world’s largest non-profit community of LGBTQ+ tech leaders. Check out their relaxed social-mixer event, hosted on the second Thursday of every month.

This event is Thursday, June 13, from 7 to 8:30 pm at Second Draught. Click here to register.

June 18 — Juneteenth Journey: Bridging Past and Present Through Technology

This special presentation will offer insights into the historical significance of Juneteenth, and illuminate the evolution of technology from the 1860s through World War II to modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the technology of today. Experts from the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and Emancipation Park Conservancy will illustrate how technology has evolved as well as the parallels between the innovative spirit of the Buffalo Soldiers and today’s technological advancements, emphasizing the role of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation.

This event is Tuesday, June 18, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm a the Ion. Click here to register.

June 20 — Visionary Voices: Leading Authentically with Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill

Celebrate Pride Month with a special edition of Ion’s “Visionary Voices” speaker series, featuring a powerful conversation between two leaders who’ve paved the way for LGBTQ+ representation in their respective fields – Woodside Energy CEO Meg O’Neill and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Attendees will gain insights into the unique experiences and milestones that have shaped both Meg and Annise’s careers, as well as the importance of visibility and representation in corporate leadership and public service.

This event is Thursday, June 20, from 3:30 to 6 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 25 — State of AI: Generating Real Business Value with AI

This comprehensive one-day free event organized by the Houston-based CODE Group is designed to equip decision-makers, C-level executives, and software developers with strategies to harness AI effectively. The event kicks off with a keynote from Markus Egger, Microsoft Regional Director, on “Harnessing AI for Tangible Business Outcomes,” setting the stage by demonstrating how AI can integrate seamlessly into business applications to enhance productivity and innovation.

This event is Tuesday, June 25, from 9 am to 5 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

June 28 — Young Professional Climate & Career Mixer

Climate Connect is a community resilience education and engagement program launching in Houston, Texas and powered by the Coalition of Community Organizations and Verizon. This meetup is for those interested in networking, learning, and exploring career opportunities in the field of climate change. The event will take place at 6500 Rookin Street, Houston, TX 77074 (Building E), where you can connect with like-minded individuals, meet industry professionals, and discover new, green career paths.

This event is Friday, June 28, from 5:30 to 7 pm at 6500 Rookin St. Click here to register.