The Woodlands ranked No. 24 out of 343 U.S. cities. Photo via thewoodlands.com

In a surprising turn of events, it's not Houston proper that's earning recognition for its job market, but The Woodlands. The north Houston suburb boasts the No. 24 best job market in the nation, according to a new report by SmartAsset.

The study examined 343 U.S. cities across six main data points from 2021 and 2022, for which the most recent data is available: A city's unemployment rates; median income to housing payment ratio, commute times, the percentage of remote workers, the percentage of employed residents with health insurance, and income growth between 2019-2022.

The report discovered that The Woodlands has a 4.8 percent unemployment rate, and its residents' median earnings landed at $73,079 annually. The average housing costs in The Woodlands make up 28.7 percent of an individual's yearly income, which can be estimated at about $1,750 per month.

Remote-work flexibility was another major consideration in the study. Working from home means no real commute time, as long as you don't count the time it takes to get out of bed and walk into the home office. Unfortunately for The Woodlands, a majority of workers are commuting to their jobs, and only 24.5 percent of employees work remotely.

For those who do need to drive to-and-from work, a separate SmartAsset study on remote workforces discovered the average commute time in The Woodlands is about 27 minutes long.

Houston fell far behind in the report, landing at No. 272 out of 343 total U.S. cities. The city's unemployment rate is only 5.9 percent, but its residents' median earnings barely tip over $38,000 a year. Only 11.5 percent of Houstonians work from home, and their housing costs account for 39.4 percent of their total income.

Houston ranked outside the top 20 best cities for tech workers earlier in 2024, further highlighting a significant downward shift in the employment atmosphere for the region.

"With costs of living skyrocketing in recent years and the demand for different skill sets changing, job seekers must be resourceful to find opportunities that best suit them," the report said. "This could mean relocating for higher income, an improved work-life balance, growth potential or benefits."

Other Houston-area cities that made it in the top 200 in the report are:

  • No. 99 – Sugar Land
  • No. 113 – Pearland
  • No. 172 – League City
The full report and its methodology can be found on smartasset.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston's not so hot for remote workers, as it turns out. thumbor.forbes.com

Houston caught slacking in Forbes study on best cities for remote workers

WFH woes

With many companies encouraging — or commanding — that remote workers return to the office in 2023, more and more Americans are seeking employment opportunities that will give them the freedom to work from elsewhere.

Houston is (remotely) clocking in as the No. 49 best city for remote workers in 2023, according to a study by Forbes Advisor. The study examined 100 U.S. cities and metro areas, and ranked them based on the earning potential of remote workers, internet access, lifestyle amenities, worker friendliness, living costs, and more.

The Bayou City did get some points for providing a quality lifestyle, the report found. Of the cities with the best access to arts, entertainment, and dining establishments, Houston came in No. 8 — outpaced slightly by No. 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.

"Remote work saves workers time and money on commuting and office clothing, while keeping their morale and productivity levels high," the report said. "Ideally, you’d live in a place with an affordable cost of living, high earning potential, reliable internet connection, low taxes, a low unemployment rate, and various entertainment options."

Out of All of Texas, only one region makes the top 10. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas, snagged the No. 6 spot. Here's yhe top 10 U.S. metro areas for remote workers are:

  • No. 1 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  • No. 2 – Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana
  • No. 3 – Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa
  • No. 4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • No. 5 – Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  • No. 6 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • No. 7 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • No. 9 – Tuscon, Arizona
  • No. 10 – Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

Houston ranks in dead last when compared to the other Texas cities in the top 50. Behind San Antonio is Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, ranked No. 15 nationally. Austin-Round Rock ranks as the third overall best metro area in Texas for remote workers at No. 39.

Austin did great in one category — internet access — but it seems that earning potential and lifestyle amenities just couldn't keep up. for Austinites, it's all in the Wi-Fi: a remote worker's most important tool.

Austin's average internet download speed is 425.90 Megabits per second (Mbps), and when coupled with the wide variety of free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city, Austin earned No. 3 in the category for "cities with the best internet access." And we do like to take advantage of that at restaurants and bars around town.

Rounding out the ranking was El Paso at No. 46, sneaking ahead of Houston, and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission gets an honorable mention at No. 85.

The full study can be found on forbes.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A remote workforce has a lot to offer Houston startups, according to the University of Houston. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

Why Houston startups should consider a remote workforce

Houston voices

There are myriad reasons why it behooves a startup to hire remote workers. This article takes a look at the benefits of expanding your hiring pool.

Remote work by the numbers

According to the State of Remote Work 2017 report, over 60 percent of engineers working in product development work remotely about once a week. That’s 20 percent more than average. The report also sheds light on why startup settings are particularly ideal for working remotely.

The report found that small businesses are twice as likely to hire remote employees as bigger, more corporately structured companies. Startups have an advantage because of their penchant for innovation, their hiring needs, and their willingness to be flexible.

Here are three reasons why startups are idea for working remotely.

Remote work maximizes your chances for acquiring great talent. Once you remove geographical boundaries from your talent search, you will see a wider range of talent from which to cull. Chew on this: what if your ideal lead engineer is in Boise, Idaho, rather than Houston, TX where your startup is based? Removing those geographic limitations means you can hire this person!

The State of Remote Work report showed that fully remote businesses hire employees 30 percent faster than big companies. It would be wise to take advantage of that and cut down on the time it takes for a hire to be processed.

Remote controlling workflow

Diversity of perspective. When you erase geographic limitations, you will get people from all over the country, and that means people with different views. People with different ways of looking at things. Different opinions and thought processes. In fact, study from the London Annual Business Survey discovered a connection between diversity and innovation where more culturally diverse teams were more likely to come up with new products than less diverse teams.

Buildingtrust. It’s quite common for employers to worry about a remote employee’s productivity. They’re hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away. It’s only natural to fear that they’re at the amusement park on the company dime. But is the problem really distance? Maybe the problem is the perceived lack of trust. Have faith in your hiring process and ultimate decision. Startup companies have too much to worry about to be concerned with babysitting an employee. Let your team’s work and results do the talking, and put your focus on other things.

Work-life balance. One of the biggest reasons an employee would want to work remotely to begin with is that it allows them to balance their work with their personal life. In fact, The State of Remote Work report revealed that over half of all remote workers chose remote work for precisely that reason. This helps your startup because happier workers work better, and that positivity trickles down and invigorates the whole.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Rene Cantu was the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Conroe is tops in Texas and No. 3 in the nation's list of boomtowns. Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Houston neighbor clocks as one of the best U.S. cities for remote workers

working from home

Working remotely is increasingly part of the modern lifestyle, and a new report cements a Houston neighbor as one of the top places for remote workers.

Apartment search website RentCafe ranks Conroe No. 15 in its Top 50 Cities for Remote Workers, released in November.

The study looked at 150 U.S. cities, comparing them across five main categories: leisure, affordability, comfort, rental demand, and remote work readiness. Scores were based on 19 metrics, from cost of living, availability of apartments with short-term leases, and rental demand to coworking spaces, percentage of remote workers, and internet speed.

"With remote work migration on the rise, we uncovered the most desirable cities to move to across the nation if you work remotely," the website says. It suggests that remote workers on the move "look toward the South and Southeast, where we identified several cities that offer the perfect balance between comfort, value, leisure and remote work-readiness."

Conroe ranks best for:

  • Number of high-end units
  • Share of new apartments
  • Number of apartments with access to sports amenities

Three other Texas cities join Conroe in the top 15. College Station (No. 9) makes the cut for remote workers due to its high availability of short-term rentals, large population of rentals, and access to sports amenities.

In the Austin metro area, both Austin (No. 13) and Round Rock (No. 11) appear, thanks in part to access to internet connection, average download speed, and the number of remote workers.

Lower on the list, but still in the top 50, are: Plano (No. 23), Lubbock (No. 27), Houston (No. 35), Amarillo (No. 36), San Antonio (No. 41), Dallas (No. 42), and Fort Worth (No. 46).The top city for remote workers, according to RentCafe, is Greenville, South Carolina.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A growing number of independent professionals call Houston home. Photo via Pixlr

Houston clocks in as one of the fastest-growing cities for freelancers

WFH FTW

Visitors to Memorial Park on an early weekday afternoon probably have to stop and wonder where all these people are coming from. Don’t they have work to do?

Maybe they do, but on their own schedules. Fiverr, a marketplace for connecting freelancers and new clients, released its fifth annual Freelance Economic Impact Report, ranking Houston as the tenth fastest-growing city for freelancers.

According to the report, some 144,000 workers in Houston made $6.6 billion. That means the Bayou City led Texas with around $46,000 for per capita income.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin came in as the fourth fastest-growing city for freelancers. The city's 77,262-person independent workforce earned $3.4 billion in 2021. In Dallas, which came in at No. 8, some 177, 500 workers made $7.6 billion.

Joining Houston, Austin, and Dallas in the top 10 were:

1. Orlando, Florida
2. Nashville, Tennessee
3. Miami, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
7. Charlotte, North Carolina
9. Portland, Oregon

Although on the surface the report focuses on geography, it collected data that shows eight out of 10 freelancers believe they can live anywhere and work anytime. However, fewer than half reported that it was “a primary factor” in becoming freelancers, and a third said that work was “a primary influence” in their choice of location.

Most important, 70 percent of respondents said they were “highly satisfied” with working independently.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

More square footage and cost of internet are two big reasons Texas stands out. Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Texas punches in as one of best states for working from home, says study

remote possibilites

The meaning of “going to work” is swiftly changing. The Ladders career platform forecasts that one-fourth of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders, said in December. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

Given the dramatic shift in what it means to go to work, some folks with remote jobs may be wondering where they should live. It turns out that Texas sits at No. 7 on a new list from personal finance website WalletHub of the best states for working from home. So, if you hold a remote job and already call Texas home, you might just want to stay put.

To identify which places are best for working from home, WalletHub compared 12 key metrics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those metrics include the cost of internet service and the size of a typical home. “Together, these metrics show how feasible working from home is in terms of cost, comfort, and safety,” WalletHub says.

Here’s how Texas fares in six categories, with a No. 1 position being best and a No. 25 position being average:

  • No. 1 for average square footage of homes.
  • No. 2 for cost of internet service.
  • No. 19 for share of potential telecommuters.
  • No. 25 for average price of electricity.
  • No. 25 for share of population working from home.
  • No. 29 for household internet access.

New Jersey grabs the No. 1 spot on the list, and Alaska ranks last.

“I believe that working from home will need to become a more viable option for many industries, regardless of the pandemic status, as we continue to see increasing fuel prices,” Sean Walker, professor of behavioral management in the College of Business and Global Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin, tells WalletHub.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.