Here's what Houston company scored the No. 2 spot among the fastest-growing private companies in the Southwest. Photo via Getty Images

Revenue growth is on fire at Houston-based Simple Solar.

Revenue at Simple Solar, a provider of residential solar installations, soared 8,007 percent from 2019 to 2021, putting it at No. 2 among the fastest-growing private companies in the Southwest. It leads the list of 25 Houston-area companies appearing in the new Inc. 5000 Regional rankings for the Southwest.

Between 2019 and 2021, the 165 private companies on the Southwest list posted an average growth rate of 557 percent. In 2021 alone, they added 16,116 jobs and nearly $5.5 billion to the Southwest’s economy.

“This year’s Inc. 5000 Regional winners represent one of the most exceptional and exciting lists of America’s off-the-charts growth companies,” says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. magazine. “They’re disruptors and job creators, and all delivered an outsized impact on the economy. Remember their names and follow their lead. These are the companies you’ll be hearing about for years to come.”

Here are the 25 Houston-area companies that made the Inc. 5000 Regional list for the Southwest, including their regional rankings.

  • No. 2 Simple Solar, Houston-based provider of residential solar installations, 8,007 percent growth
  • No. 6 Medical Edge Recruitment, The Woodlands-based health care recruiting and staffing firm, 2,980 percent growth
  • No. 8 Specialty1 Partners, Houston-based provider of surgical support services for dental practices, 2,921 percent growth
  • No. 15 Magnolia-based online women’s clothing retailer Jess Lea, 1,471 percent growth
  • No. 36 Houston-based accounting and advisory firm EFS Group, 458 percent growth
  • No. 39 Blackbuck Resources, Houston-based designer, builder, and operator of water infrastructure for the oil and gas industry, 432 percent growth
  • No. 48 Leveled Concrete, Houston-based provider of concrete and foundation repair services, 298 percent growth
  • No. 52 iCRYO Brands, Houston-based franchisor of cryotherapy centers, 269 percent growth
  • No. 53 TAXA Outdoors, Houston-based retailer of camping trailers, 268 percent growth
  • No. 58 Proxima Clinical Research, Houston-based contract research organization, 243 percent growth
  • No. 64 Ledge, Katy-based seller of in-pool and backyard furniture and accessories, 234 percent growth
  • No. 66 TekRevol, Houston-based software developer, 226 percent growth
  • No. 79 Finish Line Tax Solutions, Houston-based tax relief firm, 194 percent growth
  • No. 82 Incfile, Houston-based provider of services for small businesses, 192 percent growth
  • No. 99 Flocknote, Magnolia-based provider of technology that helps churches boost attendance and foster connections, 152 percent growth
  • No. 125 Onit, Houston-based developer of workflow and AI software, 104 percent
  • No. 137 InterLinc Mortgage, Houston-based mortgage lender, 85 percent growth
  • No. 140 Classy Art, Houston-based supplier of wall décor, 83 percent growth
  • No. 145 Zulie Venture (Cellpay), Sugar Land-based provider of prepaid wireless services, 78 percent growth
  • No. 149 Total Pump Solutions, Houston-based distributor of fire suppression equipment, 75 percent growth
  • No. 155 Construction Concepts, Houston-based commercial construction firm, 67 percent growth
  • No. 157 Energy Ogre, Houston-based service that helps consumers find electricity plans, 63 percent growth
  • No. 164 Garrison Construction Group, Houston-based commercial construction firm, 60 percent growth
  • No. 165 Technocrats Domain, Houston-based provider of IT services, 60 percent growth
  • No. 166, G&A Partners, Houston-based professional employer organization, 60 percent growth
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4 Houston universities earn top spots for graduate programs in Texas

top schools

Houston's top-tier universities have done it again. U.S. News and World Report has four Houston-area universities among the best grad schools in the state, with some departments landing among the top 100 in the country.

U.S. News publishes its annual national "Best Graduate Schools" rankings, which look at several programs including business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, and many others. For the 2024 report, the publication decided to withhold its rankings for engineering and medical schools. It also changed the methodology for ranking business schools by adding a new "salary indicator" based on a graduate's profession.

U.S. News also added new rankings for doctoral and master's programs in several medical fields for the first time in four years, or even longer in some cases. New specialty program rankings include audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy, nurse midwifery, speech-language pathology, nurse anesthesia, and social work.

"Depending on the job or field, earning a graduate degree may lead to higher earnings, career advancement and specialized skill development," wrote Sarah Wood, a U.S. News Education reporter. "But with several types of degrees and hundreds of graduate schools, it can be difficult to narrow down the options."

Without further ado, here's how the local schools ranked:

Rice University's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business maintained its position as No. 2 in Texas, but slipped from its former No. 24 spot in the 2023 report to No. 29 overall in the nation in 2024. Its entrepreneurship program tied for No. 8 in the U.S, while its part-time MBA program ranked No. 15 overall.

Houston's University of Texas Health Science Centerearned the No. 3 spots in Texas for its masters and doctorate nursing programs, with the programs earning the No. 31 and No. 45 spots overall in the nation. The school ranked No. 25 nationally in the ranking of Best Public Health schools, and No. 36 for its nursing-anesthesia program.

Prairie View A&M University's Northwest Houston Center ranked No. 5 in Texas and No. 117 in the nation for its master's nursing program. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice program ranked No. 8 statewide, and No. 139 nationally.

The University of Houstonmoved up one spot to claim No. 4 spot in Texas for its graduate education program, and improved by seven spots to claim No. 63 nationally. Its graduate business school also performed better than last year to claim No. 56 in the nation, according to the report. The University of Houston Law Center is the fifth best in Texas, and 68th best in the U.S. Most notably, its health care law program earned top nods for being the seventh best in the country.

Among the new specialty program rankings, UH's pharmacy school ranked No. 41 nationally, while the speech-language pathology program earned No. 44 overall. The graduate social work and public affairs programs ranked No. 67 and No. 76, respectively, in the nation.

The full list of best graduate schools can be found on usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Op-Ed: Removing barriers is critical for the future of Houston's health care workforce

guest column

Houston houses one of the most renowned medical communities in the world. However, Texas' current health care workforce shortage has severely impacted the city, with large swaths of the Gulf Coast Region deemed medically underserved. Thousands of Houstonians are impacted year after year due to the lack of access to life-saving medical care.

The obvious solution to this problem is to form a pipeline of health care workers by equipping students with the necessary skills and education to fill this gap. Sadly, many individuals who lack opportunity yet aspire to pursue a career in the health care industry face barriers related to childcare, transportation, mentorship gaps and life's unexpected circumstances.

Dwyer Workforce Development (DWD), a national health care training nonprofit, has recently expanded its footprint to Texas and has joined Houston Community College (HCC), one of the largest community colleges in the country, to provide life-changing support and create a pipeline of new health care workers, many who come from underserved areas.

Last year, our organizations launched the Dwyer Scholar Apprenticeship program, which is actively enrolling to combat the health care shortage and bring opportunities to those lacking. Working together, we are supporting apprentices each year to earn their Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) certificates, where students can choose a Phlebotomy or EKG specialization, helping our city meet the demand for one of the most essential and in-demand jobs in health care each year. Our program will help address Texas' loss of 36 percent of its CNAs over the past decade while providing gateways for highly motivated students—Dwyer Scholars—to thrive in long-term health care careers.

We know financial barriers prevent many potential health care workers from obtaining the certifications needed to enter the workforce. That's why we are bringing our innovative programs together, enabling Scholars to earn while they learn and opening doors for those who do not have the financial luxury of completing their training in a traditional educational atmosphere.

After enrollment, DWD continues to provide case management and additional financial support for pressures like housing, childcare, and transportation so Scholars don't have to put their work before their education. Scholars are placed with employers during the program, where they complete their apprenticeships and begin full-time employment following graduation.

The Texas Workforce Commission has identified apprenticeship programs as a key area for expansion to meet employer demand for skilled workers. Through our partnership, we are doing just that – and the model is proven. More than 85 percent of DWD Scholars in Maryland, where the program was established, have earned their certificates and are now employed or on track to begin their careers.

Our work doesn't end here. Over the next decade, Texas will face a shortage of 57,000 skilled nurses. Texas must continue to expand awareness and access to key workforce training programs to improve outcomes for diverse needs. Our organizations are working to vastly expand our reach, making the unattainable attainable and helping to improve the lives and health of our community.

No one's past or present should dictate their future. Everyone deserves access to health care, the ability to further their education and the chance to set and achieve life goals. The opportunities to reach and empower underserved populations to participate in the health care workforce are limitless.

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Barb Clapp is CEO of Dwyer Workforce Development, a nonprofit that supports individuals who aspire to pursue a career in the health care industry. Christina Robinson is the executive director for work-based learning and industry partnerships at Houston Community College.

Houston Spaceport takes off with second phase of development

ready for liftoff

Since the Houston Spaceport secured the 10th FAA-Licensed commercial spaceport designation in 2015, the development's tenants have gone on to secure billions in NASA contracts. Now, the Houston Spaceport is on to its next phase of growth.

“Reflecting on its meteoric rise, the Spaceport has seen remarkable growth in a short span of time. From concepts on paper to the opening of Axiom Space, Collins Aerospace, and Intuitive Machines, the journey has been nothing short of extraordinary,” says Arturo Machuca, director of Ellington Airport and the Houston Spaceport, in a news release. “These anchor tenants, collectively holding about $5 billion in contracts with NASA and other notable aerospace companies, are not just shaping the future of space exploration but injecting vitality into Houston’s economy.”

The next phase of development, according to Houston Airports, will include:

  • The construction of a taxiway to connect Ellington Airport and the Spaceport
  • The construction of a roadway linking Phase 1 infrastructure to Highway 3
  • The expansion of the EDGE Center, in partnership with San Jacinto College

Rendering via Houston Airports

The Houston Spaceport's first phase completed in 2019. Over the past few years, tenants delivered on their own buildouts. Last year, Intuitive Machines moved into its new $40 million headquarters and Axiom Space opened its test facility. In 2022, Collins Aerospace cut the ribbon on its new 120,000 square-foot facility.

“The vision for the Houston Spaceport has always been ambitious,” says Jim Szczesniak, director of Aviation for Houston Airports. “Our vision is to create a hub for aviation and aerospace enterprises that will shape the future of commercial spaceflight.”

Educational partners have also revealed new spaces, including San Jacinto College's EDGE Center, which broke ground in July of 2019, finally celebrated its grand opening in 2021. Last year, Texas Southern University got the greenlight to operate an aeronautical training hub on a two-acre site at Ellington Airport.

“By providing the education and training needed to sustain jobs in the rapidly evolving space industry, the Spaceport is not only attracting companies but also nurturing the talent that will drive Houston's aerospace sector forward,” continues Szczesniak in the release.