Rice once again is named the best collegiate value in Texas. Photo courtesy of Rice University

By one measure, earning a degree at Rice University is the smartest move in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places Rice at No. 1 in Texas and No. 10 in the U.S. It’s the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

While the tuition ($47,350) and student living costs ($17,800) at Rice are the highest among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, the average amount of scholarships and grants ($43,615), average starting salary ($77,900), and retention rate (97 percent) also are among the highest.

According to Rice, tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year add up to $74,110. That figure, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student living on campus.

“Rice University is consistently ranked as a best value in higher education and is one of America’s leading teaching and research universities,” the school’s Office of Financial Aid says. “By attending Rice, you will not only receive a superior education at a reasonable cost, you also will benefit from having a Rice degree long after graduation.”

Three other schools in or near the Houston metro area appear on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas:

  • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4. The university posted the lowest retention rate (74 percent) among the 10 schools. The remaining figures sit roughly in the middle of the pack.
  • University of Houston, No. 5. The university’s tuition ($8,913) was the lowest in the top 10, as was the average amount of scholarships and grants ($6,544).
  • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6. The university’s living costs are the second highest among the top 10 ($17,636), while its average starting salary for new grads lands at No. 3 ($64,400).

Other schools in the state’s top 10 are:

  • University of Texas at Austin, No. 2.
  • University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson), No. 3.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7.
  • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9.
  • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston is again ranked a top city for women in tech. Photo via Getty Images

Houston rises in the ranks among the top cities for women in tech

we're no. 3

Houston has again made it into the top cities for women in tech — beating out everywhere but Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Up four spots compared to last year, Houston comes in third place on SmartAsset's eighth annual list, which factors in four metrics: gender pay gap in the tech industry, income for women in tech after deducting housing costs, women as a percentage of tech workers, and three-year growth in tech employment. Aside from Houston, Texas's only other top 15 representation is Fort Worth, which ranks as No. 6.

The Bayou City ranks No.1 overall for the gender pay gap —women earned 98 percent of what men do in the tech workforce on average, the report finds. Female tech workers earn $65,662 after housing expenses are accounted for — ranking ninth-best. Between 2017 and 2020, total tech employment grew by 13 percent and in that workforce, 27.5 percent of workers are women.

The annual study found that while the tech industry is seeing steady growth and is projected to see another 178,000 tech jobs enter the market in 2022, the gender gap is also consistently disappointing. Women only make up 26.1 percent of all tech workers, per the report, and earn just 84 percent of what their male counterparts do.

The West Coast doesn't make a great impact on the list this year.

"Surprisingly, no California cities made the top 10," SmartAsset reports. "Overall, California cities fall behind for tech employment growth over the last three years and the gender pay gap. The highest ranked California city is Sacramento which ties for No. 11 with Nashville, Tennessee."

Houston ranked No. 6 on the same study in 2020 and No. 4 in 2019.

Based on business activity in town, a new study ranks Houston as a top city for Asian Americans. Photo via Getty Images

Houston ranks as No. 3 city for Asian American entrepreneurs

diverse city

Known for its diversity, Houston ranks as the third best major metro area in the U.S. for Asian American entrepreneurs, according to a new study.

Personal finance website SmartAsset analyzed data for 52 of the largest metro areas to come up with the ranking. The analysis looked at nine metrics in three categories: prevalence of Asian-owned businesses, success of new businesses, and income and job security.

About 9 percent of the Houston metro area’s residents identify as Asian.

The SmartAsset study puts Houston in fifth place for the number of Asian-owned businesses (nearly 19,900) and in fourth place for the share of Asian-owned businesses (almost 17.9 percent) among all businesses. Furthermore, Houston ranks 14th for the increase (nearly 9.6 percent) in the number of Asian-owned businesses from 2017 to 2019.

Leading the SmartAsset list is the San Francisco metro area, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth. Austin comes in at No. 11 and San Antonio at No. 14.

The largest minority-owned business in the Houston area, as ranked by annual revenue, is Asian-owned private equity firm ZT Corporate.

Founded in 1997 by Chairman and CEO Taseer Badar, who was born in Pakistan, ZT Corporate is valued at more than $1 billion. ZT Corporate generates more than $900 million in annual revenue, according to the company, and employs over 3,000 people.

“As we look ahead, the vision for ZT Corporate is limitless. Our team will continue pushing boundaries and finding the bright spots in the economy that produce consistent financial gains for our investors,” Badar says in a news release marking his company’s 25th anniversary.

ZT Corporate’s flagship businesses are:

  • Altus Community Healthcare, a provider of health care services.
  • ZT Financial Services, a wealth management firm.
  • ZT Motors, which owns and operates auto dealerships. Last year, ZT Motors bought three Ron Carter dealerships in the Houston area.

“ZT Corporate is a vital asset to our citizens as a longtime local employer,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says, “and has positively affected many lives through their health care organizations and philanthropic efforts.”

Galveston is a great place to start a small business. Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Visitors & Convention Bureau

Houston's coastal neighbor named No. 2 in Texas for small business

shore enough

Given the multi-tiered economy of Houston and population explosion in Austin, it might be easy to consider these two cities and counties the tops in Texas for small business. However, a new report lists a somewhat surprising county as second overall for small and growing companies.

Personal finance website Smart Asset ranks Galveston County the No. 2 place in Texas for small business owners. Nationally, Galveston County lands at an impressive No. 5.

Little wonder, given the tourism power Galveston County generates. Consider that visitors to Galveston Island spent $883 million in 2019, which generated $1.2 billion in total business sales, including indirect and induced impacts, according to a report on the county's economic impact.

Such impact also means companies were hiring: A total of 11,542 jobs were sustained by visitors to Galveston Island in 2019. This included 8,930 direct and 2,612 indirect and induced jobs, the report adds. That visitor spending directly supported 8,930 jobs in 2019, representing 27 percent of total employment in Galveston Island.

To come up with its list, the website examined federal data to zero in on three factors: the number of small businesses operating in each county, how much income they generate, and what they pay in taxes.

Smart Asset then weighed each set of data to develop an index score, with 100 being the top number. Galveston posted 42.62 percent in small business returns, 18.06 percent in small business income, and average of $7,633 in income taxes, and an overall score of 94 in the study’s small business index.

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas County ranks top in Texas for small business owners and No. 4. in the U.S.

Courtesy of Smart Asset, here’s the rest of this year’s top 10 counties in Texas for small business owners:

  • Galveston County, No. 2 in the state and No. 5 nationally.
  • Haskell County (north of Abilene), No. 3 in the state and No. 6 nationally.
  • Titus County (east of Sulphur Springs), No. 4 in the state and No. 8 nationally.
  • Matagorda County (east of Victoria), No. 5 in the state and No. 9 nationally.
  • Goliad County (west of Victoria), No. 6 in the state (not in national top 10).
  • Glasscock County (east of Midland), No. 7 in the state (not in national top 10).
  • Stonewall County (northwest of Abilene), No. 8 in the state (not in national top 10).
  • Brooks County (north of McAllen), No. 9 in the state (not in national top 10).
  • Midland County (Midland metro area), No. 10 in the state (not in national top 10).
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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

Hardworking Houston suburb tops list of biggest boomtowns in Texas

growth spurt

The Houston suburb of Conroe has come a long way since Civil War veteran Isaac Conroe planted roots there in October 1881 with the purchase of a tract of land and the establishment of a sawmill.

Fast forward 140 years, and Conroe now reigns as the leading boomtown in Texas. On November 2, personal finance website SmartAsset released a study ranking Conroe as the No. 1 boomtown in the state. Even more impressive: The city ties with Meridian, Idaho, for the No. 3 spot among the nation's top boomtowns. The No. 1 city overall is Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.

Conroe did not show up among the country's top 50 boomtowns in SmartAsset's 2019 study.

SmartAsset evaluated data for 500 of the largest U.S. cities to come up with its list of the top boomtowns. It looked at growth factors for each city such as five-year population change, average yearly growth in economic output (GDP), five-year change in number of businesses, five-year growth in housing, and August 2021 unemployment rate.

Among the 500 cities, Conroe ranks fifth for the five-year population change (26.03 percent) and fourth for the five-year growth rate in housing (39.69 percent). On SmartAsset's 100-point boomtown scale, Conroe earns a score of 97.59.

As of April 2020, Conroe was home to nearly 90,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Population growth in Conroe is not slowing. The increase continues to be steady. Conroe's median age and educational attainment [are] ideal for businesses looking to locate here," Danielle Scheiner, executive director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, said in April.

Conroe is the only city in the Houston area to make the top 50 on SmartAsset's boomtown list. However, five other Texas cities did break into the top 50:

  • New Braunfels (San Antonio metro area), tied for No. 14 with Concord, North Carolina. Boomtown score: 89.83. New Braunfels appeared at No. 6 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • Austin, No. 17. Boomtown score: 89.52. Austin appeared at No. 12 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • Round Rock (Austin metro area), tied for No. 25 with Charleston, South Carolina. Boomtown score: 86.98. Round Rock appeared at No. 10 in SmartAsset's 2019 study.
  • Denton (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area), No. 36. Boomtown score: 83.87. Denton appeared at No. 2 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.
  • McKinney (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area), No. 39. Boomtown score: 83.59. McKinney appeared at No. 14 in SmartAsset's 2019 boomtown study.

Four Texas cities dropped out of the boomtown ranking from 2019 to 2021: Frisco, which ranked 13th two years ago; College Station, ranked 16th; Flower Mound, ranked 24th; and Allen, ranked 37th.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Things seem to be ever-so-slowly improving. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Houston's post-pandemic economy slowly creeping back, new study says

bouncing back

While COVID-19 cases are alarmingly surging in Texas, here in Houston, businesses are slowly returning to a new normal (for now). So, just how well is the Bayou City recovering economically from the pandemic, compared to other big-city counterparts around the United States and in Texas?

So-so, according to a revealing new report.

A new list, published July 29 by financial advice website SmartAsset, ranks the U.S. cities with the strongest economic recoveries from the pandemic.

SmartAsset looked at five data points for 49 of the largest U.S. cities to determine the economic winners:

  • Percentage change in consumer spending
  • Percentage change in small businesses that are open
  • Percentage change in small business revenue
  • Percentage change in job postings
  • March 2021 unemployment rate

Houston performed slightly better than the studywide average in three of the metrics, (although some of the numbers still look pretty bleak). The Houston stats are:

1. Change in consumer spending (January 2020-April 2021)

  • Houston: 11.7 percent
  • Studywide average: 7.3 percent

2. Change in small businesses open (January 2020-April 2021)

  • Houston: -34.5 percent
  • Studywide average: -32.51 percent

3. Change in small business revenue (January 2020-April 2021)

  • Houston: -36.6 percent
  • Studywide average: -30.9 percent

4. March 2021 unemployment rate

  • Houston: 10.6 percent
  • Studywide average: 6.6 percent

Elsewhere in Texas, The SmartAsset ranking puts Dallas at No. 19, and Fort Worth, at No. 11. Among the most populous cities in the SmartAsset study, Dallas ranks highest. Austin lands at No. 23 for pandemic economic recovery, with San Antonio at No. 38.

Only one other Texas city, El Paso, appears in the top 20 (No. 8). Salt Lake City, Utah tops the list.

University of Houston's Bauer College of Business recently analyzed Houston's pandemic recovery. In its report, the Bauer study notes a bigger bounce-back in the U.S. than Houston — and that oil and gas downturns selectively hurt Houston more than the rest of Texas.

In some good news, the Bauer study reports the biggest sectors that have the biggest recoveries: healthcare, retail, and food service.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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These were the most-read guest columns by Houston innovators in 2022

2022 in review

Editor's note: Every week, InnovationMap — Houston's only news source and resource about and for startups — runs one or two guest columns written by tech entrepreneurs, public relations experts, data geniuses, and more. As Houston's innovation ecosystem gets ready for 2023, here are some of this year's top guest contributor pieces — each with pertinent information and advice for startups both at publishing and into the new year. Make sure to click "read more" to continue reading each piece.

Is your New Year's resolution to start contributing? Email natalie@innovationmap.com to learn more.

Houston expert: How to navigate Gen Z's quiet quitting movement at your company

Your perspective on quiet quitting is probably generational, says one Houston expert and startup founder. Photo via Getty Images

This month, the internet has been discussing "quiet quitting," the practice of employees setting hard boundaries about when they work and to what extent they are willing to go beyond the outlined expectations of their jobs.

The conversation around quiet quitting has also been lively at the Ampersand offices. As a training company that is dedicated to training new professionals for employers both big and small, it's critically important for our team to have a good grasp on the relationship employees have with their jobs, and what motivates them to succeed. So we had a long meeting where we discussed what quiet quitting meant to each of us. Read more.

Houston expert shares how small business leaders can encourage PTO use

Retaining employees is no easy feat these days. Encouraging a healthy PTO policy can help avoid burnout. Photo courtesy of Joe Aker

As many small businesses continue to operate in a challenging, fast-paced environment, one thing that has arrived at breakneck speed is midyear, along with the summer months. Theoretically, to ensure work-life balance, most employees should have 50 percent of their PTO remaining to use for summer vacations and during the second half of the year. In reality, that is probably not the case given workers are hesitant to use their PTO, leaving approximately five days of unused PTO on the table during 2020 and 2021.

While the pandemic affected PTO usage the last two years, the labor shortage appears to be a major contributor in 2022, which has led to PTO hoarding and increasing levels of employee burnout. Although these factors can be compounded for small business owners because there are fewer employees to handle daily responsibilities, it is imperative for workers to take PTO, returning recharged with a fresh perspective on the tasks at hand. Read more.

Houston expert: 3 emotional intelligence tips for improving patient-practitioner experience

A Houston expert shares how to improve on communication in the health care setting. Image via Getty Images

After spending hours with healthcare professionals as both a consultant and patient, I know that it takes a special kind of person to take care of others in their most distressing and vulnerable times. That responsibility has been in overdrive because of COVID, causing emotional burnout, which in turn affects patient care. By equipping yourself with emotional intelligence, you can be more resilient for yourself and patients.

Emotional intelligence is keeping your intelligence high, when emotions are high.

Health care sets up an environment for a tornado of emotions, and the rules and regulations centered around patient-provider interactions are often complex to navigate. This leaves many on the brink of emotional exhaustion, and for survival’s sake, depersonalization with patients becomes the status quo. Feeling a disconnect with their patients is another added weight, as few get into this industry for just the paycheck – it’s the impact of helping people get healthy and stay healthy that motivates them. I’ve seen it time and time again with people in my life, as well as on my own patient journey as I battled stage 3 cancer. Read more.

Here's what types of technology is going to disrupt the education sector, says this Houston founder

Edtech is expected to continue to make learning more interactive, fun, and inclusive for people around the world. Photo via Pexels

Technology has always maneuvered education in a certain direction but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to shift towards a new direction entirely.

What started off as a basic video lecture turned into a more hybrid and innovative form of education, enabling student engagement and interactivity like never before. Social media forums allow teachers to pay one-on-one attention to students boosting their learning process.

With an edtech boom on the rise, there is a question of what further expansion in educational technology is expected. Here are some technology breakthroughs currently underway in the education sector. Read more.

Houston expert weighs in on marketing from an investor’s perspective

What should Houston startups know about marketing? Photo via Getty Images

Just what do investors want to see from a startup with regards to the company’s marketing? I recently spoke on this topic to a cohort of early-stage technology startup entrepreneurs at Softeq Venture Studio, an accelerator program that helps founders build investable technologies and businesses. Read more.

These elite Houston researchers were named among the most-cited in their fields

MVPs

Nearly 60 scientists and professors from Houston-area universities and institutions, working in fields from ecology to immunology, have been named among the most-cited researchers in the world.

The Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers 2022 list considers a global pool of public academic papers that rank in the top 1 percent of citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science. It then ranks researchers by the number of times their work has been cited, or referenced, by other researchers, which, according to the University of Houston, helps their findings "become more impactful and gain further credibility."

This year 6,938 researchers from 70 different countries were named to this list. About 38 percent of the researchers are based in the U.S.

“Research fuels the race for knowledge and it is important that nations and institutions celebrate the individuals who drive the wheel of innovation. The Highly Cited Researchers list identifies and celebrates exceptional individual researchers who are having a significant impact on the research community as evidenced by the rate at which their work is being cited by their peers," says David Pendlebury, head of research analysis at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate, in a statement. "These individuals are helping to transform human ingenuity into our world’s greatest breakthroughs.”

Harvard University was home to the most researchers, with 233 researchers making the list, far outpacing Stanford University, which had the second highest total of 126 researchers.

Texas universities and institutions had a strong showing, too. The University of Texas at Austin had 31 researchers on the list, tying UT with the University of Minnesota and Peking University in China for the No. 35 spot. MD Anderson had 30 researchers on the list, the most among organizations in Houston, earning it a 38th place ranking, tied with the University of Maryland and University of Michigan.

Below is a list of the Houston-area highly cited researchers and their fields.

From UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • Jaffer Ajani (Cross-Field)
  • James P. Allison (Immunology)
  • Jan A. Burger (Clinical Medicine)
  • George Calin (Cross-Field)
  • Jorge Cortes (Clinical Medicine)
  • Courtney DiNardo (Clinical Medicine)
  • John V. Heymach (Clinical Medicine)
  • David Hong (Cross-Field)
  • Gabriel N. Hortobagyi (Cross-Field)
  • Robert R. Jenq (Cross-Field)
  • Hagop M.Kantarjian (Clinical Medicine)
  • Marina Y. Konopleva (Clinical Medicine)
  • Dimitrios P. Kontoyiannis (Cross-Field)
  • Scott E. Kopetz (Clinical Medicine)
  • Alexander J. Lazar (Cross-Field)
  • J. Jack Lee (Cross-Field)
  • Anirban Maitra (Clinical Medicine)
  • Robert Z. Orlowski (Clinical Medicine)
  • Padmanee Sharma (Clinical Medicine and Molecular Biology and Genetics)
  • Anil K. Good (Cross-Field)
  • Jennifer A. Wargo (Molecular Biology and Genetics)
  • William G. Wierda (Clinical Medicine)

From Baylor College of Medicine

  • Erez Lieberman Aiden (Cross-Field)
  • Nadim J. Ajami (Cross-Field)
  • Christie M. Ballantyne (Clinical Medicine)
  • Malcolm K. Brenner (Cross-Field)
  • Hashem B. El-Serag (Clinical Medicine)
  • Richard Gibbs (Cross-Field)
  • Heslop, Helen Cross-Field
  • Joseph Jankovic (Cross-Field)
  • Sheldon L. Kaplan (Immunology)
  • Joseph F. Petrosino (Cross-Field)
  • Cliona Rooney (Cross-Field)
  • James Versalovic (Cross-Field)
  • Bing Zhang (Cross-Field)

From Rice University

  • Plucker M. Ajayan (Materials Science)
  • Pedro J. J. Alvarez (Environment and Ecology)
  • Naomi Halas (Materials Science)
  • Jun Lou (Materials Science)
  • Antonios G. Nikos (Cross-Field)
  • Aditya D. Mohite (Cross-Field)
  • Peter Nordlander (Materials Science)
  • Ramamoorthy Ramesh (Physics)
  • James M. Tour (Materials Science)
  • Robert Vajtai (Materials Science)
  • Haotian Wang (Chemistry)
  • Zhen-Yu Wu (Cross-Field)
  • From University of Houston
  • Jiming Bao (Cross-Field)
  • Shuo Chen (Cross-Field)
  • Whiffing Ren (Cross-Field)
  • Zhu Han (Computer Science)

From UTMB Galveston

  • Vineet D.Menachery (Microbiology)
  • Nikos Vasilakis (Cross-Field
  • Scott C. Weaver (Cross-Field)
  • From UT Health Science Center-Houston
  • Eric Boerwinkle (Cross-Field)

Overheard: Houston experts call for more open innovation at industry-blending event

eavesdropping at the Ion

Open innovation, or the practice of sourcing new technologies and idea across institutions and industries, was top of mind at the annual Pumps & Pipes event earlier this week.

The event, which is put on by an organization of the same name every year, focuses on the intersection of the energy, health care, and aerospace industries. The keynote discussion, with panelists representing each industry, covered several topics, including the importance of open innovation.

If you missed the discussion, check out some key moments from the panel.

“If we want to survive as a city, we need to make sure we can work together.”

Juliana Garaizar of Greentown Labs. "From being competitive, we’ve become collaborative, because the challenges at hand in the world right now is too big to compete," she continues.

“The pace of innovation has changed.”

Steve Rader of NASA. He explains that 90 percent of all scientists who have ever lived are alive on earth today. “If you think you can do it all yourself — and just find all the latest technology yourself, you’re kidding yourself.”

“You can’t close the door. If you do, you’re closing the door to potential opportunities.”

— Michelle Stansbury, Houston Methodist. “If you think you can do it all yourself — and just find all the latest technology yourself, you’re kidding yourself.” She explains that there's an influx of technologies coming in, but what doesn't work now, might work later or for another collaborator. "I would say that health care as a whole hasn’t been very good at sharing all of the things we’ve been creating, but that’s not the case today," she explains.

“The thing that makes Houston great is the same thing that makes open innovation great: diversity.”

— Rader says, adding that this makes for a great opportunity for Houston.

“Some of our greatest innovations that we’ve had come from other industries — not from health tech companies.”

— Stansbury says. "I think that's the piece everyone needs to understand," she says. "Don't just look in your own industry to solve problems."

“Nobody knows what is the best technology — the one that is going to be the new oil."

— Garaizar says. “All of this is going to be a lot of trial and error," she continues. “We don’t have the luxury of time anymore.”