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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7+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events in July

where to be

Houstonians are transitioning into a new summer month, and the city's business community is mixing in networking and conference events with family vacations and time off. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for July when it comes to innovation-related events.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

July 10 — Have a Nice Day Market at the Ion

Stop by for a one-of-a-kind vendor market - #HaveANiceDayHTX - taking place at the Ion, Houston's newest urban district and collaborative space that is designed to provide the city a place where entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities can come together. Free to attend and free parking onsite.

Have a Nice Day is a creative collective with a goal of celebrating BIPOC makers, creators, and causes.

The event is Sunday, July 10, 4 to 8 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 12 — One Houston Together Webinar Series

In the first installment of the Partnership's One Houston Together webinar series, we will discuss supplier diversity an often underutilized resource for business. What is it and why is it important? How can supplier diversity have long-term impact on your business, help strengthen your supply chain, and make a positive community impact?

The event is Tuesday, July 12, noon to 1 pm, online. Click here to register.

July 14 — Investor Speaker Series: Both Sides of the Coin

In the next installment of Greentown Labs' Investor Speaker Series, sit down with two Greentown founders and their investors as they talk about their experiences working together before, during, and after an equity investment was made in the company. Attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important relationships in a startup’s journey and what best practices both founders and investors can follow to keep things moving smoothly.

The event is Thursday, July 14, 1 to 2:30 pm, online. Click here to register.

July 15 — SBA Funding Fair

Mark Winchester, the Deputy District Director for the Houston District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will give a short intro of the programs the mentors will discuss. There will be three government guaranteed loan mentors and two to three mentors co-mentoring with remote SBIR experts.

The event is Friday, July 15, 10:30 am to 1 pm, at The Cannon - West Houston. Click here to register.

July 16 — Bots and Bytes: Family STEAM Day

Join the Ion for a hands-on learning experience to learn about tech and robotics and gain insight into the professional skills and concepts needed to excel in a robotics or tech career. This event will be tailored for 9-14-year-olds for a fun STEM experience.

The event is Saturday, July 16, 10 am to 1 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 19 — How to Start a Startup

You have an idea...now what? Before you start looking for funding, it's important to make sure that your idea is both viable and valuable -- if it doesn't have a sound model and a market willing to pay for it, investors won't be interested anyway.

The event is Tuesday, July 19, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 20 — Perfecting Your Pitch

Join the Ion for their series with DeckLaunch and Fresh Tech Solutionz as they discuss the importance and value of your pitch deck when reaching your target audience.

The event is Wednesday, July 20, 5:30 to 6:30 pm, at The Ion. Click here to register.

July 21 — Transition On Tap: Investor Readiness with Vinson & Elkins LLP

Attorneys from Greentown Labs’ Gigawatt Partner Vinson & Elkins LLP, a leading fund- and company-side advisor for clean energy financing, will present an overview of legal considerations in cleantech investing, geared especially toward early-stage companies and investors. The presentation will cover the types of investors and deals in the cleantech space and also provide background on negotiating valuation, term sheets, and preparing for diligence.

The event is Thursday, July 21, 5 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

July 28 — The Cannon Community 2nd Annual Town Hall Event

Partner of The Cannon, Baker Tilly, has played an integral part in the success of Cannon member companies. Join the Cannon community for The Cannon's 5-year anniversary celebration!

The event is Thursday, July 28, 4 to 7 pm, at The Cannon - West Houston. Click here to register.

Texas-based dating app sponsors 50 female athletes to honor 50 years of Title IX

teaming up

Bumble is causing a buzz once again, this time for collegiate women athletes. Founded by recent Texas Business Hall of Fame inductee Whitney Wolfe Herd, the Austin-based and female-first dating and social networking app this week announced a new sponsorship for 50 collegiate women athletes with NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Established in 1972, the federal law prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program or activity that receives federal money. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the number of women in collegiate athletics has increased significantly since Title IX, from 15 percent to 44 percent.

That said, equity continues to lag in many ways, specifically for BIPOC women who make up only 14 percent of college athletes. The findings also share that men have approximately 60,000 more collegiate sports opportunities than women, despite the fact that women make up a larger portion of the collegiate population.

With this in mind, Bumble’s new sponsorship seeks to support “a wealth of overlooked women athletes around the country,” according to the beehive’s official 50for50 program page.

“We're embarking on a yearlong sponsorship of 50 remarkable women, with equal pay amounts across all 50 NIL (name, image, and likeness) contracts,” says the website. “The inaugural class of athletes are a small representation of the talented women around the country who diligently — and often without recognition — put in the work on a daily basis.”

To celebrate the launch of the program, Bumble partnered with motion graphic artist Marlene “Motion Mami” Marmolejos to create a custom video and digital trading cards that each athlete will post on their personal social media announcing their sponsorship.

“These sponsorships are an exciting step in empowering and spotlighting a diverse range of some of the most remarkable collegiate women athletes from across the country. Athletes who work just as hard as their male counterparts, and should be seen and heard,” says Christina Hardy, Bumble’s director of talent and influencer, in a separate release. “In honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we are so proud to stand alongside these women and are looking forward to celebrating their many achievements throughout the year.”

“Partnering with Bumble and announcing this campaign on the anniversary of Title IX is very special,” said Alexis Ellis, a track and field athlete. “I am grateful for the progress that has been made for women in sports, and am proud to be part of Bumble’s ’50for50’ to help continue moving the needle and striving for more. I look forward to standing alongside so many incredible athletes for this campaign throughout the year.”

“I am so grateful to team up with Bumble and stand alongside these incredible athletes on this monumental anniversary,” said Haleigh Bryant a gymnast. “Many women continue to be overlooked in the world of sports, and I am excited to be part of something that celebrates, and shines a light on, the hard work, tenacity, and accomplishments of so many great athletes.”

Last year, the NCAA announced an interim policy that all current and incoming student athletes could profit off their name, image, and likeness, according to the law of the state where the school is located, for the first time in collegiate history.

The 50for50 initiative adds to Bumble’s previous multi-year investments in sports. In 2019, Bumble also launched a multi-year partnership with global esports organization Gen.G to create Team Bumble, the all-women professional esports team.

To see the 50for50 athletes, visit the official landing page.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.