Paying bills is more and more taxing. Getty Images

By now everyone has heard plenty about the nine-letter word that’s on everybody’s mind these days — inflation. This reflects a rise in prices, for everything from gas and groceries and cars to health care, coupled with a decline in buying power.

In August, the U.S. inflation rate stood at 8.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June. For Houston consumers, though inflation remains above the U.S. rate. And it turns out, Houston is saddled with one of the highest inflation rates among major U.S. metro areas.

Houston’s inflation rate jumped 9.5 percent from August 2021 to this August, according to a new study from personal finance website WalletHub. That means prices for a host of goods and services climbed 9.5 percent from August 2021 to this August.

By the numbers, our near-term inflation rate inched up by 0.10 percent, per WalletHub.

Taking into account the short-term and long-term spikes in Greater Houston’s inflation rate, the region ranked 10th on WalletHub’s list of the metro areas where inflation is increasing the most. In all, 23 major metro areas appear in the ranking.

The Phoenix area ranks first. Its inflation rate in August reached 13 percent, the highest rate of any metro area in the WalletHub study. The short-term change in the inflation rate was 0.80 percent.

The only other Texas metro on the list is Dallas-Fort Worth, which sits at No. 5. In the DFW metro area, the inflation rate jumped 9.4 percent from August 2021 to August 2022. Residents in DFW have seen the inflation rate grow 1 percent in August compared with the previous two months.

WalletHub points out that several factors are pushing up the inflation rate, including the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian war, and labor shortages.

“The government is hoping to continue to rein in inflation with additional aggressive interest rate hikes this year, but exactly how much of an effect that will have remains to be seen,” WalletHub notes.

John Harvey, a professor of economics at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, tells WalletHub that he believes hiking interest rates is a bad approach to easing inflation.

“There is no logical reason that lowering the overall level of economic activity (the goal of the higher interest rates) actually helps in situations like this. Furthermore, the only kind of inflation it could possibly address is the good kind,” Harvey says.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

We work hard for the money in Houston. Photo by Hinterhaus Productions/Getty

Texas clocks in as 5th hardest-working state in U.S., survey says

LAUDING TEXAS’ LABOR FORCE

n the 1980s, disco queen Donna Summer sang the praises of a blue-collar woman in the hit tune “She Works Hard for the Money.” If the song were to be updated for this decade, it might morph into an ode to the hardworking women and men of Texas.

A new ranking from personal finance website WalletHub puts Texas at No. 5 among the hardest-working states. The Lone Star State repeated its fifth-place showing from last year. In the 2022 study, Texas is preceded by North Dakota, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The slackers, it appears, are in bottom-ranked New Mexico.

WalletHub evaluated each state based on 10 metrics. In the Labor Day-timed study, Texas earned an especially high mark for the average number of hours worked per week (ranked fourth).In July 2022, nearly 14.6 million people were part of the state’s civilian workforce (which excludes active-duty military personnel), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That month, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 4 percent.

In a news release touting the July 2022 job numbers for Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott highlighted the state’s “young, skilled, diverse, and growing workforce.”

“Texas jobs are booming, and more Texans are working than ever before as we again break all previous records for total jobs,” Abbott says. “Despite the economic challenges job creators are facing across the nation, businesses are investing with confidence in the Lone Star State because we’ve built a framework that allows free enterprise to flourish and hardworking Texans to succeed.”

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this article originally ran on CultureMap.

Despite top-tiers schools such as Rice, Houston didn't score well in the list. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Houston scores surprising ranking in new list of most educated cities in the U.S.

report card

Houston is a well-known opportunity city, with pillar industries such as energy, medicine, space, and tech — all requiring high levels of education. So just how educated is the Bayou City?

Not stellar, says personal finance website WalletHub in its new list of the most and least educated cities in the United States.

WalletHub started with the country’s 150 most populated metropolitan areas, and compared them over 11 metrics addressing population shares by highest level of education (the great majority of the weight of the study), quality of schools, summer learning opportunities, and education equality to create a scoring and ranking system.

Houston scored roughly a C-minus, coming in at No. 88 overall. It ranked 94th in the educational attainment category, and 33rd on the quality of education vs. education gap category. Notably, Houston ranks just above Los Angeles in the list.

The top 10 most educated U.S. cities, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
2. San Jose, California
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. San Francisco, California
6. Boston, Massachusetts
7. Durham, North Carolina
8. Raleigh, North Carolina
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Austin, Texas

(CultureMap has simplified these cities from metropolitan areas for readability.

Of these 10 cities, half are capitals, including the nation’s capital at No. 4. This could be as much a fact of population-based methodology as an indication that capitals tend to be very well educated (i.e. states like Maine are represented only once, by its capital city, which happened to do quite well at No. 16). However, the least educated capital was Salem, Oregon (No. 116), demonstrating a much lower prevalence in the lower rankings.

Outside of Austin nailing a top-10 spot, the rest of Texas lags significantly behind in the WalletHub rankings, with Dallas cracking the top half at No. 73 and San Antonio (No. 105) around the middle, with other Texas spots (Killeen, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Beaumont) falling even lower. McAllen and Brownsville came third and second to last overall.

One limiting factor in this survey of education is its focus on formal, in-school education. Although most of Texas could stand to improve its numbers in these realms, Austinites are afforded one more luxury as Texans: an opportunity to look deeper at the community values around them that elude or resist standardization. Maybe wait until school’s out, though.

This ranking comes as Houston’s halls of higher learning are making major moves. Rice University was just named best return on investment in Texas, while the University of Houston’s medical school has just received a $50 million injection from billionaire benefactor Tilman Fertitta.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

WalletHub ranks these Texas towns among the best for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

These are the best small cities in Texas to start a business

Where to work

When it comes to launching a business in Texas, you might want to look into the suburbs that surround the state's major metros.

Personal finance website WalletHub ranked the best and worst small towns to start a business — and the Lone Star State had plenty of suburbs making the top 400 in the list of more than 1,300 towns.

The report found that Georgetown as the best small city in Texas for starting a business. The website classifies a small city as one with a population of 25,000 to 100,000. The Austin suburb appears at No. 70 on the list overall, and No. 1 in Texas. It scored particularly well in the access to resources category (No. 26) and business environment category (No. 31).

To determine the best small cities for startups, WalletHub compared the business-friendly nature of more than 1,300 small cities across the country. Among the factors it examined were average growth in number of businesses, labor costs, and investor access.

Houston suburbs didn't manage to crack the top 200, but four were recognized amongst the rest of the best small busissiness towns:

  • Texas City , No. 202
  • Baytown, No. 267
  • Deer Park, No. 362
  • Conroe, No. 369

Washington, Utah, nabbed the top spot nationally, along with four other Utah cities in the top 10.

“Size matters when choosing a city in which to launch a startup. As many veteran entrepreneurs — and failed startups — understand well, bigger is not always better,” WalletHub says. “A city with a smaller population can offer a greater chance of success, depending on an entrepreneur’s type of business and personal preferences.”

Elsewhere in Texas, other highly ranked small cities in include:

  • Farmers Branch (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 102
  • Pflugerville lands (Austin), No. 150
  • San Marcos (Austin), No. 181
  • West Odessa, No. 193
  • Leander (Austin), No. 250
  • Kyle (Austin), No. 258
  • Greenville (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 275
  • Cedar Park (Austin), No. 280
  • Waxahachie (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 306
  • Huntsville, No. 308
  • Hurst (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 312
  • Socorro (El Paso), No. 339
  • Sherman, No. 368
  • Seguin (San Antonio), No. 375

Baytown, Port Arthur, and Texas City tied for first place in the U.S. in terms of highest average revenue per business.

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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.

Give credit where credit is due. The Woodlands falls in the "very good" category. Photo courtesy of Local Government Federal Credit Union

Houston suburbs charge ahead with some of the highest credit scores in Texas

fit for fico

Give the residents of The Woodlands some credit. They’re able to brag about achieving some of the highest credit scores in Texas.

A new study from personal finance website WalletHub shows the median credit score of a Woodlands resident is 757. Among the 2,572 U.S. cities covered in the study, The Woodlands nabs a 287th-place tie for cities with the highest median credit score.

FICO, the primary producer of credit scores in the U.S., characterizes 757 as a “very good” credit score. On the FICO scale, credit scores range from 300 to 850. A credit score anywhere from 740 to 799 is above the U.S. average “and demonstrates to lenders that the borrow is very dependable,” according to FICO.

WalletHub based the study on September 2021 data from TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting bureaus. In the study, The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, is the only city where the median credit score is above 800 — 806, to be exact.

Two other Houston-area suburbs — Montgomery and Friendswood — ranked among Texas cities for the highest credit scores, coming in with a median credit score of 738 and 732, respectively.

Here are the other cities in the top 15 statewide:

  • Colleyville (Dallas-Fort Worth), 777, 23rd nationally.
  • Flower Mound, 762, tied for 185th place nationally.
  • Coppell (Dallas-Fort Worth), 758, tied for 262nd place nationally.
  • The Woodlands (Houston), 757, tied for 287th nationally.
  • Keller (Dallas-Fort Worth), 756, tied for 300th nationally.
  • Allen (Dallas-Fort Worth), 750, tied for 428th nationally.
  • Georgetown (Austin), 749, tied for 446th nationally.
  • Frisco (Dallas-Fort Worth), 748, tied for 467th nationally.
  • Cedar Park (Austin), 743, tied for 568th nationally.
  • Plano (Dallas-Fort Worth), 740, tied for 629th nationally.
  • Montgomery (Houston), 738, tied for 681st nationally.
  • Friendswood (Houston), 732, tied for 784th nationally.
  • Rockwall (Dallas-Fort Worth), 732, tied for 784th nationally.

Among Texas’ biggest cities, Austin is the only one where the median credit score exceeds 700. In the Capital City, the median score is 713, tied for 1,208th nationally. San Antonio is next in line, at 664 (tied for 2,236th nationally), followed by Houston (662, tied for 2281st nationally), Dallas (661, tied for 2,299th nationally), and Fort Worth (615.5, tied for 2,545th nationally).

Bad news for Sugar Land, which is the only Texas city with a median credit score below 600. According to the study, the median score there is 571, putting it in 2,563rd place nationally. FICO identifies that as a “poor” credit score.

J. Keith Baker, a CPA and certified financial planner who teaches at Dallas College’s North Lake campus in Irving, tells WalletHub that the best way to improve or maintain your credit score is to pay your credit card balances in full every month.

“Some folks will close a credit card account thinking it will help them manage their spending and protect them from identity theft since they are not using an account,” Baker says. “While this may make sense for an individual’s financial situation, do not assume it will automatically improve your credit scores.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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

where to be

Houston's busy business event season is in full swing, and there are ton of local innovation and entrepreneurship-focused programming across the city. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for October when it comes to innovation-related events.

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

October 4 — Softeq Venture Studio Happy Hour

The Softeq Venture Studio is excited for you to meet the newest startups accepted into its 2H 2022 Cohort. Meet the teams and learn more about how they secured $125K in funding.

You'll have the chance to meet the startup founders, learn about the problems being solved, and learn more about how the Softeq Venture Studio de-risks growing startups.

The event is Tuesday, October 4, at 5 pm, at Yardhouse (City Centre). Click here to register.

October 5 — State of the Airports

Houston Airports is one of North America's largest and busiest multi-airport systems in the world and plays an important role in the greater Houston region's position as a great global city.

State of the Airports features Houston Airports Director, Mario Diaz, who will share the latest information and growth plans for Houston's three airports. Diaz will also address the important role the Houston Airports plays in bolstering Houston's position as an international air gateway.

The event is Wednesday, October 5, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Marriott Marquis. Click here to register.

October 11 — State of Space

Earlier this month, Space City celebrated the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s proclamation delivered at Rice Stadium, "We choose to go to the moon." Many decades ago, these words showed the world that Houston holds a place as the epicenter for the world's biggest space endeavors and while space exploration has changed tremendously since those famous words, Houston's reputation in aviation and aerospace only grows stronger.

Join the Greater Houston Partnership for State of Space on Tuesday, October 11, to hear from some of the sharpest minds in aerospace and aviation technology who continue to chart a vibrant future for Houston centered around NASA's Johnson Space Center and one of the world’s only truly urban commercial spaceports.

Speakers include:

  • Featured speaker and panelist: Vanessa Wyche, Director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Stephen Altemus, President & CEO, Intuitive Machines
  • Peggy Guirges, General Manager of Space Systems, Collins Aerospace
  • Panel Moderator: Arturo Machuca, Director, Houston Spaceport and Ellington Airport

The event is Tuesday, October 11, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at Impact Hub Houston (1801 Main street 10th Floor). Click here to register.

October 12 —  Making an Impact in the Houston Tech Ecosystem

You may have heard that Jay Steinfeld was the founder and CEO of Global Custom Commerce, which operates the world’s top online window coverings retailer Blinds.com. Boot-strapped in 1996 for just $3,000 from his Bellaire garage, Global Custom Commerce was acquired by The Home Depot in 2014. Jay remained its CEO and later joined The Home Depot Online Leadership Team. After stepping away from these roles in early 2020, he has increased his involvement on numerous private company boards and serves as a director of the public company Masonite (NYSE: DOOR). He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and supports numerous charities. Jay is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Technology Center. Active as an industry speaker on corporate culture, core values, how to scale a start-up, and disruption, he has more than 100 published articles.

But did you know that many of Jay’s former employees have started businesses of their own, formed angel investment funds, developed and led some of Houston’s best technology teams, and grown into pillars of the HouTech community?

Come hear what’s sure to be an intriguing panel discussion with Jay and several ex-Blinds.com’ers as they discuss company culture, core values, lessons learned, and thoughts on the HouTech ecosystem and take questions from the audience.

The event is Wednesday, October 12, at 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

October 13 — October Transitions on Tap

Transition On Tap is Greentown Labs' monthly networking event devoted to fostering conversations and connections among the climate and energy transition ecosystem in Houston and beyond. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, discuss solutions, and engage with our growing community. If you’re looking for a job in climatetech or energy, trying to expand your network, or perhaps thinking about starting your own energy-related company, this is the event for you.

The event is Thursday, October 13, 5 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

October 14 — Tech, Tools and Tips: Digital Training Day at Impact Hub Houston

Struggling with a process in your business? There's probably a tech tool for that. Impact Hub Houston invites YOU to attend an extended edition of its Tech, Tools, and Tips Series hosted in partnership with Frost Bank.

The goal for this session is to provide small business owners with an overview of various digital tools that can help your day to day operations. By attending this event, you will learn about various digital tools and also have an opportunity to network with other small business owners.

The event is Friday, October 14, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, at the Omni Riverway. Click here to register.

October 14-16 — Incubate Galveston + the Ion Hackathon 2022

A hackathon is a social design sprint that brings together the community to work in teams creating innovative solutions. Basically, it’s a party, and a 48-hour race between teams competing to develop solutions to problem-sets for cash prizes. Participants will work in small teams that have a collection of experts, entrepreneurs, students, and community members to tackle the below identified challenges:

  • Increase food access in urban core neighborhoods
  • Create opportunities for green initiatives, including environmental education, coastal resilience, and conservation
  • Propose home refurbishment programs and housing
  • Develop capacity for education and workforce skills development
  • Solve the plastic pollution issue in Galveston: Plastic trash in the water supply, on the beaches, and in the waterways of Galveston and surround areas affects the community in many ways (e.g., beaches look dirty, the plastic has chemicals harmful to health, and microplastics get into the environment and remain there for long periods of time. How can we solve this problem, removing and reducing waste and its downstream impacts, and make our community safer and cleaner? The plastic pollution problem can be address in the way of innovative preventive steps, innovation treatments, and public education, etc.
  • Offer creative solutions to other challenges

The event is Friday, October 14, to Sunday, October 16, at the Marmo Plaza. Click here to register.

October 19 — How to Build an App without Code, Part 1: Info Session (In-Person & Online)

Join Heather Wilson, a UX Researcher, Service Designer and Google Design Sprint Facilitator, as she teaches you how to build an app without code!

Benefits of building an app without code:

  • building a custom app could take months to a year to develop
  • coding could present problems when your mobile strategy is pivoting
  • allows for customization and the ability to make changes as needed
  • high costs can be associated with building am app
The event is Wednesday, October 19, at 6 pm, online. Click here to register.

October 20 — 2022-2023 UH Energy Symposium Series

Rising electricity prices, increasing concerns about grid reliability, and achieving carbon-free electricity in the U.S. by 2035 have refocused attention on the role of nuclear in the energy transition. This comes after a decade of low investments, accumulating nuclear waste, an aging fleet of reactors, public opposition, and regulatory mandates that stalled nuclear’s growth and led to declines in production. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry has maintained its safety record, made remarkable progress in fusion and advanced nuclear reactors, and improved operating safety and efficiency.

The first topic of the 2022-2023 Energy Symposium Series, The Future of Nuclear in the Energy Transition, will address if and how headways in advanced nuclear reactors, fusion, and waste management can overcome the challenges of economic feasibility, efficient and safe waste disposal, and build public and regulatory support for the increased deployment of nuclear energy in the U.S. We are excited to bring our panel discussion of Critical Issues in Energy back on campus this year.

The event is Thursday, October 20, at 6 pm, at Hilton University of Houston - Conrad N. Hilton Ballroom . Click here to register.

October 26-27 — Fuze

Fuze is bringing together the builders and innovators in energy tech. Shutting down 5 blocks in downtown Houston for two days and covering three content tracks, the event is focused on discovering breakthroughs in energy technology.

The event is Wednesday, October 26, to Thursday, October 27, at 8th Wonder Brewery. Click here to register.

October 27 — Aerospace Investment & Engagement

Join the Houston Angel Network as they discuss the current and future state of aerospace innovation and investment, followed by pitches.

The event is Thursday, October 27, at 8 am to 1 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

October 27 — Space-Related Technology Development and the Houston Innovation Community

In these presentations, Mr. Montgomery Goforth and other aerospace subject matter experts will discuss the technology development challenges faced by NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the surrounding Aerospace community in our ongoing efforts as the hub of human spaceflight. Presentations will focus on the ways in which these challenges, and the associated opportunities, can be leveraged by Houston’s innovation community.

The event is Thursday, October 27, at 4 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

Houston company names lifetime achievement, finalists for annual energy industry awards

they've got grit

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and three energy executives have been named first-time winners of lifetime achievement awards as part of ALLY Energy’s sixth annual GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces program.

ALLY Energy says the honorees have demonstrated “a distinguished career championing change in energy and climate in the private or public sector in the areas of technology, policy, and workforce.”

As mayor of Houston, Turner has led efforts to use renewable energy throughout the city.

The other winners of lifetime achievement awards are:

  • Elizabeth Gerbel, founder and CEO of Houston-based EAG Services and EAG 1Source, which provide consulting services for the energy industry.
  • Lorenzo Simonelli, CEO of Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes.
  • Kevin Sagara, executive vice president and group president of San Diego-based utility company Sempra. He is chairman of Sempra-owned San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co.

The lifetime achievement honorees will be recognized October 26 during an event at The Bell Tower in Houston. So will the winners in the GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces program. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Department of Energy official Shalanda Baker.

“This year’s GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces finalists are a diverse cohort of game-changing entrepreneurs, gritty leaders, collaborative teams, and companies committed to combating climate change. The energy workforce is doing great things to transform our energy ecosystem, and we’re excited to spotlight exceptional talent and culture,” says Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of Houston-based ALLY Energy, which provides a workforce development platform for the energy industry.

Among the dozens of award finalists are energy-related organizations or their representatives. These organizations include Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Rice University, Saudi Aramco, Shell, the University of Houston, Syzygy Plasmonics, and Wood Mackenzie.

A complete list of the finalists is available on the ALLY Energy website.