Everything is better in Texas, including the state economy. Photo by via Getty Images

Despite growing sentiments that the U.S. is on a path towards a recession, Texas is pulling a lot of weight as one of the best state economies in the nation, according to a new annual report from WalletHub.

Texas' strong state economy ranked No. 4, with Washington (No. 1), Utah (No. 2), and Massachusetts (No. 3) claiming the top three spots.

The study analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 28 metrics to determine the "Best & Worst State Economies" in 2024. Each state was ranked across three major categories: Economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential.

The Lone Star State earned a score of 60.08 out of 100 possible points, nipping at the heels of Massachusetts, which earned 61.52 points. For comparison, Washington claimed its No. 1 title with a score of 71.10.

Here's how Texas performed within the three major categories in the study:

  • No. 2 – Economic activity
  • No. 7 – Economic health
  • No. 24 – Innovation potential

Most notably, Texas tied with Louisiana for the No. 1 most exports per capita nationwide, according to the report's findings. Texas also had the second-highest change in GDP (gross domestic product) from 2022 to 2023.

Texas has the 10th highest amount of "startup activity," which WalletHub calculated as the rate of newly established firms. Texas also scored No. 10 in the country for its annual median household income of $75,647.

Nonfarm payrolls – defined as the number of workers employed in the U.S. (excluding those the farming, nonprofit, active military, and private household sectors) – is another indicator for measuring each state's economy. Texas had the third-highest change in nonfarm payrolls from 2022 to 2023, according to WalletHub, behind Nevada and Florida.

Although the overall state of Texas' economy may be strong, that doesn't guarantee all Texans will reap the benefits from that success. WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe explained there's more to improving state residents' financial success than just relying on the economy.

"Factors like a low unemployment rate and high average income help residents purchase property, pay down debt and save for the future," Happe said. "The best state economies also encourage growth by being friendly to new businesses and investing in new technology that will help the state deal with future challenges and become more efficient."

On the other end of the economic scale, Hawaii and Mississippi flopped with the worst state economies in the U.S. in 2024, ranking No. 50 and No. 51, respectively.

The top 10 states with the best economies are:

  • No. 1 – Washington
  • No. 2 – Utah
  • No. 3 – Massachusetts
  • No. 4 – Texas
  • No. 5 – California
  • No. 6 – Colorado
  • No. 7 – Florida
  • No. 8 – North Carolina
  • No. 9 – District of Columbia
  • No. 10 – Arizona
The full report can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston is the No. 4 most diverse city in the U.S.

Houston dazzles as most diverse large city in U.S., report says

we're No. 1

Living in a multicultural city comes with many benefits. Diverse communities bring new perspectives, greater versatility, and economic boosts, to name a few. And according to a new study by WalletHub, Houston is among the most diverse places in the nation.

Houston is getting some time in the spotlight in WalletHub's annual ranking of the "Most Diverse Cities in the U.S. (2024)," maintaining its position as the No. 1 most diverse large city in America, and the No. 4 overall most diverse. The report compared 501 U.S. cities across 13 metrics in five categories that encompass "diversity" across socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religious factors.

Space City earned 72.37 out of a total 100 possible points, following behind Gaithersburg, Maryland (No. 1), Silver Spring, Maryland (No. 2), and Germantown, Maryland (No. 3). Arlington, Texas rounded out the top five. Houston is still holding strong as the most diverse large U.S. city after first taking the crown in WalletHub's 2021 report.

The city performed the best in two overall major categories for socioeconomic and cultural diversity, earning a respective rank of No. 27 and No. 31 out of all 501 cities in the study. Houston's religious diversity earned it No. 54, while it fell behind when it came to household and economic diversity, earning No. 112 and No. 156.

More specifically, Houston performed the best in the rankings for its linguistic diversity (No. 25), industry diversity (No. 28), and educational-attainment diversity (No. 29). But the city fell the farthest behind in the rankings for age diversity (No. 310) and worker-class diversity (No. 340).

Here's how Houston performed within the study's remaining categories out of all 501 cities:

  • 45th – Racial and ethnic diversity
  • 119th – Household-type diversity
  • 179th – Household-size diversity
  • 206th – Occupational diversity
  • 226th – Income diversity
  • 246th – Marital-status diversity
  • 249th – Birthplace diversity

"The most diverse cities demonstrate diversity in many dimensions – not just in race and gender but also everything from residents’ languages and birthplaces to their job types and household sizes," said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe in the report. "These cities blend together a multitude of different perspectives, helping people to better understand the world around them and become more empathetic. This exchange of ideas also tends to increase the economic success of diverse cities."

Besides Houston and Arlington, the only other Texas city to earn a place among the top 10 most diverse cities in the U.S. was Dallas, which ranked No. 8.

Other Texas cities that earned spots in the report include Fort Worth (No. 22), Austin (No. 70), Plano (No. 83), San Antonio (No. 87), Corpus Christi (No. 125), El Paso (No. 253), and Laredo (No. 468).

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Life is much more difficult when you're stressed out. Photo via Getty Images

Troubled Texans are the 10th most stressed out people in America, report finds

new report

There is a plethora of reasons to be stressed out in 2024. Among the list of grievances are budgeting woes, lapses in addressing racial inequity, a significant amount of drunk driving, and prohibitively high healthcare costs.

So it comes as no surprise that Texas was ranked the No. 10 most stressed state of 2024, according to the latest annual report from WalletHub. Texans' stress levels are only slightly better than they were in 2023, when the Lone Star State ranked No. 9.

The personal finance website compared all 50 states across 40 unique metrics to determine every state’s worries on certain issues, such as employment, finance, health, or family-related stress.

Here's how Texas performed in the major categories in the study:

  • No. 5 – Work-related stress
  • No. 8 – Family-related stress
  • No. 11 – Health- and safety-related stress
  • No. 23 – Money-related stress

Texas employees have the second-longest workweek in the nation, the report found, placing the state right behind Alaska and tied with Wyoming. Places like Houston, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio are a few of the most stressful U.S. cities for workers in 2024 (with several other Texas cities not far behind), clearly showing that there's much more work to be done to alleviate Texans' work-related stress.

Hardships with work may have an influence on Texans' ability to rest at night, as the report additionally found Texas fell behind into No. 23 for its share of adults that get adequate sleep.

Other Texas-sized stress factors like crime rates, housing affordability, health troubles, and poverty rates also put a damper on residents' well-beings. Texans have the fourth lowest credit scores in the nation, the ninth highest share of adults with fair or poor health, and the 11th highest number of residents living in poverty.

It's not just young and middle-aged adults who experience these worries, the report claimed.

"[E]very age group except people 65 and older reported being under more stress in 2023 than they were in 2019 before the pandemic," the report's author wrote.

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe suggested a few ways frazzled Texans can try to improve their stress levels, such as exercising, participating in hobbies, going on vacations — of course, in whatever capacity that is most accessible — and seeking help from a mental health professional.

"What many people don’t realize, though, is that changing location can also be a big stress reducer," Happe added. "For example, states that have lower crime rates, better health care, and better economies tend to have much less stressed residents."

Texans surely aren't envious of Louisiana, which traded places with Mississippi (No. 2) in 2024 to become the nation's No. 1 most stressed out state. Louisiana residents experience the third highest work- and health-and-safety-related stress, the fourth highest money-related stress, and the 10th highest family-related stress. Louisianans may want to try some breathing exercises in their spare time.

Texas residents can, however, be filled with jealousy over Minnesota (No. 50), which was crowned the least stressed out city in America. Maybe that's where Texans need to be taking vacations.

The overall top 10 most stressed states are:

  • No. 1 – Louisiana
  • No. 2 – Mississippi
  • No. 3 – Nevada
  • No. 4 – New Mexico
  • No. 5 – Arkansas
  • No. 6 – West Virginia
  • No. 7 – Alabama
  • No. 8 – Kentucky
  • No. 9 – Oklahoma
  • No. 10 – Texas
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Texas continued its year-over-year improvement on an annual report of most innovative states. Photo via Getty Images

Texas again improves on annual ranking of most innovative states

making progress

It's another year of slow but steady progress for the Lone Star State on an annual report on the top states for innovation.

Texas ranked No. 14 with a score of 48.43 points on personal finance site WalletHub's Most and Least Innovative States in 2024 ranking. Last year, Texas ranked No. 15. The state has steadily inched up the list — Texas was No.16 on the list in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

According to the report, Texas had the following ranking across the following categories:

  • No. 19 – Share of STEM Professionals
  • No. 16 – Projected STEM-Job Demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – Eighth-Grade Math & Science Performance
  • No. 19 – Share of Science & Engineering Graduates Aged 25+
  • No. 13 – Share of Technology Companies
  • No. 31 – R&D Spending per Capita
  • No. 15 – Venture-Capital Funding per Capita
Source: WalletHub

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 25 key metrics and across two key dimensions, “Human Capital” and “Innovation Environment," per the report. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

“The most innovative states are especially attractive to people who have majored in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, as they offer abundant career opportunities and investment dollars, both for jobs at existing companies and for startups," says Cassandra Happe, a WalletHub analyst in the report. "These states also instill young students with the skills they need to succeed in the current workforce, skills which are useful whether or not they pursue a STEM career.”

The report's top 10 included:

  1. District of Columbia with a score of 71.65
  2. Massachusetts with a score of 69.93
  3. Washington with a score of 66.36
  4. California with a score of 65.63
  5. Colorado with a score of 63.93
  6. Maryland with a score of 62.41
  7. Virginia with a score of 59.86
  8. Delaware with a score of 54.58
  9. Utah with a score of 53.66
  10. New Jersey with a score of 53.2
Monthly bills, subscriptions, and taxes, oh my. Photo by rc.xyz NFT gallery on Unsplash

Houstonians hit with among the highest inflation rate in the U.S., study says

budgeting woes

Inflation has certainly rattled the national economy, but some cities are feeling that sting harder than others — especially Houston.

According to new study by personal finance experts WalletHub, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land has been saddled with the No. 7 highest inflation rate in the U.S.

The report compared 23 of America’s largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with Consumer Price Index data to measure inflation trends in two timetables:

  • the most previous month (November)
  • the most recent year

In the most previous month, Houston saw a very slight improvement in inflation when compared to the two prior months, with the city's inflation rate falling by .10 percent. To put that in context, Dallas-Fort Worth experienced the biggest climb in the U.S. with an increase of .90 percent when compared to the two prior months.

In the most recent year, inflation in Houston increased by 4.5 percent year-over-year from November 2022. On that list, Houston tied with Detroit-Warren-Dearborn (No. 5 overall), Michigan and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado (No. 9 overall).

Houston's inflation woes are still an improvement when compared to an April 2023 WalletHub report, which maintained Houston was still experiencing the 7th highest inflation rate in the U.S., but at 5.2 percent year over-year.

Daniel C. O'Neill, a professor of political science and chair of the School of International Studies at University of the Pacific, cited previous government policies, post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery, and employee demands for higher pay as the major factors behind rising inflation.

As consumer demand rose with the introduction of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits during the pandemic, O'Neill explained, businesses post-pandemic had to raise their pay to attract workers.

"In addition, anecdotally it seems that many businesses hit especially hard by the pandemic, such as movie theaters and restaurants, raised prices when people returned to make up for some of those losses during the pandemic," he said. "While rising wages are a good thing, if they do not keep up with increases in the price of rent, food, gas, and other necessities, they are not real increases and wages."

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land wasn’t the only Texas metro area to make WalletHub’s top 10. Dallas-Fort-Worth-Arlington ranked No. 1, with inflation rising 5.2 percent year-over-year from November 2022.

The top 10 metro areas where inflation is rising the most are:

  • No. 1 – Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
  • No. 2 – Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida
  • No. 3 – Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
  • No. 4 – San Diego-Carlsbad, California
  • No. 5 – Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  • No. 6 – Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • No. 7 – Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas
  • No. 8 – Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California
  • No. 9 – Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  • No. 10 – Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware-Maryland

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

When it comes to Texas being a top state for business, we guess the jury's out. Photo via Getty Images

Is Texas a top state for business? New reports find mixed results

by the numbers

Texas economic development boosters are crowing about a new top-in-the-nation ranking. But they’re probably frowning about a different business ranking that’s mediocre.

First, the good news.

Business Facilities magazine just named Texas the 2023 State of the Year in recognition of its business climate, economic development leadership, and “blockbuster” year for capital investment and job creation. It’s the fifth time that Business Facilities has crowned Texas as the top state.

“Texas moves at the speed of business,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release. “As recognized by Business Facilities magazine, Texas leads the nation for corporate relocations, business expansions, and job creation.”

“With the best business climate in the nation, leading investments in education and workforce development, and our young, skilled, diverse, and growing workforce, Texas is poised to lead the nation in 2024,” the governor added.

Additionally, Texas again appears on WalletHub's annual list of "Best States to Start a Business" — but ranks lower than last year. The Lone Star State ranked No. 8 this year compared to last year's No. 3 spot. This ranking looked at business environment, access to resources, and business costs across 25 relevant metrics by analyzing data from U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other resources.

Now, the not-so-good news.

Texas landed at No. 32 on Forbes Advisor’s new list of the best states to start a small business in 2024. The Lone Star State received especially low marks economy, workforce, and business climate, but fared better in two other categories: business costs and financial accessibility.

Topping the Forbes Advisor list was North Dakota, followed by Indiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, and North Carolina.

Texas recently was awarded three other No. 1 business climate rankings, though: Best Business Climate in the U.S. by Business Facilities in June, Best Business Climate in the U.S. by corporate executives in September, and Top Business Climate in the U.S. by Site Selection Magazine in November.

“In a state the size of Texas, business is not just finding a home in the metros. A laser focus by economic developers across the state to foster established businesses as well as innovative startups is paying off for communities of all sizes,” Anne Cosgrove, editorial director of Business Facilities, says in a news release.

The magazine covers corporate site selection and economic development.

Other contenders for 2023 State of the Year were:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

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

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

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

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

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

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

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

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

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

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

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

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

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

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

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

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

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

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

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

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