Texas, once again, has been named a top city for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

For years, Texas has been lauded for its business climate being welcoming for new businesses and startups. This year's study shows that the Lone Star State has yet again made the list.

Texas ranked as the third best state to start a business in personal finance website WalletHub's recent list, 2023's Best & Worst States to Start a Business, with a score of 56.85 points. Texas ranked behind Utah, No. 1, and Florida, No. 2, and just ahead of Colorado. Idaho, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and California make up the rest of the top 10, respectively.

The study looked at 27 key indicators of startup success across all 50 states. Texas was recognized for these factors in particular:

  • No. 10 – average growth in number of small businesses
  • No. 30 – labor costs
  • No. 10 – availability of human capital
  • No. 4 – average length of work week (in hours)
  • No. 14 – cost of living
  • No. 13 – industry variety
  • No. 31 – percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Source: WalletHub


Richard Ryffel, professor of finance practice at Washington University in St. Louis, noted the importance of policy in making a state a good place to start a business..

"Established businesses looking to expand might expand or relocate entirely based on the relative favorability of the local business climate," Ryffel says. "Recently, Texas, for example, has been the beneficiary of some significant business relocations based on its business-friendly policies."

The methodology of the study focused on three key dimensions — business environment, access to resources, and business costs — and 27 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, and then each state’s average across all metrics was used to calculate its overall score.

In 2021, Texas ranked in the top position of WalletHub's study. Last year, the personal finance website looked at which cities were ideal spots for business launching. The report found that Georgetown as the best small city in Texas for starting a business.

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

  • Texas City , No. 202
  • Baytown, No. 267
  • Deer Park, No. 362
  • Conroe, No. 369
When it came to big cities, Houston ranked as No. 35.
The University of Houston is a major player in our college town status. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Here's how Houston makes the grade as best college town in new report

STUDIES SHOW, STUDY HERE

Houston is called many things: Space City, Bayou City, Medical City. But college town?

The Bayou City boasts two world-class, top-ranked institutions in Rice University and the booming University of Houston. So where does that put the city as far as college town rank?

No. 64, according to the financial website WalletHub, which has just released its list of best college cities in the U.S. for 2023.

Meanwhile, Austin takes the No. 1 spot for best college big city. Another Texas town, College Station, comes in at No. 6 on the small city list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Notably, Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics. Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169). Cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

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Paying bills is more and more taxing. Getty Images

Houston saddled with 10th highest inflation rate in U.S., says new study

ouch

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.

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How this Houston innovator's tech is gearing up to impact EV charging, energy transition

houston innovators podcast episode 172

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


Report: Houston's hot medical office market might be on track to cool

by the numbers

Houston’s medical office market is on a roll.

A report from commercial real estate services company JLL shows net absorption and transaction volume saw healthy gains in 2022:

  • The annual absorption total of 289,215 square feet was 50.5 percent higher than the five-year average.
  • Transaction volume notched a 31.7 percent year-over-year increase.

Meanwhile, net rents held steady at $26.92 per square foot, up 1.3 percent from the previous year. The fourth-quarter 2022 vacancy rate stood at 15.9 percent.

Despite those numbers, the report suggests a slowdown in medical office rentals may be underway.

“Tenants who may have previously considered building out or expanding their lease agreements are now in a holding pattern due to increased construction costs and higher interest rates,” the report says. “These factors are having a direct impact on financial decisions when it comes to lease renewals, making it more likely that tenants will remain in their existing location for the foreseeable future.”

Still, the report notes “a number of bright spots for the future of healthcare in Houston.” Aside from last year’s record-high jump in sales volume, the report indicates an aging population coupled with a growing preference for community-based treatment “will lift demand even higher in coming years.”

The report shows that in last year’s fourth quarter, 527,083 square of medical office space was under construction in the Houston area, including:

  • 152,871 square feet in the Clear Lake area.
  • 104,665 square feet in the South submarket.
  • 103,647 square feet in Sugar Land.
Last fall, JLL recognized Houston as a top city for life sciences. According to that report, the Bayou City lands at No. 13 in JLL’s 2022 ranking of the country’s top 15 metro areas for life sciences. JLL says Houston “is poised for further growth” in life sciences.

Houston financial services firm announces acquisition, plans to grow

M&A radar

A Houston-based financial services company has made a recent strategic acquisition that gives it a new banking status.

LevelField Financial, which is creating a platform that combines traditional banking and digital asset products and services, announced this week that it is acquiring Burling Bank, an FDIC-insured, Illinois state-chartered bank. According to the company, once it receives regulatory approval, "LevelField will be the first full-service bank to offer fully compliant traditional banking and digital asset services."

The financial terms of the deal's transaction, which is expected to close later this year, were not disclosed.

The combined company will be able to provide traditional banking services, as well as LevelField's digital asset management. Burling Bank's senior management team will join LevelField's leadership, per a press release. They will focus on serving the bank's existing clients and growing the banking business nationwide.

"We conducted a broad review of banks in the U.S. to find the ideal institution with both an existing business and a management team who are aligned with our vision; we exceeded our expectations with Burling Bank. With this acquisition, LevelField will become a traditional bank, albeit one serving customers interested in the digital asset class," says Gene A. Grant II, CEO of LevelField Financial, in the release.

"We are thrilled to have the Burling executives join our leadership team, and together we intend to deliver fantastic customer service and well-designed products to customers who have an interest in accessing the digital asset class through a traditional bank," he continues.

Founded in 2018 by former banking executives, LevelField's leadership believes "the future of money is digital and that banks will continue to be a trusted provider of financial services," according to the website. This acquisition comes ahead of the company's plans to expand nationally.

"LevelField's strategic approach presented a tremendous opportunity for the bank to expand beyond our local footprint and serve customers with shared interests across the nation," says Michael J. Busch, Burling Bank president and CEO. "Together, we will continue to provide superior service and demonstrate that we truly understand the expanding and unique needs of our customers. Additionally, through the carefully developed suite of products we can address our customers' interests in digital assets and introduce them to LevelField's safe, simple, and secure platform."