I’m a little late to the Houston boosting party this time around, but I can’t resist an opportunity to do a little bragging. It’s been over a year since I last wrote about Houston, and since then, the national press has developed a bit of a crush on my favorite city.
Kiplinger went so far as to dub Houston the #1 city in the U.S.:
It’s the city of big plans and no rules, beat-the-heat tunnels and loop-the-loop highways, world-class museums and wiry cowboys, humidity that demands an ice-cold martini and the biggest damn liquor store on the planet. How could you not love Houston?
Houston has become a sort of Silicon Valley for the global energy industry. Urban cowboy? Think suburban geek.
In May, the unemployment rate in the nation’s sixth largest metropolitan area was a measly 3.8 percent. In the past year, Houston-based companies, which include 26 Fortune 500 firms, added 71,000 jobs to their payrolls. The local United Way closed out its fiscal year with a record $76.1 million in donations. At the Galleria, a high-end shopping oasis, Bridgette Bottone, manager of the De Beers store, notes, “We’re still selling the big guys”: three-carat-plus diamonds that retail for more than $50,000.
The jobs are here, but getting people here to fill them has become a real problem. According to this article in last week’s Houston Chronicle, Houston employers are having a tough time dealing with the poor housing markets in other cities:
Since about January, good candidates from the Midwest and beyond have been saying: “I’d love to come to Houston, but there is no way I can sell my house,” said Hackett.
The opposite is also true:
Some companies are facing the opposite problem: They can’t get homeowners to leave Houston. Jamie Belinne, assistant dean of career services at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, said one high-tech recruiter recently complained that he’s having trouble talking the newly minted graduates into moving to California.
With all of this growth, one would expect the traffic congestion in the city to be unbearable, but that is not the case. Houston’s freeway and public transportation system is modern and continuously updated. The latest additions to the Katy Freeway are quite impressive. Planning expert Randal O’Toole recently wrote about Houston after visiting for the PAD conference:
Fourth, although Houston has plenty of congestion, it has done more to relieve that congestion than almost any other urban area in America. Between 1982 and 2005, Houston increased its freeway lane miles by almost 80 percent and its arterial lane miles by 66 percent. The average U.S. urban area, and in particular regions such as Los Angeles and Portland, only grew their highway networks by about half that much.
I’m happy to see Houston receiving the attention it deserves as a major global city. I hope to hear and write more about how great it is here over the second half of this year.