Since COVID-19 arrived in Houston in March the Partnership has offered members regular updates, business leadership and vital resources.
Work Safe Company Program: First announced on March 25, the Partnership released principles designed to support a healthy and safe work environment for employers. To date more than 180 Houston area businesses have committed to being Work Safe Companies.
Greater Houston Business Recovery Center: Responding to the need for a centralized hub containing federal, state and local recovery resources, the Partnership created the GHBRC in April to provide links to key programs and guides on applying for assistance. As the urgency of the need waned, these resources were incorporated into the broader COVID-19 resource page.
Stay Home H-Town PSA campaign: The Partnership produced a PSA that aired in both and English Spanish on major local networks and recruited several local celebrities to post personal videos on their social media channels to help spread the word to #StayHomeHTown.
Reopen Houston Safely programs: To aid companies planning to reopen or expand their operations, the Partnership shared several resources to help businesses develop plans to protect the health of their employees and customers, minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The killing of George Floyd was another example – among too many examples – of police brutality directed at the Black and other minority communities. Unfortunately, this is part of a broader pattern of institutional racism in the American criminal justice system and more broadly in American society.
While the issues of racial inequity and systemic racism are not unique to Houston, we have an opportunity as Houstonians to lead the way in reforming broken systems, building up communities, offering support and removing barriers. We often speak with pride of Houston being "America’s most diverse city," but that's not enough.
The Partnership and the 1,100 member companies and institutions we represent are committed to making Houston "America’s most inclusive and open city", one that does truly offer "opportunity for all." This work will be guided by principles for change and resources on how business and community leaders can address and combat systemic racism and bias.
At the start of 2020, the Partnership prioritized efforts that will position Houston to lead the global energy transition to a more efficient and sustainable, low-carbon future while also accommodating growing global energy demand.
Key 2020 wins:
Greentown Labs: North America’s largest “climatech” incubator will make its first national expansion to Houston with a 30,000-square-foot prototyping lab and office space for an estimated 50 startups. The Partnership had a significant role in Greentown Labs' expansion to the region, and hosted a virtual conference for the announcement.
Rice University Baker Institute Soil Carbon Storage & Credit Training Hub: Rice University has launched a disruptive soil carbon storage initiative that aims to create a global market for soil carbon sequestration and carbon credit trading in Houston. The Partnership serves on the 85-member steering committee, the Demand Sub-Group committee, and also assisting with market analysis by surveying Partnership members to assess the potential regional demand for soil carbon credits.
Climate Action Plan: The City of Houston recently launched the science-based, community-driven Houston Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, meet the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and lead the global energy transition. The Partnership was engaged in conversations with the City throughout the development of the plan, and is actively working to attract energy 2.0 companies to Houston to help achieve specific goals related to electric vehicle fleet conversion, solar power deployment, building energy efficiency, PACE projects and incubating energy startups.
The Partnership has dedicated cross-functional industry experts who are working alongside the business community, stakeholders, elected officials and others to:
The Partnership has long promoted Houston’s growth through economic development efforts aimed at attracting, retaining and growing leading global companies, creating jobs and growing the region’s GDP. We also provide a platform to connect foreign companies and entities with members of the Houston business community and facilitate initiatives that expand investment and trade opportunities.
Based on strategy recommendations from the development an economic development tactical plan in 2019, the Partnership identified aerospace and aviation as a sixth area of strategic focus due to the growth potential of the commercial space sector in our region. In addition, the economic development team expanded to include three industry experts tasked with leading strategic projects that would result in ecosystem enhancements and unique recruitment opportunities related to Aerospace, Life Science and Energy 2.0.
Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic shifted business recruitment missions both domestically and internationally to a virtual setting. However, the Partnership traveled to Israel with Governor Abbott during the first month of the year to discuss synergies in our innovation and startup ecosystems. This visit included a special dinner with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel.
Due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Partnership’s business attraction and retention efforts adapted to the current economic environment. This included a deeper look at the target industry focus to ensure ongoing attraction efforts aligned with the significant shifts in the economy and emerging areas of opportunity.
During a time on increased uncertainty, it became even more important to harness strategic partnerships and connections to further our economic development objectives through:
The economic downturn brought about by the pandemic made it increasingly important to continue building awareness about Houston's diverse industry base and broad value proposition through an integrated marketing and communications campaign that included:
Continuing to play the role of Houston's Front Door, the Partnership welcomed nearly 50 delegations from 25 countries to further grow the region's international ties. Despite travel restrictions, the Partnership continues to host key visits with our partners around the globe virtually. Notable business and governmental delegations included:
Despite the economic downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Houston region continued to see both domestic and international economic development activity. The Partnership and its regional allies assisted in attracting notable companies to the region, including:
As the primary business advocate for the Houston region, the Partnership's public policy team works with our members, business leaders, elected officials and community stakeholders to shape solutions to Houston's most pressing issues. Throughout 2020, particularly since COVID-19 hit the Houston region, we have worked closely with officials at the local, state and federal levels to support policies critical to our region.
Advocating for COVID-19 Relief and Recovery
Since the pandemic began, the Partnership has been in ongoing communication to ensure our unique economic needs were considered by local and state leaders when issuing orders to shut down, that our region’s residents and businesses were a priority during federal stimulus funding discussions, and that businesses were prepared with helpful resources to help guide them while reopening safely, successfully and sustainably.
Preparing for the 87th Texas Legislative Session
Recognizing that COVID-19 and the energy downturn have had significant impacts on the state budget, the 2021 Texas Legislative Session will be difficult yet active. The Partnership, with the support of our Public Policy Advisory Committees and Public Policy Steering Committee, have been working on our state legislative agenda since late spring. The agenda will be approved by the board of directors in August and shared with members.
Washington D.C. Fly-In
In February, the Partnership led a delegation of almost 100 business leaders, elected officials and regional partners to Washington D.C. to discuss federal priorities with members of Congress, the Administration and agency officials, and other key stakeholders to advance key priorities including:
In 2020, the Partnership has convened elected officials at all levels of government to advance public policy through discussions with members and community leaders, including through our Future of Texas series.
Our conversations with the elected officials listed below include topics such as city and state budgets, continued flood mitigation needs, energy transition, and disparities in healthcare, public and higher education, all which have been amplified by COVID-19.
Federal Elected Officials
State Elected Officials
City of Houston Council Members
UpSkill Houston has challenged greater Houston’s employers and workforce development stakeholders to put talent first to strengthen the talent pipeline employers need and to help Houstonians connect to good jobs that increase their economic opportunity and prosperity. This work has become even more urgent with the arrival of COVID-19 and will remain more important as the regional looks to emerge from its immediate effects. UpSkill Houston has concentrated its focus on identifying key skills employers need for workers to be successful, providing relevant information about careers and pathways, and driving effective career guidance.
UpSkill Works Forum Series: UpSkill Houston launched the UpSkill Works webinar series in April, featuring conversations with regional business, education and community leaders, policy makers and high-profile thought leaders on the key workforce issues the greater Houston region confronts. The series, whose discussions are grounded in each of the initiative’s main areas of work, caters to a regional audience but has elevated UpSkill Houston’s renown as a leader among economic and workforce development organizations across the country.
Research Released to Inform UpSkill Houston’s Path Forward
UpSkill Houston published two major reports that will inform its focus and work over the next four years:
Regional economic intelligence and business acumen are a bedrock of the Partnership's work. Since the start of the new decade and throughout the pandemic, the Partnership’s Research has continued to provide critical data and analysis to support the business community in making informed decisions.
Houston Business Barometer Survey: Since the start of April, the Partnership has conducted the Houston Business Barometer, a pulse survey of our 850 member companies with less than 500 employees. The survey results deliver a report on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and in turn, help the Partnership to gain guidance on what is happening in Houston’s economy during this ever-changing time.
Economy Series: Throughout the pandemic, Patrick Jankowski, the Partnership's Senior Vice President of Research, reports regular updates on Houston's economy and the impacts of COVID-19 and related economic downturn, which will culminate in his annual Houston Economic Forecast in December.
Bayou Business Download: A podcast diving into the data and analytics influencing the region’s economy and the core business sectors that drive Houston’s growth.
Though the Partnership has adapted to a new normal outside of Partnership Tower, the actions above show that we continue to deliver what our members value most. We hope you'll deepen your engagement with the Partnership and take advantage of our opportunities to learn from thought leaders and connect with fellow Partnership members.
Virtual events and programming: The Partnership has long-offered offered unparalleled events and programming, which provide Houston's business community opportunities to hear from thought leaders, policymakers and industry experts, who offer thoughtful perspectives and insight on the region’s most pressing topics. In the virtual world, this Partnership offering is no different and offers unique opportunities to engage our speakers and audience in innovative ways.
Business Resource Groups (BRGs): While COVID-19 has impacted the way we all connect and communicate, our BRGs are here to help bridge that gap. Our nine BRGs continue to offer affinity groups opportunities to engage with members who share common business goals in addition to valuable content and programming.
Member Portal: Catch up with Partnership happenings with recordings of past programming and exclusive access to resources and publications.
Small Biz Matters: A comprehensive toolkit for local small businesses with curated resources, digital programming, and avenues to champion business connections and information.
Member Directory: Explore the Partnership's 1,100 member companies with this searchable database.
Official Partnership LinkedIn Group: A member-exclusive platform where nearly 15,000 Partnership members can connect and exchange resources, updates and offers.
All of this work would not have the necessary impact without strong communications channels. Media relations and digital communications have been critical in the remote work environment.
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