Published Jan 28, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta
See 2022 Annual Meeting recap.
It was an honor to serve as the 2021 Chair, and I’m proud of everything we advanced last year thanks to so many people in this room.
And, I should stop to say how pleased I am to actually be here in the room with you.
You may recall that last year’s Annual Meeting was held virtually, and while I think it was a great event that allowed us to try some new things, I am grateful to be with you all in person today.
At last year’s Annual Meeting, I talked about the importance of advancing and leveraging Houston’s technology renaissance to help drive our region’s long-term success.
I spoke at length about the importance of this tech renaissance—both its role in continuing Houston’s long history of innovation and the critical part it plays in ensuring Houston is among the great 21st century cities of the world.
Despite the pandemic, Houston has made significant progress. And standing here today, I’m proud to say Houston is still a frontier city looking forward.
A metro where tech and innovation have moved to the forefront!
And importantly, everyone is pulling in the same direction, moving Houston toward a brighter future.
Over the last year, we celebrated the opening of The Ion in Midtown, which is already becoming a true hub of innovation.
Greentown Labs also opened last year and is quickly helping establish Houston’s position in the world of climatech.
We also celebrated the openings of the East End Maker Hub and the growth of The Cannon, the Downtown Launch Pad, Deloitte’s own innovation center, and so many others.
Entrepreneurs from around the world are coming to Houston to launch and build their businesses, drawn by our collaborative innovation mindset, our business-friendly environment, and great quality of life.
Houston is fast becoming a hub for Energy 2.0 companies and start-ups, along with life science companies looking to change the world.
We had a record year for venture capital funding of Houston start-ups in 2021 at just over $2 billion, which is up 610 percent since 2016.
The HX Venture Fund, which the Partnership helped launch back in 2018, has fully invested its first $40 million dollar fund, and is actively fundraising its second fund-of-funds targeting a $75 million raise.
The HX Venture Fund has invested in other VCs that have poured millions into Houston start-ups including a significant investment in Houston-based Nauticus Robotics which, you may have heard, went public through a $560 million dollar merger last month.
We saw two of our start-ups – Solugen and Axiom Space – grow into unicorns, meaning they’ve achieved a valuation of more than a billion dollars. Solugen is revolutionizing the sustainable chemicals industry. Axiom Space is gearing up to build the world’s first commercial space station down at the Houston Spaceport.
Beyond the start-ups, tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud have greatly increased their presence in Houston.
And we added two new Fortune 500 company headquarters to our roster with announcements from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NRG—bringing our total to 24 Fortune 500 headquartered firms, the third largest concentration in the nation.
I’m also proud to say that Houston is leading the conversation around the global energy transition to a low-carbon future. This effort is being led by Bobby Tudor, and we made significant progress last year through the release of our regional strategy which we are now putting into motion.
We’ve got much work to do, but companies and investors around the globe are taking notice.
Importantly last year, we accelerated our commitment to addressing racial inequity through our One Houston Together initiative. This program focuses our efforts on helping minority-owned businesses grow and increasing racial equity in the corporate talent pipeline and executive leadership.
I am grateful to Dr. Ruth Simmons from Prairie View A&M and Gretchen Watkins from Shell for co-chairing this effort.
Last fall, at our Houston Diverse City Summit, we unveiled the results of Houston’s first regional Equity & Inclusion Assessment. The findings of that assessment led us to sharpen our focus, and I believe we are on the right trajectory to lead meaningful change that creates opportunity for all Houstonians.
I want to close by thanking all the members of the Executive Committee and Board, along with our committee chairs for your leadership. I also want to thank all of the members who generously support the Partnership with your time and talents as well as your financial investment.
Special thanks to Bob Harvey for his tremendous leadership through another unusual year. I’d also like to thank the incredible Partnership staff for their outstanding hard work.
When you serve as Partnership chair, you get a very close view into how much work is going on in this organization to make Houston a better place to live and work. Sincere thanks for all that you do.
And to everyone in this room, thank you for your commitment to the Partnership and Houston.
I am eternally grateful for the unending support of my children, my husband John who is here today, along with my Deloitte colleagues.
I’ll wrap-up with an imperative from my speech last year: each of you must be active ambassadors for Houston.
As you travel more for work and focus on attracting and retaining talent, talk about the incredible progress we are making in diverse tech and innovation and our commitment to the energy transition. Talk about our greenspaces and the incredible quality of life.
Houston is a city moving forward, and each of us must get that story out there.