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Energy Transition, Resiliency and Innovation Among Key Topics of London Visit

Published Nov 25, 2019 by Javier Vargas

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Members of the Partnership delegation at the London Stock Exchange

An international delegation led by the Greater Houston Partnership traveled to London earlier this month to strengthen business ties between Houston and the British capital. 

Headed by President and CEO Bob Harvey and Senior Vice President of Economic Development Susan Davenport, the group met with several firms who have headquarters in London but also have significant operations here in Houston. 

U.S.-U.K. Business and Trade Ties

In 2018, trade between Houston and the United Kingdom was valued at $7.3 billion, an increase of nearly 34% from the previous year, making Houston the fourth busiest gateway for U.S.-U.K. trade by value. 

The Partnership’s visit to London began with updates from the Department for International Trade (DIT) and London & Partners. Both are key organizations advancing business and trade relations in the U.K. 

DIT is the U.K. department responsible for striking and extending trade agreements between the United Kingdom and non-EU states, as well as for encouraging foreign investment and export trade. DIT officials provided an overview of the current U.K. energy market, as well as recent developments, including CCUS (carbon capture, utilization, and storage), oil and gas, and offshore wind. The group also discussed the U.K.’s smart cities initiatives, an area of increased focus for Houston. 

As the London counterpart of the Greater Houston Partnership, London & Partners works to build the city’s international reputation, attract foreign investment to the region and retain and grown London’s businesses. CEO Laura Citron led a conversation on the organization’s operations model, as well as the growing ties between London and U.S. businesses.

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With London & Partners

Global Energy Transition

With global energy demand growing and an increasing global effort to transition to a low-carbon economy, another key theme of the mission focused on the future of energy. The delegation met with the London office of Royal Dutch Shell to discuss the company’s renewable energy plans and the desire to attract and expand this sector in Houston. Its subsidiary, Shell Oil Company, is based in Houston, along with the largest of Shell’s three technology centers working to find solutions for current and future energy challenges.

The Greater Houston Partnership also visited BP’s global headquarters to discuss similar opportunities for renewable operations in Houston. Houston is home to BP’s U.S. headquarters and the company’s largest employee base anywhere in the world. The company’s current renewables presence in Houston includes BP Wind Energy’s Remote Operations Center, which centrally monitors all BP-operated wind farms, as well as the Center for High-Performance Computing, which is home to one of the world’s largest supercomputers for commercial research.

Flooding and Resiliency

The delegation met with Bechtel to discuss ongoing efforts to make the Houston region more resilient to severe flooding events by designing, building and financing flood mitigation infrastructure. Bechtel’s large presence in Houston includes the company’s Oil, Gas & Chemicals division, as well as the Downstream and Technology Center. The London office has taken a lead role in some of the U.K.’s most important projects, including the West Coast Main Line, Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1, the nation's first high-speed rail line. 

The group also met with Jacobs to provide a briefing on the federal, state and local funding appropriated to the Houston region following Hurricane Harvey and discuss ways to strengthen our cooperation and collaboration in sustainability and infrastructure development. Jacobs partners with government, cities and businesses in more than 50 countries, with projects which include designing master plans for entire regions and critical infrastructure. 

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With Jacobs

Innovation 

At the conclusion of the trip, the delegation met with Here East, a tech-focused campus and co working space that occupies a building constructed for the 2012 Olympics. The former International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre of the London Olympics now provide 1.2 million square feet of dedicated and versatile space for startups and entrepreneurs to co-exist and collaborate with top global businesses and world-renowned academic institutions. 

After a tour of the complex, Here East representatives discussed challenges and best practices of establishing and running a major innovation center in a global city, a timely conversation for Houston with July’s groundbreaking of The Ion. Anchoring the 16-acre South Main Innovation District in Midtown Houston, the 270,000-square-foot innovation hub will bring together entrepreneurs, venture capital, corporations and academia to collaborate under one roof. 

Overall, the delegation’s trip to London yielded several discussions and new ideas for the Houston region.

Learn more about Houston’s trade relationship with the United Kingdom here. Read more on our region’s innovation ecosystem. The Greater Houston Partnership’s efforts to address resiliency can be found here.
 

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Wharton County offers new placement opportunities for certain types of economic development projects, particularly distribution and logistics projects, as well as those tied to supply chains in Mexico and projects that must be in an attainment area for NOx (ozone). We look forward to working with county leaders to leverage this partnership for the benefit of all in the Houston region.” Located 60 miles southwest of Houston, Wharton County is a strategic location for projects tied to the US 59/I-69 Superhighway and the accessibility to freight rail service.  “In recent years, Wharton County has facilitated critical infrastructure projects, as well as business expansions in the region,” said Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath. “By joining the Greater Houston Partnership’s service region, Wharton has the opportunity to leverage the business organization’s influence to accelerate the county’s economic development efforts. 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Phase I is nearly complete on the East End Maker Hub, a 300,000-plus-square-foot industrial makerspace in Houston's East End that will house startups and the innovation arms of major corporations like Waste Management. The Hub, which will be equipped for prototyping, testing, small-batch manufacturing and more, will also house and support entrepreneurs, artists, crafters, innovators and legacy manufacturers who are looking to scale their businesses.  The first-of-its-kind project in Houston, and one of only a handful in the nation, has come to life through a partnership between TXRX Labs and Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation (UPCDC). The project is focused on equitable innovation and bringing back Houston's East End as a manufacturing hub.   To hear more about the project, we spoke with Jaime Herrero, Executive Director of UPCDC.    Click to expand What is the East End Maker Hub and why is there a need for it in Houston? 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Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation (UPCDC), an experienced nonprofit developer, and TXRX Labs, a manufacturing and hardware innovation incubator, formed a joint venture, leveraging $1.25 million in equity to raise $37 million in capital through New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs), funding partners, the City of Houston, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. UPCDC specializes in community wealth building projects and established the Maker Hub commercial development with the aim of generating employment opportunities and economic stimulation in Houston’s East End. Funding partner TXRX will be the anchor tenant at the new facility, located at 6501 Navigation Blvd. Houston, TX 77011. How has the history of the Second Ward shaped the East End Maker Hub’s mission? And how will the Hub work to amplify the culture of the East End?  The Maker Hub aims to harness the East End’s manufacturing reputation to create equitable economic impact and job growth in the area. 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