Skip to main content

Mayor Turner Creates Smart Cities Council to Speed Tech Adoption

Published Mar 08, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta

mayor turner smart cities

Mayor Sylvester Turner established a Smart City Advisory Council this week comprised of city and regional partners. The council was announced at a smart city planning workshop hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The advisory council is charged with engaging community stakeholders, governments, academia and industry to develop a roadmap that will speed the adoption of technology and data-driven practices in the public realm. The planning workshop held on March 7 was facilitated by Amy Chronis, chair of the Partnership's Sustainability Advisory Committee and Houston managing partner with Deloitte. 

A Smart City is one that uses data and emerging technologies to improve the quality of life for citizens, share information with the public, drive economic growth and build a more inclusive society. Governments and utilities across the globe are leveraging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, digital services, advanced mobility and drones to improve citizens’ lives and solve the challenges of today while preparing to address those of tomorrow. 

The Advisory Council will include representatives from public and private entities and will be chaired by Elizabeth Brock, director of external engagement for CenterPoint Energy.

The primary aim of the Advisory Council is to establish a roadmap of strategies, processes and standards to drive Houston’s Smart City efforts forward. The council will seek to align the roadmap to the Resilience Strategy the City is currently developing as a member of 100 Resilient Cities – pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Marissa Aho, the newly-appointed Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Houston, said “Technology is a great enabler for resilience but can also pose a significant risk as society becomes more technology-dependent. The Smart City Advisory Council will help the City leverage technology to its maximum resilience benefits while minimizing risk.”

Houston has been a pioneer in the usage of Smart City technology and recently launched a Smart City webpage to showcase many of the projects underway.  These efforts and others led Smart Cities Dive, a government technologies publication, to declare Mayor Sylvester Turner the 2018 Leader of the Year.

The City is also considered a flagship city by partnering with Microsoft - for the Microsoft Innovation Alliance initiative, and Verizon - which made Houston home to the first 5G implementation in the nation.

This announcement comes amidst growing momentum in Houston’s burgeoning technology and innovation ecosystem.

Last month, Partnership executives traveled with Mayor Turner and local technology leaders to Silicon Valley to meet with major tech companies about opportunities in Houston. Recently, financial technology company announced plans to open an office in Houston that will eventually employ 125 workers. Boston-based business accelerator MassChallenge also said it’s opening an office in Downtown Houston that will help support up to 25 early-stage startups. And last fall, Houston Exponential, a nonprofit aimed at growing Houston’s tech innovation ecosystem, closed a $25 million round for a fund of funds aimed at helping bolster the city's tech scene.

“The age of technology is here and we cannot afford to sit idle,” Turner said. “We must leap, not stroll into the future. The advisory council will set the stage for Houston to become the Smart City of the world.”

Related News

Digital Technology

Houston Tech Employment Rises, City Moves Up Ranks in New Report

Houston’s digital tech workforce grew last year, nudging the metro up to 11th place, ahead of Philadelphia but behind Atlanta in the rankings of the nation’s major tech centers. That’s according to Cyberstates 2021, the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) annual assessment of the U.S. tech sector.  The region added 8,100 tech workers in ’20, according to CompTIA’s estimates, bringing the total to 243,900. Houston overtook Detroit, which lost tech workers last year.  Cyberstates 2021 found that Houston had 9,286 tech establishments in ’20, up from 8,798 in ’19. Tech employment accounted for 7.5 percent of Houston’s total jobs in ’20, up from 7.2 percent in ’19. Tech occupation job postings totaled 63,324 in ’20, down 19.4 percent from ’19. According to Cyberstates, Houston’s tech sector contributed $29.2 billion to the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) in ’19, 5.6 percent of the total. That’s up from $28.4 billion in ’18. By comparison, tech contributed $37.9 billion to Austin’s economy, 25.3 percent of its GDP, while Dallas’s tech sector contributed $66.7 billion, 13.1 percent of GDP.  Click to expand Cyberstates, which provides data for the U.S., all 50 states, and 46 major metro areas, is a respected and widely cited annual guide to the U.S. tech sector. The guide looks at all sectors involved in making, creating, enabling, integrating, and supporting technology in a region, whether as a product or service. One of the guide’s greatest strengths is that it examines a region’s tech workforce by occupation as well as industry, even when the occupation is in an industry most don’t consider “tech.” This helps level the playing field. For example, a web developer at Chevron would make the tech workforce tally for Cyberstates even though Chevron is not typically recognized as a tech company.  Click to expand Fewer than a quarter of Houston’s net tech workers are in technical occupations at “tech” companies. That’s the lowest share of any Top 20 metro and it helps to explain why Houston isn’t a more visible tech hub. But it doesn’t mean the region lacks talent.  The report underscores just how much tech talent is embedded in non-tech industries in Houston. Most of Houston’s 155,400 tech occupations (engineers, coders, analysts) work outside the tech sector. Among large metros, Houston has the highest share of technical occupations embedded in non-tech sector companies.    Click to expand Data in the Cyberstates report makes obvious the differences in the tech sectors of Texas top three metros. Dallas’s tech industry is weighted toward IT services, telecommunications and internet services, no surprise considering Dallas is home to AT&T. Austin’s tech industry has a strong presence in Tech Manufacturing, a nod to its chip manufacturing sector and computer makers like Dell and Apple. Houston’s tech sector is weighted toward research and development, testing and engineering services. Houston has more tech workers in R&D and engineering (68,782) than Austin and Dallas combined.  This report is excerpted from the April 2021 edition of Houston: Economy at a Glance. Learn more about Houston's tech sector and read the latest report examining the local ecosystem. 
Read More
Digital Technology

HPE's Antonio Neri Discusses Priorities of Tech at Inaugural Event

When Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced late last year it would relocate its headquarters from San Jose, Calif. to the Houston area, it turned heads in the tech world. The move will not only give Houston bragging rights over an additional Fortune 500 company (bringing the metro total to 23), it further establishes the region as a legitimate player in the tech sector, one that can compete for the top companies looking to operate closer to leading firms in energy, life sciences and logistics.  HPE already has a solid presence in Houston with thousands of employees, but establishing its corporate headquarters at a new Springwoods Village campus set to open in early 2022 will make the company a major power player in Houston’s emerging tech ecosystem and likely help draw more companies.  The Partnership invited HPE CEO Antonio Neri to present at its inaugural State of Technology event held virtually this week. Neri spoke about the reasons behind the company’s move and where he is centering HPE’s focus for a post-pandemic world.  Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey kicked off the event by discussing Houston’s ongoing effort to foster new technology and innovation while also drawing existing players to the region. “Houston is a city with an incredible history of innovation. Changing the world is in our nature and our very DNA,” Harvey said. “Over the past few years, entrepreneurs, investors, academic institutions, local government, and the corporate sector have come together to unite, grow, and promote Houston's startup ecosystem.”  Harvey then introduced Neri, who began his presentation by discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the ways we live and work, adding that HPE considers it their responsibility "to help the world navigate the pandemic.” The new, post-COVID world will require new principles for digital transformation, Neri said. “I am incredibly excited about the next wave of digital transformation…Tech is enabling real, tangible change around the world.”  Neri said his company is focused on helping solve the big problems impacting the world through data, which he calls the currency of the digital economy. “This is what guides us every day—to make this work more inclusive and to deliver outcomes from the data in a way that we haven’t done before.”  Looking forward, Neri said his top three priorities are the culture of the company, a focus on innovation and HPE’s customers. Diversity and inclusivity have become more important in the tech sector over the last year and the CEO said HPE has focused on involving all employees in charting the company’s journey toward greater inclusivity.  The decision to relocate HPE’s headquarters to Houston was largely about getting access to talent and being able to develop that talent for the long term, Neri said. Houston is the most diverse city in the nation and the Neri said he saw it as an opportunity to rebalance the company and work toward increased diversity and inclusion in a region that would continue to attract young talent. “I feel we made the right decision for the community we serve,” he said.  Beyond HPE, a growing chorus of tech companies are expanding their presence in Houston. Greentown Labs, Amazon and Google Inc. all announced significant Houston area projects last year. In February, Roboze, a manufacturer of industrial 3D printing technology, unveiled its new U.S. headquarters in Houston and announced plans to hire more than 100 employees over the next two years.  Early-stage Houston companies are also garnering more venture capital funding than ever before. Since 2016, VC investment in Houston has grown almost 250%, with a record $753 million raised last year.   Learn more about Houston's tech industry and read the latest report on the region's tech ecosystem. 
Read More

Related Events

Executive Partners