Published May 05, 2023 by Hailea Schultz
The Ion District, Houston’s thriving, 16-acre innovation community and economic engine, has found major success in accelerating innovation and, expanding the region’s innovation ecosystem since its establishment in 2021, according to the district’s first community investment report.
Through its partnership with Rice University’s Rice Management Co. and the City of Houston, the Ion District supports local businesses and organizations, promotes equitable businesses and connects all Houstonians with jobs, business opportunities and education, making a true impact on the region and contributing to the recent growth of its tech ecosystem.
The Ion District recently released its 2023 Community Investment Report, detailing the first year of its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which committed $15.3 million in direct investments. The agreement focuses on the Ion District’s key priorities and goals, including bolstering the tech sector job training and talent pipeline, preserving affordable housing, and providing opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses.
Surpassing expectations and goals, the Ion District is currently home to over 300 businesses including corporations, small businesses and startups. It offers various resources catering to the needs of Houston’s tech ecosystem and business community, including the Tech Job Training and Talent Placement Program, designed to increase technology workforce training access for residents in Houston’s underrepresented communities, and the Inclusive Tech Accelerator, designed to provide underrepresented startups and founders increased access to technical assistance and mentorship opportunities.
In the past few years, Houston has become a leading tech hub, home to the 11th largest sector in the U.S. with more than 243,900 tech workers, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association. The Partnership’s 2022 Tech Report shows, maturing tech startups and companies in Houston are also receiving more lucrative deals than ever before, generating $4.35 billion in total venture capital funding from 2017 to 2021, with the tech industry generating $29.2 billion to the region’s GDP.
This growth was largely supported by the region’s robust infrastructure, workforce and innovation-driven companies like the Ion District and its innovation hub, the Ion.
Additionally, the Ion District announced Per Scholas, a nationally recognized nonprofit that advances economic equity through technology skills training, as its workforce development partner to help strengthen its Tech Job Training and Talent Placement Program.
This is only the surface of the many things the Ion District has achieved. Other achievements include escrowing $5 million at Unity National Bank, the only certified Minority Depository Institution (MDI) in Texas which has allowed an increase in small business lending to help minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) gain access to capital and opening multiple local restaurants at the Ion and in the Ion District, owned and operated by MWBE chefs and operators.
Furthering its commitment to the Houston community, the Ion District has also made investments to improve the city’s quality of life. Some investments include the Affordable Housing Fund, dedicated to the development and/or preservation of affordable housing primarily in the Third Ward Super Neighborhood; Homelessness Services, designed to provide funding for organizations supporting the homeless population; and the Minority and Women Tech Fund, committed to increase access to venture capital investment for underrepresented founders.
“The thoughtful engagement that drove the CBA’s development is helping strengthen Houston’s position as a place where ideas can grow no matter who you are or where you are from,” said Mike Pittman II, Chairman of the Ion District CBA Advisory Committee.
Looking to continue its community-focused impact work, the Ion District shared that Rice University will focus on the key priorities in the CBA, such as economic and project-based opportunities and housing affordability. In addition, the Ion District’s 1,500 space parking garage is set to finish this summer, offering charging stations, and ground level retail and gallery space.
Learn more about Houston’s tech and innovation ecosystem.