Partnership President and CEO and 2024 Chair Unveil Houston’s Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity
Greater Houston Partnership President and CEO Steve Kean recently outlined how Houston can expand opportunity in Houston with a focus on economic development and workforce development during his speech at the Partnership’s 2024 Annual Meeting.
Delving into the key drivers that will propel the Partnership’s impact work forward, Kean emphasized a major focus on expanding opportunity for all Houstonians.
Houston, recognized as the opportunity city, fosters an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds can thrive “because the scale of what we do here is so vast – in medicine, in materials and energy, in our port and our airports, in our medical center, in our space center, and most importantly in our hard-working people,” said Kean.
Although Houston's ability to offer opportunities and attract global talent and businesses is significant, “we are not a truly great place unless we can make it possible for everyone who is already here to get a great education and the skills they need to succeed,” Kean offered.
To address this crucial need, the Partnership’s Upskill Houston initiative, now in its 10th year, is dedicated to ensuring all Houstonians have the skills – and therefore the opportunity – to compete for jobs created in the city.
In 2023, Upskill Houston achieved significant milestones for the region’s workforce. One innovative program, developed in partnership with Accenture, created a new strategy and implementation plan aimed at uplifting residents of disadvantaged communities into hydrogen jobs and bridging the middle-skills gap in Houston’s emerging hydrogen economy.
To further expand opportunity for all Houstonians in Houston’s diverse industry ecosystem, Kean offered that “we need to target the companies and businesses that should be here -- that belong here because of our people and because of our assets.” Kean mentioned that the Partnership has already taken steps to move this initiative forward and is working with a team from BCG “to build a clear-eyed database of companies that fit these screens – companies that belong here and should be here if they want to grow and prosper.”
In 2023, the Partnership and its regional allies assisted in 31 economic development wins, accounting for more than $1.8 billion capital expenditures and more than 4,316 new jobs for the region. A few of these wins include Cart.com relocating its headquarters back to Houston, John Cockerill expanding into Baytown with a new manufacturing hub and Elin opening a 200,000-square-foot solar panel manufacturing facility in Waller County, all major projects that will advance Houston’s key industries and support our workforce.
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During the meeting, Eric Mullins, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lime Rock Resources, was introduced as the 2024 Partnership Chair, where he expanded on the theme of opportunity.
Laying the groundwork for how he hopes to serve as chair this year, Mullins stated that “at the Partnership, it is our job to help create opportunity and to ensure it extends to as many people as possible across the community.” He added that his vision of opportunity for Houston includes three priority areas including public education, workforce development and mental health.
Public education serves as the cornerstone for creating opportunity in Houston by providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to succeed. Mullins emphasized that this is why the ongoing work to improve HISD is so crucial and why HISD, and all local districts, must focus on creating better student outcomes for all students.
Mullins added that “a strong workforce development ecosystem is critical for young people coming out of our public education system and ensures they have the skills needed to succeed in a career.”
As Mullins underscored the significance of a robust workforce development ecosystem, the conversation extended to the evolving landscape of workplaces and businesses and the notable shift, in recent years, towards recognizing and supporting employee mental health.
While benefits and resources have greatly improved, prioritizing mental health in the workplace and in business, especially post-pandemic, is essential for the well-being of employees, fostering an environment that expands opportunities and creating a supportive culture that allows individuals to thrive professionally and personally.
“According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness,” said Mullins. “The pandemic resulted in a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression. These are more than just data points; these are our employees and their families.”
“Houston is truly a city of opportunity – and for some families, that opportunity is in reach,” said Mullins. “But for so many in Houston, we’ve got work to do to expand access to that opportunity.”
Building on Mullins' imperative to expand access to opportunity, Kean offered that “all that we want to accomplish, all that we want for our fellow citizens is possible if we continue to find common ground; if we stick together; if we get behind our leaders and help them realize the bigger vision – for a better city, better schools, better skills, better jobs, and ultimately, better lives for every Houstonian.”
As Kean highlighted the shared vision for a better Houston, emphasizing the importance of unity and collaboration, this commitment to collective progress was underscored during the meeting when former Partnership chair, Marc Watts, honored John L. Nau with the organization's 2024 Robert C. McNair Award for Civic Leadership. This prestigious accolade not only recognizes business success but also celebrates exceptional civic and philanthropic contributions, exemplifying the spirit of shared leadership and dedication to community betterment.
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Lastly, 2023 Partnership Chair Marc Boom, who made a lasting impact with his “AND” mindset, was presented with the Bob Onstead Leadership Award, recognizing his achievements and contributions during his time as Chair.
Learn more about the Partnership’s impact work.
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