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Tech, Innovation, Energy and More: Top 10 Houston.org Stories in '19

Published Jan 04, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

From a growing population and major tech announcements to what the future holds for the region's core industries, 2019 brought a lot of big headlines to Houston. Here are the top 10 most popular stories on Houston.org in the last year. 

1. Houston Population Expected to Exceed 7.1 Million by 2020

In May, we reported that metro Houston added nearly 92,000 residents in 2018, boosting the region’s total population to just under 7.0 million. Based on the growth rate over the last decade, Houston’s population was expected to exceed 7.1 million by the end of 2019. New Census data on population growth will be released later this spring. read more

2. Houston Still Most Diverse City in the Nation, Report Finds 

A report released in April by the personal finance site WalletHub showed that Houston remains the most diverse city in the nation. WalletHub looked at diversity among the nation’s largest 501 municipalities across five categories: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religious. The report examines additional factors such as industry diversity, income, age, religious affiliation, education, language, worker class, and marital status. read more

3. Houston in 1969: A Look at the City Then and Now 

With Houston celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing over the summer, we took the opportunity to compare the Houston of 2019 to the city it was in 1969. With changes in population and core industries as well as major improvements in transportation and trade infrastructure, Houston has evolved into a world class city over the last five decades. read more

4. Why Tech Companies are Choosing Houston 

2019 brought a series of announcements in the tech and innovation space, from new offices of companies like Bill.com to a cluster of new accelerators and incubators that opened their doors. The Houston Business Journal reported in March that a growing cohort of tech companies were being lured to Texas and specifically Houston by factors such as cost of living, quality of life and the ability to attract talent. read more

Rendering of The Ion in Midtown

5. Former Sears to Become Innovation Hub Dubbed The Ion 

Early in 2019, Rice University revealed plans for The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot innovation hub inside a former Sears department store in Midtown. Construction on the project began in July with completion expected sometime in late 2020.  The Ion will bring together entrepreneurs, corporations and academic institutions to collaborate under one roof. In announcing the project, Rice said the goal of The Ion was to support businesses at all stages of the innovation lifecycle and provide resources for Houstonians seeking to participate in the innovation economy. read more

6. Houston No. 1 Among Millennials New Study Finds

A study released in March ranked Houston as the top city in the nation for millennials. The report from Colorado-based strategy firm The Langston Co. looked at how cities rank across dozens of different dimensions, including culture, climate, transportation, and salary potential. Houston came out on top for offering the best overall value, followed by Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Austin, in that order. The study surveyed nearly 3,000 millennials across 22 major U.S. cities. read more

A rendering of the TMC3 design

7. Design Revealed for Much-Anticipated TMC3 Campus 

The Texas Medical Center and its partner institutions revealed a new design for the 37-acre TMC3 campus in May. The massive collaborative healthcare and research campus is expected to break ground in early 2020 just south of the existing TMC footprint. When completed in 2022, TMC3 will bring together Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and TMC itself within the translational research campus. read more

8. Six Takeaways from Dow Chemical’s Jim Fitterling 

A candid conversation with the CEO of Dow Chemical was the keynote of the Partnership’s inaugural State of Houston’s Petrochemical Industry event in February. Dow’s Jim Fitterling talked about a range of topics, from the impact of China’s growth and industry-diversification in the Middle East to talent attraction and the rise of robotics in the petrochem sector. read more

9. 2018 Record Year for Wind Energy; Texas Leads U.S. 

Houston ramped up discussions in 2019 around the region’s role in energy transition and the effect that transition will have on our core industries. The city hosted the nation’s largest conference on wind energy in May and as well as other industry events throughout the year that touched on renewables. In April, the American Wind Energy Association released a report with the Partnership showing Texas produced nearly a quarter of all U.S. wind energy in 2018, more than any other state. What’s more, wind production nationwide grew 8% in 2018 over the previous year and the industry supports more than 114,000 U.S. jobs. read more

10. Fintech Co. Bill.com Announces Expansion into Houston 

In February, the Palo-Alto, CA-based business software company Bill.com announced it would open a second office in Houston. The fintech company moved into a 25,000-square-foot space in Westchase in September. Bill.com worked with the Partnership in the months leading up to the announcement as the company considered Houston for its new office. The expansion was one in a series of openings and announcements throughout the year that served the bolster Houston’s identity as a growing digital tech hub. read more

See the Partnership's sector-by-sector Employment Forecast for the year ahead and get more perspective on 2019 in the Partnership's Economic Highlights report. 
 

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Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport is marking the start of the new year with a couple of big announcements. Earlier this week, Allegiant announced it added Houston as one of a few cities it’ll begin serving in 2020. According to its press release, the new seasonal nonstop routes from Hobby Airport include Knoxville, TN, Asheville, NC, Savannah, GA, and Destin/Fort Walton Beach, FL. Allegiant says it’s also expanding to Boston and Chicago. It’s the largest expansion in the airline’s 23-year history, driven by the company’s focus on leisure travel. Allegiant’s announcement comes just days after Southwest Airlines unveiled a $125 million, 240,000-square-foot maintenance facility at Hobby. It’s the largest in the Dallas-based carrier’s network, and includes offices, training facilities and warehouse space. “It’s proof of our devotion and our dedication to Houston,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said during the grand opening celebration, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. “And the opportunity that we see here, and the excitement that we have to continue to grow.” Kelly told reporters that Houston is one of three key cities where Southwest is focused on adding flights over the next 10 years, according to the Houston Business Journal. Southwest’s CEO said he ultimately wants to connect Houston to South America. “I don’t see that in the next year or so, but definitely down the road it’s something that we would be interested to do,” Kelly said. Houston is the international air gateway to the South Central U.S. and Latin America. With the addition of international air service at Hobby Airport in ’15, Houston became the only city in Texas with two airports offering international service and one of only eight such cities nationwide. According to Houston Facts, domestic travel at Hobby Airport increased by more than 7% to over 13 million passengers in ’18. Airlines that offer direct domestic flights from Hobby include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines. Southwest is currently the only airline out of Hobby offering direct international flights. The Partnership's 2019 Economic Highlights report says the Houston Airport System (HAS) offers nonstop flights to some 190 domestic and international destinations in 37 countries. Hobby is ranked as the 35th busiest airport in the nation.  Learn more about air transportation in Houston in Houston Facts. Read how Hobby performed last year in the 2019 Economic Highlights report and get a monthly aviation update. 
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5G: Houston's Next Leap in Innovation

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5G technology has been touted as the next leap forward in the digital technology arena, and Houston is one of the first cities to roll out the new tech, but what does this mean for Houston's economy? Well, it could mean a lot.  5G networks need smaller and more closely deployed antennae that can attach to existing physical structures, such as light and telephone poles and buildings. These signals can also be carried faster and with more reliability.  Last month the Houston Chronicle reported that T-Mobile turned on its 5G network in Houston and nationally. This launch made T-Mobile the latest commercially available 5G mobile data network available in the region. Sprint, which is planning a merger with T-Mobile later this year, and Verizon turned on their 5G capability in Houston earlier in 2019.  In 2018 AT&T announced that it had 5G capabilities in multiple areas in Houston. The company also has invested nearly $1.5 billion in Houston wireless and wired networks from 2015-2018 in anticipation of 5G coverage. The investment also included updates to improve reliability, speed and performance.  These faster capabilities will offer Houston businesses better opportunities to create new and streamline old technologies, and companies are starting to take notice. When Accenture surveyed more the 6,600 business and IT executives for its Technology Vision 2019, 62% of the respondents said that 5G will have a significant impact on their industries within the next three years.  Infrastructure Networks, a Houston based oilfield telecommunications company, is working with telecommunications company Nokia to bring 5G networking capabilities to the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, the Permian Basin, and two additional shale basins outside of Texas. That integration will allow customers of Infrastructure Networks to send and receive large gigabytes of data faster than ever before.  "Operators, drillers and oilfield service companies can now embrace automation, artificial intelligence analytics and machine learning, only made accessible with next-generation, high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity," Mark Slaughter, CEO of Infrastructure Networks, said in a statement this week. As a 5G city, Houston has the potential to utilize this technology to move forward with smart city applications that could assist in reducing traffic congestion, lower energy usage and improve public safety. This new technology could also bolster the region's economy. Over the next seven years, 5G networks are estimated to create 3 million new jobs and contribute $500 billion to U.S. GDP. "Houston has always been on the front line. It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a roundtable discussion in October. "We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead." Learn more about telecommunications in Houston here. Learn more about Houston innovation here.   
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