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What Does the Word Manufacturing Mean to Houston?

Published Jan 12, 2022 by Bryant Black

The skilled workforce in the advanced manufacturing sector includes more than 230,000 industrial workers in specialties such as fabricated metal, machinery and chemical manufacturing.

For generations, the word manufacturing was synonymous with places. In Detroit, it meant automobiles; in Ohio and Pennsylvania it meant steel. More recently, in the Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, it means tech and biopharma. But what does manufacturing mean to Houston? 

Houston has long been known as a global energy capital, and the energy industry has certainly played an integral role in driving the economic engine of the Texas Gulf Coast region, and greater Houston, specifically. Fifty years ago, a claim of a diversified Houston economy may have seemed far-fetched. But that is no longer the case.

Energy companies across the value stream – upstream (extraction), midstream (transportation and storage), and downstream (refining and manufacturing) – have and continue to grow and create jobs, attracting workers and interrelated businesses to the region; this has generated a complex and far-reaching integrated supply chain of small and mid-size manufacturers and fabricators, vendors, and fixers that support the still-critical energy industry, but also industries that have grown up around it, including health care, transportation, and, more recently, technology. 

Today, the greater Houston region is home to more than 6,400 of these manufacturers, which produce a spectrum of products ranging from petrochemicals and plastics to food to medical devices and pharmaceuticals – all worth more than $82 billion annually and making the Houston Metro the second-largest U.S. metro in terms of manufacturing GDP. These companies employ a skilled workforce including nearly 230,000 industrial workers (and growing), making it the country’s fifth largest manufacturing workforce.

While economies once overly dependent on a homogenous manufacturing sector work to regain their past prosperity, Houston has a diversified economy, and it relies on a broad manufacturing sector for support. Houston doesn’t necessarily have – or need – a signature marketable manufacturing focus to attract talent and promote job growth. But, in an ever-evolving and more complex global economy, having the diversification of products and services that Houston does is a blessing. As a major logistics hub for the Americas, the Houston region’s ports, railroad network, and airports is an important asset supporting the region’s manufacturers.

Houston’s diverse manufacturing base creates a natural hedge as fluctuations in the industries driving the broader American economy continue to ebb and flow. This diversity also presents myriad opportunities for vendors and customers to explore the boundaries of new markets, and for creators and startups to become the next big things as the economy evolves. Manufacturing’s presence also means less risk to outsourcing, low-cost competition, transient workforces, and consolidation. These, in turn, mean more stability long-term, and more jobs.

Manufacturing in Houston means biopharma, medical devices, electronic equipment and parts, energy and plastics, logistics and transportation, and food and beverage production – and with a continually increasing population combined with an expanding port of Houston to support these varying areas of manufacturing, the underpinnings are there for continued growth moving forward. In Houston, manufacturing means makerspaces and innovation. It means good jobs. It is multifaceted and evolving all the time, and its future is bright.

Learn more about Houston’s manufacturing industry here.

The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative serves as a regional backbone to bring together business, education and community leaders, and the public workforce system to develop a skilled workforce and create good pathways to opportunity for all. Learn more and get involved.