Houston – the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the economic dynamo of Texas is also an international player in the future of global commerce.
The economy of the Houston region is one of America’s largest. Its industries include oil and gas, aeronautical and space, medical research and healthcare, technology, manufacturing, logistics and shipping.
The region includes America’s largest shipping port by international tonnage and the top rated logistics industry in the nation.
International passenger and commercial cargo carriers are positioning themselves with direct routes to Houston airports as the city gains importance in global commerce and travel.
Last year, 6.4 million international passengers traveled through Bush Intercontinental Airport, a new record. The Houston Airport System expects the number of total passengers served by 2020 to be 80 million passengers a year.
International patients are an important segment of Houston’s increasing stream of world travelers and contribute millions of dollars annually to the Houston economy. The renowned Texas Medical Center in Houston contains the world’s largest concentration of healthcare and medical research institutions. The Center includes 13 hospitals and numerous schools of medicine, nursing and dentistry. The city also has some 55 universities, colleges and academic research institutions.
On a play of words using one of Houston’s nicknames, “Space City,” referring to NASA’s Mission Control Center, Houston is using its real estate “space” to further a different mission. From skyscrapers to boutique hotels — from the Museum District to the Theatre District — from the Medical Center to its international port gateway — from its stadiums to its world-class shopping malls — from residential highrises to planned communities — smart growth with a strategic purpose.
No longer susceptible to a homogeneous energy industry, Houston now boasts a diversified economy that has provided insulation from major economic interruptions. During the third quarter of 2007, Houston’s office space reached 90% occupancy of a 180 million square foot inventory. An additional 24 buildings currently under construction will add another four million square feet of Class A space to Houston’s office market, further pillaring the third-largest skyline in the United States.
Major development is also underway to augment Houston’s nationally eighth-ranked retail market. Current projects valued at roughly $3.4 billion will bring 12.3 million square feet of new high-end space that is targeted to capture quality corporate business as well as domestic and international travelers who are less sensitive to price tags. This amount of new retail space will shatter all records according to National Commercial Real Estate News released today on LoopNet.com.
While the bubble has burst in other cities and states, Houston has become the largest housing market in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau during the 12 months from October 2006 through 2007. The three other major Texas cities (Dallas, Austin and San Antonio) ranked in the top 20 housing markets in the nation.
Convention, Sports, and Leisure
Convention, sports, and leisure patronage is up 130%. Houston’s tourist attractions are diverse and abundant. Houston is one of the few cities in the United States to offer four major performing arts disciplines (ballet, opera, symphony, and theatre) and five professional sports franchises.
Continued sales and job growth in 2008 are expected for the already cooking Texas’ restaurant industry. Currently, Texas has the 2nd highest restaurant sales in the nation and the 2nd largest number of restaurant-industry employees. California is #1 in both categories. However, with Houston’s lower cost of living and pro-business environment, California’s inflated prices due to costs of doing business might account for their being #1 in the sales category instead of Texas.
The Houston Business Journal reported that four boutique hotels have opened since 2002. The emergence of these luxury boutique hotels is a logical consequence of Houston’s rebirth as an “international” city, capturing demand generated by increasing traffic from domestic and foreign travelers whose tastes lean to more upscale lodgings. This new room supply has been quickly absorbed.
Convention activity in Houston is also pushing record levels. In 2003, a $165-million expansion project nearly doubled the space of the George R. Brown Convention Center complex to 1.2 million square feet. According to the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the expansion led to a record high in conventions and delegates for 2006, with an economic impact of $1 billion for the year.
Industrial / Warehousing
Houston’s Gulf Coast has long powered the growth in southeast Texas and has seen its trade activity more than double since 2003. With the opening of the Bayport Container Terminal expansion in January 2007, shipping activity at the Port of Houston is continuing its rise, as anticipated.
As for collateral construction, “We’re definitely seeing an uptick,” said Billy Gold, senior vice-president of CB Richard Ellis in Houston. “The expanded capacity at Bayport terminal facilities have fueled a lot of speculative construction in that vicinity. Local developers are putting up industrial complexes primarily for the petrochemical, agricultural, cotton, feedstock, and building materials markets. And, we are now starting to see national developers coming in to get a toe-hold in this market.”
With the Panama Canal’s expansion completion expected in 2014 and proposed port-of-entry interstate Trans-Texas corridors, the shipping through Texas ports is expected to rise even more. Houston ports, the largest in the nation, will be well-positioned and ready to incorporate increased traffic.
These new and existing developments demonstrate the city’s commitment to keep in step with its ever-increasing population, international presence, and business growth. Houston hosts many leading market niches in the country and cannot be wholly defined by a single industry. With a dynamic economy that shows little signs of slowing, Houston has made its debut as a world-class city. Corporations and individuals alike looking to expand exisiting companies or to invest in their future through business ownership are looking to Houston as the place to be.