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Houston Remains Strong Despite Economic Downturn


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A Conversation With Jeff Moseley

It was quite hot,” said Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, as he referred to the U.S. economy prior to the recession. “We have seen a dramatic cooling off in our economy, we knew it had to cool off,” he explained further. “While we have seen the job creation drop and unemployment go up, Houston has always been almost a full percentage below the U.S. unemployment rate.” In comparison to other U.S. cities, Houston has one of the top performing economies as a region in the USA. “We have a lot for which to give thanks,” Moseley said.

Moseley leads the Greater Houston Partnership, a primary advocate of Houston’s business community that is dedicated to building regional economic prosperity. The organization’s efforts include lobbying for legislation that favors the region’s business community; facilitating relocations and expansions in the Houston area; strategic planning; and international outreach and trade initiatives.

According to population estimates, Moseley said that in the next 30 years Texas will double its population. “For the Houston region that means we gain the same population as Los Angeles — 3 million (approximately).” In order to prepare for the growth in population, GHP is striving to grow high paying jobs in Houston’s 10-county regional economy to provide a strong tax base, “so services like police, fire, health and public schools will have the funding necessary to take care of all the new Houstonians.”

A direct result of the Partnership’s 10-year strategic plan, Opportunity Houston is an aggressive five-year marketing and lead generation program that will help grow jobs by 600,000, increase capital investment by $60 billion, and expand foreign trade by $120 billion for the greater Houston area by the end of 2015. According to the Opportunity Houston Strategic Plan (houston.org), “The Houston region’s economic future is tied to its ability to attract companies to locate, expand and maintain their operations here, and for Houston area companies to sell their products and services abroad and/or to operate overseas.”

“We now know due to the data that almost 50 percent of our $400 billion regional economy is from the energy sector, so we know the specifics of how we go after jobs within that cluster,” replied Moseley when asked which sector the strategic plan will provide job opportunities in. “Well, there is no doubt about it that energy is the lion of our economy.” Some of the world’s major energy companies maintain large bases of operations in Houston, considered by many to be the energy capital of the world.

“A close second is the health care sector and that is symbolized by the Texas Medical Center, which has more than 90,000 trained professionals who go to work there every day — and we have a lot of health care providers outside of the Texas Medical Center as well,” Moseley explained. “So that is a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to grow health care jobs.” Additionally, GHP conducted a study in 2009, which proved that the Harris County Hospital District is Texas’ Largest Hospital District.

“We also interestingly enough are a high tech city,” Moseley said. Houston’s technology factor can be observed when thinking about all the technology that drives Houston’s economy — the technology used upstream and downstream in energy, technology in the medical center, and technology at the Johnson Space Center. “Talking about Johnson Space Center, aerospace is a big opportunity in Houston,” he said. Thus, there is tremendous opportunity in Houston to grow technology jobs and jobs in the aerospace industry. Energy, health and aerospace are rated by Moseley as the top three industries for job opportunities in Houston.

The Opportunity Houston Strategic Plan to create jobs, grow capital investment and expand foreign trade will be achieved by working towards the Partnership’s primary and overarching purpose in four visions that fall within two broad and mutually supportive categories of business development and public policy.

The first vision of the strategic plan is to establish the Houston region as a business magnet. To do so, GHP will facilitate initiatives that differentiate Houston and capitalize on its core strengths and resources. Secondly, GHP will lead and facilitate initiatives that establish the Houston region as the leading gateway to global markets. The goal is to establish Houston as one of the top four international trade regions in the U.S. Thirdly, GHP will be a proactive visionary to build and maintain an infrastructure and business environment that sets Houston apart, nationally and globally, as the most attractive place to do business. Lastly, GHP will be an aggressive driver of local, regional, state and federal public policy that makes Houston one of the top four regions in the United States for business.

“We are one the most affordable large cities in the world and we fight to keep the affordability and business friendly climate here,” replied Moseley when asked about the Partnership’s efforts towards quality of life. In addition to that, “We have a tremendous resource in Houston and that is our climate,” said Moseley. “We have got more rainfall than Seattle and perhaps as much sunshine as Miami.” This resource makes Houston friendly for reestablishing the region’s urban forest and green space. Such commitment will not only enhance the quality of life for Houstonians, but also attract businesses.

Home to 25 Fortune 500 companies and yet still ranked as one of the lowest cost of living among major metro cities, Houston has a lifestyle that many can enjoy — from professionals and entrepreneurs to children and families. Even students aren’t left out as Princeton Review (2009) ranked Rice University as having the highest quality of life among students. Recent rankings compiled by Forbes (2010) placed Houston as America’s Best City for Young Professionals. In prior rankings conducted by Forbes, Houston was not left behind: Houston was ranked as the Best City to Get Ahead (2009), the Best City to Buy a Home (2008), and the Best US City to Earn a Living (2008). Unable to hide his confidence in Houston’s economic future, Moseley acclaimed, “We see Houston as a top 10 global community.”

By Farah Lalani

farahlalani@sbcglobal.net

 

Chris Wilmot, president and CEO, WCW International Inc. and chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership World Bank Task Force; GHP President & CEO Jeff Moseley; Houston Mayor Annise Parker; Harris County Judge Ed Emmett; and U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee.

Greater Houston Partnership President & CEO Jeff Moseley


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