Friday, May 06, 2011

Houston, We Have Liftoff!

Lifted high above other cities by being rated as the Best City of the Year by Fast Company Magazine.

It’s a great testament to the innovative government and creative capitalism Texas is known for and why it is attracting individuals and businesses relocating from every state, including many from California.

An excerpt.

“IT'S PAST 11 P.M., AND I'M walking with my husband in downtown Houston. We've just seen a play at the Alley Theatre, and the stroll to our car, which I'd left at my office, gives us time to dissect the show and enjoy the city at night.

“Enjoy the city at night: I never would have thought of doing that in 1980, when I first came to Houston. Back then, downtown was not a place I'd wanted to walk after dark. That I can do it now is one sign of how Houston, America's fourth-largest city and a place I've lived in and around for most of my life, continues to reinvent itself.

“We're a diverse city of 2.1 million residents, with A-list universities, top museums, and the world's largest and arguably best medical center. We have a vibrant business community and more Fortune 500 company HQs than any other city except New York, including food giant Sysco, Waste Management, and the expected oil-and-gas titans. Annise Parker became our mayor last year, making Houston the largest U.S. city ever to be run by an openly gay person. Yet we are often misperceived.

"Disappointingly to some, cowboys don't roam the streets (except during the rodeo and livestock show each March). When Giuseppe Bausilio, a title star in the national tour of Billy Elliot the Musical, came to town and I asked him what he wanted to do, the 13-year-old Swiss dancer replied, "I want to shoot a gun for the first time." Sigh.

“But another of the Billys, Daniel Russell, who hails from Australia, told me he wanted to visit NASA. For decades, that has been one of our symbols of research, teamwork, and the modern frontier spirit. That's the Houston I know and love.

“HOUSTON WAS BUILT ON THE determination to overcome life's little adversities ... like yellow fever. In the 1830s, when the New York -- born Allen brothers arrived on Buffalo Bayou's banks and began urging people to settle here, they failed to mention the mosquitoes or the swamps. Like the Houstonians who have come after them -- from oil prospectors to waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia -- the brothers preferred to focus on the possibilities. "Entrepreneurship is in our DNA," says Walter Ulrich, president and CEO of the Houston Technology Center, an incubator with ties to Rice University.

"Houston is a mix of the wild, wild West and the most sophisticated global community in the world," says Leisa Holland-Nelson, a native Houstonian who spent 25 years working in the fashion industry in Manhattan before coming home to cofound an online communications firm called ContentActive. "Between those two elements, you just have incredible freedom."

“This sense of opportunity, coupled with Houston's affordability, might explain why, according to a Brookings study, Houston is one of the nation's prime magnets for people ages 25 to 34. Case in point: the Texas Medical Center, a collection of 49 world-class institutions with nearly 100,000 staffers that, in the words of president and CEO Dr. Richard Wainerdi, is practically "a private city" focused on healing. The collaboration, innovation, and specialization happening at TMC -- from the rehab of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to "pediatric heart surgeons that work with children's hearts the size of strawberries," Wainerdi says -- is a huge draw for young professionals in health care.”