- THE MAGAZINE
When thinking of Houston, one might think of cowboy boots, ten-gallon hats, big oil, NASA and Apollo 13 lunar module pilot John Swigert’s famous understatement, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
The Diverse Youths
The Houston region is now the most ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the country, surpassing even New York City. These findings are from a report released by Rice University researchers, based on an analysis of census data from 1990, 2000 and 2010.
“Houston is an international city; it’s incredibly diverse and that’s impacting how the region does business with the world,” explains Bob Harvey, president and CEO of The Greater Houston Partnership GHP). GHP is the economic development group servicing the 10-county Houston region, including: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller counties.
The Rice University report also found that while residential segregation has dropped over the past 20 years, it remains highest within the city of Houston; most suburban neighborhoods are less racially segregated.
More than 1 million Houstonians — or more than one in five — are foreign born. Meanwhile, the region ranks fifth nationally in residents of Hispanic descent and ninth in residents of Asian descent. Nearly 40 percent of the population living in the Houston region speaks a language other than English.
The region also boasts one of the youngest major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Greater Houston’s median age is 33.4 years, while the U.S. median age is 37.3 years, according to GHP.
One person who understands that ambitious age is William Onorato, CEO of Triton Overseas, a NVOCC headquartered in Houston providing international freight services globally.
Onorato grew up in Houston and attended university there. And in 1994 he started his business. “At 29, I opened a business in Houston because of the great opportunities that derive from the oil and gas industries. Another great benefit of having a shipping company in Houston is that Texas is the largest trade partner with Brazil.”
This workforce, and the arguably business-friendly environment, plays a large part in why Houston is considered on the fast track for job growth.
Very few regions in the United States have escaped the global economic downturn unscathed. Many areas are still recovering in 2013 (e.g. Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.) — but Greater Houston is another story.
“Houston got back all of the jobs lost in 2008 — and then some. We’re adding about 100,000 jobs a year in these parts, and that’s expected to continue,” says Patrick Jankowski, VP of research, GHP.
The numbers back up his claim.
Of the 10 most populous metro areas in the U.S., the Houston area has created the largest number of jobs in the last decade. And of the 20 largest metro areas, Houston was the last in and the first out of the recession, recovering all jobs lost in the recessions as of October 2011 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Back to School
The Houston region is home to nearly 20 colleges and universities, with a combined enrollment of 190,000. Nearly 42,000 students graduate from higher education facilities in the area.
The University of Houston’s College of Technology offers a Supply Chain and Logistics Technology program, with courses in maritime operations, global trade intermediaries, the global supply chain, financial evaluation for supply chain management, and much more.
But getting students is challenging, as many young professionals do not understand what supply chain and logistics means.
“You have to be proactive to reach students and recruit them, you can’t be reactive,” says Dan Cassler, CTL, assistant chair, ILT, program manager at UH. “I recruit students through the community colleges and we have an activate student organization SIDO [Student Industrial Distribution Organization] that actively recruits SCLT majors and students with an interest in supply chain activities.”
For Cassler, it comes down to making students understand the role of logistics and supply chain management. “In business, we [logisticians] are the lifeblood because we are the goods. We get you what you need before you know you need it.”
Texas Southern University takes recruitment a step further, explains Yi QI, Ph.D., assistant professor and interim chair department of Transportation Studies. The university targets high school students for their Maritime Transportation Management and Security Program, which includes internships, scholarships, field trips, lectures, guest speakers and films —much of which occurs before the first day of class.
Undergraduate and graduate students from both universities have been placed to both public and private transportation agencies. And with the growth of the Port of Houston and international commerce, the opportunities are endless.
If by Land or by Sea
As one of the nation’s busiest rail centers, the Houston region has a rail network of more than 800 miles of rail line and 21 miles of railroad bridges. Additionally, 10 major rail companies serve the Houston region and 150 trucking lines connect the Port of Houston to the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Houston region has three Class I railroads: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific.
Combined, BNSF and UP operate more than 96 percent of the Class I track mileage in the state of Texas. The widespread coverage of BNSF and UP allows them to connect to most of the major markets, including Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco/Oakland, and Los Angeles/Long Beach.
The region is home to a number of ports including the ports of Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Texas City.
The Port of Houston Authority (POHA) is an autonomous governmental subdivision of the state of Texas, as authorized by Harris County voters and established in 1911. According to POHA’s website, “seven individuals are selected by governmental entities within Harris County to represent their area’s interests on the Port Commission.”
As one of the world’s busiest ports, POHA is a large component of the regional economy. A 2012 study by Martin Associates says ship channel-related businesses contribute over 1 million jobs throughout Texas, helping to generate more than $178.5 billion in statewide economic impact. Additionally, more than $4.5 billion in state and local tax revenues are generated by business activities related to the port.
The expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015, which will allow larger ocean freighters to pass through its waterway, is anticipated to increase the amount of cargo coming into Houston. Houston’s concentration of ocean carriers, heavy haulers, project forwarders, EPC and oil and refining companies are well positioned to accommodate future growth.
“So far, I am extremely pleased with being located in Houston and am even more excited about the future,” says Onorato. “The opening of the Panama Canal is going to open up even more opportunities for Houston than predicted. If you look at Asia alone, there is an annual 850,000 TEUS to and from Asia to Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma with the port of Houston handling 6 percent of this trade. When the canal is wider I predict that more Asia carriers will call the Port of Houston and increase the annual liftings.”