Headhunter on Houston as a "principal city of the world"The Moneymaker interview in the Chronicle today has some interesting comments on Houston by the local managing director at Korn/Ferry International, which is an executive recruiting firm.
I'll second that. But he's also right about the importance of the energy industry. Most "big name" U.S. cities have diversified economies, but at least one core industry cluster that really drives the local economy and growth: NY and finance, DC and government, Chicago and Midwestern industrial headquarters, Detroit and autos, San Francisco/Silicon Valley and tech, LA and entertainment. Subtract Detroit (for obvious reasons), and you have Big Five largest, most important and highest profile metros in the country. If you wanted to list the large, high-growth candidates with the potential to break into this top tier of cities, in addition to Houston, you'd have DFW, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami-Ft.Lauderdale, and maybe Riverside-San Bernadino if you consider them separate from LA (which I don't think I would). Of those, only Houston has a driving core industry, although a case could be made for Latin American finance and trade as the core industry of Miami (but not Ft.Lauderdale). Houston and Miami can also make the strongest cases as international business centers. The rest of the cities are really "miscellaneous diversified," typically with a regional/national business focus. I don't know if that will make a difference in how these cities are viewed vs. the Big Five over the next couple of decades, but I do think it will certainly help Houston drive its growth and development and make a very strong case.
Eric Nielsen has seen steady improvement in Houston's image over 20 years and has watched the city become what he calls "a principal city of the world."
The city's growth is encouraging for Nielsen, the managing director of Korn/Ferry International's local office. An executive recruiter, Nielsen looks inside Houston and elsewhere to fill crucial roles in the city's energy-based economy.
The more people willing to relocate here, the better for him.
"Houston is generally an attractive place," he said. "Some people love Houston and would never want to leave. Some people would not want to live here.
"The city is incredibly resilient. Every day it's becoming a more important place to be. Bigger decisions are being made here. It's evolving. Houston has a very bright future."
Nielsen said Houston's energy sector is stronger than before Enron's bankruptcy and remains a net creator of jobs.
Q: Do you think the Houston economy is as dependent upon the energy industry as in the past?
A: A lot of time has been spent trying to define Houston as not as dependent upon energy as it once was, but I don't think it's a bad thing that we have such a strength here, in an industry that has such promise for the future. It brings a lot of opportunities and resources to this city. You operate at a disadvantage if you don't have a presence in Houston.
That said, if a major pharmaceutical company ever moves to Houston, we could have an incredible opportunity in health care and life sciences. Not that we don't already. We already have the largest medical center in the world, and the most research being done there — but a lot of opportunities that come out of there are not commercialized locally. They tend to go someplace else to be commercialized. If a major pharmaceutical company were to move its corporate headquarters here, that could be another catalyst, and another industry that makes a lot of sense.