Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Houston in the national media

I finally caught up on some of my email newsletters, and came across a couple interesting blurbs on Houston buried in some Hurricane Katrina articles from the national media. They probably don't tell you anything you don't already know, but it's always interesting to follow the national image of Houston in the media.

The first is from the Christian Science Monitor on the post-Katrina migration:

Texas has long received the largest share of New Orleans' outmigration, notes Mr. Berube. It's true for Katrina evacuees as well. The Lone Star State now has more than half of the shelter-based displaced population.

At Houston's Toyota Center this week, thousands of evacuees came to inquire about jobs, apartments, legal aid, and medical care. At a job fair people were getting help with their resumes, browsing bulletin boards, and slurping free ice cream.

Gaston Duronslet is standing in front of the bulletin board, scanning it for information technology postings. A single dad with three kids, he worked for DuPont in New Orleans before the storm.

His children are already enrolled in Texas schools. He's received an apartment rent-free for a month while he looks for a job. So far, he's been overwhelmed by Texan generosity; noticing his Louisiana license plates, one couple followed him until he stopped at a deli for dinner and paid for his meal. "I've already written New Orleans off," says Mr. Duronslet, whose family has lived there since the mid-1800s.

A big city like Houston is unlikely to be changed very much by an influx of Louisianans. Urban areas in the US are already largely populated by people transplanted from elsewhere. But the smaller the community that receives new residents, the larger the corresponding effect.

"The impact in cities like Houston and Miami won't be very big," says Chris Girard, a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Florida International University. "But in rural communities and states that are more homogeneous, there will be a much bigger impact and there will be some culture shock."

It goes on to talk about how the relative impact on Baton Rouge will be much more visible and substantial than in a city like Houston, where a 100,000 potential new residents added to a metro of 5 million is not as noticeable.

The second is from an article in the Washington Post on New Orleans' future:

This is not the first time that harsh realities have reshaped cities along the Gulf of Mexico.

The historic analogy for New Orleans is Galveston. For 60 years in the 1800s, that coastal city was the most advanced in Texas. It had the state's first post office, first naval base, first bakery, first gaslights, first opera house, first telephones, first electric lights and first medical school.

Then came the hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900. As yet unsurpassed as the deadliest natural disaster in American history, it washed away at least 6,000 souls. Civic leaders responded with heroic determination, building a seawall seven miles long and 17 feet high. Homes were jacked up. Dredges poured four to six feet of sand under them.

Galveston today is a charming tourist and entertainment destination, but it never returned to its old commercial glory. In part, that's because the leaders of Houston took one look at what the hurricane had wrought and concluded a barrier island might not be the best place to build the major metropolis that a growing east central Texas was going to need.

They responded with an equally Lone-Star-scale project, the 50-mile-long Ship Channel. It made inland Houston a world port. In the wake of the Spindletop gusher that launched the Texas oil industry, Houston became the capital of the world petroleum industry. As the leaders of the "awl bidness" were fond of saying, "Don't matter if the oil is in Siberia or the South China Sea -- you buy your rig in Houston or dig for it with a silver spoon." Houston went on to become a finance, medical, university, biotech and now nanotech center. The first word from the surface of the moon was not "Galveston." It was "Houston."

You can also thank annexation for that last one, otherwise it could have been "Clear Lake, the Eagle has landed." How goofy would that have sounded?

The national media frequently mentions energy, NASA, and the medical center when talking about Houston, but this is the first time I've ever seen us acknowledged for our bio and nanotech. Hopefully it will just be the first of many.


At 1:59 AM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone in the medical industry in our med center, I can only say that we are not even the biotech capital of Texas. That distinction goes to Austin.

Somehow we have the largest medical center in the world, yet businesses aren't attracted to Houston for biotech as much as they are to San Diego, Boston, and the Triangle in NC. Makes you wonder what we are doing wrong down here that even Austin, without a medical center or major hospital of note, is getting all the biotech companies.

I guess it is true what they say about needing a major top-flight research university to attract cutting-edge jobs (San Diego= UCSD, Bay Area= UCSF/Stanford, Boston= MIT, Harvard, Triangle= Duke, UNC)

At 9:38 AM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

A quote from the Austin Business Journal:

"Compared with Austin, there's more biotech activity in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, because those areas have medical schools, Leander says." (a local Austin biotech executive)

At 5:18 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Geez, guy, if you hate the city, why read the blog? Most of us like what Tory is doing, which is a combo of boosterism and getting people to think about how the city is evolving.

Why do you keep coming back to read, if you're only going to post nasty comments? Why not post your comments with your name?

At 5:32 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 2:

I didn't see anything objectionable in anon 1's comments, whether I agreed with him or not. You don't have to "like" Houston to find value in this blog. Actually, it would be a pretty boring blog if we just chirped about how golly wonderful our beloved city is, and with this or that slight change it would be paradise.

And posting with a name doesn't mean anything. I could call myself francisco and it would make no difference than if I called myself anonymous.

-anon 3

At 5:45 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Original poster anon back here again.

I find it funny that someone who posts as anonymous cares that I do as well. I dont even know how to register a name.

Frankly, what I said is the truth. And while Tory might have a quote from an Austin business leader, there are several other studies done by thinktanks using actual data that show clustering of biotech activity and name Austin as the main center in the south (outside of the triangle)

Here's just one link showing that from an independent institute:

And if you think constructive criticism is nasty, then I guess you really aren't doing this city any good. People who think the city are perfect are least likely to make the changes that will improve this city for all of us.

So if you want to rah-rah about Houston being perfect fine, but this blog is called "Houston Strategies" as in things to improve Houston, not "Houston Delusions" where the city is perfect and we all talk about its unparalleled perfection.

At 6:19 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Brookings has us edging out Austin, with the potential to move from major research center to biotech center if our commercialization efforts take root with our massive research.

At 12:16 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually saw that study, the reason I didnt include it is that it uses NIH funding as a barometer.

When I refer to biotech, Im referring to the private sector, or public-private partnerships. When you use NIH funding, you factor in the academic medical centers as well.

And you will hear no argument from me, though I guess you can call me a homer, that we have world-class medical facilities and research going on in our academic institutions. We have the best cancer center in the world, one of the best cardiology centers in the world, a top 5 pediatrics hospital and one of the top dozen medical schools in the US.

Unfortunately, my worry is that the academic component has not led to a massive private biotech influx.

Why is it that San Diego, with only one public medical school that isn't as highly regarded as our own institutions, the biotech capital of the world? Boston, San Francisco, and the Triangle at least make sense.

In any case, its the private sector Im referring to. You won't get any arguments from me about our public institutions being top notch.


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