Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Houston #1 for growth, software pay; top 10 for green tech

Thanks to a forward from Hugh and Wendell, I came across these interesting stats on Houston's spectacular growth lately. This one, on overall residential build rates in 2006, has Houston at number one in the nation with 71,257 residential building permits in the MSA in 2006, ahead of Atlanta (68K), DFW (56K), NYC (61K), Chicago (46K), Phoenix (43K), LA (33K), and SF (13K). NYC and LA are especially weak given their enormous size. We also top the list when measuring single-unit building permits, with 55K. We're not #1 on a percentage growth basis (vs. absolute numbers), but we're in the top 7 on both lists. There's also another table that talks about percentages of single-unit permits vs. totals, where we seem to have a nice balance at 77%.

Another interesting ranking I was recently forwarded (thanks Jack), has Houston as the #4 city in the country for software developer pay ($89K), #1 on a cost-of-living adjusted basis ($103K purchasing power). As you would expect, SF Bay is tops for raw salaries, but they fall from the top 10 to the bottom 10 once cost-of-living is taken into account. Texas does incredibly well on the CoL adjusted list, with all of the top 5 and 6 of the top 7 (only Charlotte NC sneaks in there). Don't underestimate the power of low cost-of-living with a strong and relatively high-paying job base.

Adjusted Salary

Top 10

Bottom 10
1 Houston $102,908
1 Honolulu $38,766
2 Austin $ 93,844
2 San Francisco $44,937
3 Fort Worth $ 91,614
3 San Diego $48,181
4 Arlington $ 91,614
4 New York $50,492
5 El Paso $ 85,741
5 Oakland $51,428
6 Charlotte $ 85,477
6 Miami $51,629
7 Dallas $ 84,489
7 San Jose $51,693
8 Jacksonville $ 81,928
8 Los Angeles $53,948
9 Colorado Springs $ 81,850
9 Long Beach $53,948
10 Atlanta $ 80,565
10 Virginia Beach $55,980

El Paso over Dallas? Who would have guessed?

Finally, a ranking you definitely wouldn't expect: Houston in the top 10 cities for green technology innovation. Yes, we're just a "runner up" to the top 5 of Austin (#1), Boston, and CA, but it's still not bad to be in the same group with SF, San Diego, and Seattle. I'm not usually a fan of SustainLane's rankings, but it's nice to see Houston taking its role as "energy capital" seriously when it comes to alternative energy as well as oil and gas. Richard Florida blogs on the ranking, including a couple Houston-specific comments:

Houston is probably the most interesting given the general attitude that many americans have towards the energy and energy services industry... nice to see that the industry and its eco-system are branching into the future.

Nicely said, David. Houston scored in the top 10 on the initial creativity index, before better measures of racial-ethnic segregation were added. It still does quite well among large metros (over 1 million population). It also has a massive concentration of high-tech, especially in the software industry related to the energy and resource sector. The SustainGovernment report has some detail on clean technology innovation going on there.

Not sure how "racial-ethnic segregation" changes "creativity" (sounds fishy to me), but it's nice to see some kind words for Houston in the creative class discussion for a change.


At 12:01 AM, March 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Houston definitely needs to leverage its complete dominance in the energy sector to move toward more sustainable energy development. I just wish the city's development would also take that into account.

At 1:09 AM, March 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the blending of different races and ethnicities is one of Florida's factors for "creativity." Apparently a group of white people or black people or some other race can't be creative by themselves. If that's his view, then what a creepy mindset.

At 2:17 PM, March 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Florida comment: A group of white people or black people can be pretty creative by themselves, but his work is about finding indicators to measure the vibrancy of the creative culture of a city as a whole to give city leaders tools to understand why too many of the smart kids leave Houston and move to Austin. One of the indicators is that a more tolerant society is a more creative society, including racial and sexual tolerance. While Houston as a whole (and Harris and Fort Bend County each as a whole) has an extremely diverse mix of people, if you look at some of Steven Klineberg's research you will find that Houston has large pockets of racially segregated populations and that those people tend to be less tolerant of people different from them.

Those people might come up with some creative stuff, but the intolerance will be a hindrance to their participation in the economy and community. I think that's what he means and I think it is an accurate portrayal of parts of Houston and a problem that people in those parts of town should address. Interesting young people tend to have little tolerance for intolerance and will just leave if they feel they are surrounded by bigotry.

At 11:52 AM, March 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jay. I think there are too many factors and dynamics at work in where and how people live to assume that, simply because you end up with a strong concentration of a certain race somewhere, those people are intolerant or bigoted. I have lived in diverse neighborhoods like Hyde Park in Chicago where I felt there was a high level of intolerance, as well as predominantly white neighborhoods in various parts of Texas where I detected very little intolerance, and the few non-white people there were more than welcome. There are other factors.

Simply measuring the percentages of races or ethnicities in a population and then using it to assign such labels as "bigoted" or "intolerant" is not only quite error prone, it's also quite hurtful. There are many people in society today who do not mind carelessly hurling accusations of racism, but those of us who quietly try to lead tolerant lives see the nastiness of such tactics.


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