Sunday, June 03, 2007

Houston as Engineering Headquarters, USA

Richard Florida's group recently did an analysis of which cities dominate certain industries by having more than 10% of the nation's employment in that industry, and Houston gets special mention in his list of takeaways:
Houston has a stronghold on engineering. You can see this even more when the criterion is dropped to 8-9% of the national engineering workforce.
Chicago didn't make these first lists, which lead to some perceptive observations of Chicago's place in the economy by Richard in the comments (mainly consolidation of the shrinking industrial Midwest, "the last best old industrial economy city," but not much new or leading edge), with the one glaring exception of implying businesses have left Dallas for Chicago, which is just nuts. Yes, Boeing chose Chicago over Dallas when they left Seattle, but Chicago was always going to be the choice because of its broader array of international flights (mainly due to superior geography for connections to Europe and Asia) - Boeing just used Denver and Dallas to get concessions out of Chicago. And that's a lot different than businesses established in Dallas chosing to move to Chicago, which I have never heard of.

In a later analysis of talent clusters in major metros, Houston drops to #2 in engineering behind San Jose, CA (aka Silicon Valley's tech central), but ahead of #3 Detroit. Then again, Detroit came in #3 for advertising and marketing, as well as the arts, which didn't build my faith in the numbers.

In a post quite a while back, I argued that part of Houston's branding identity should be as a major world hub of engineering talent. And it's a lot more than just oil & gas - see the list. It's a great long-term brand, because the world will always need engineers, no matter what technology changes happen to energy, oil, and gas.

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