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Posts posted by ToryGattis

  1. 5 hours ago, Reefmonkey said:

    Minneapolis-St Paul for one.

    Median home price: $242,000 (vs Houston $230,000)

    Median income $66,282 (vs Houston $42,877)

    Unemployment 3.0% (vs Houston 4.1%)

    Environmentally and in terms of sustainability better off than Houston.




    Some coincidental timing from the WSJ!  Sounds like they would like to be growing more like Houston is than how they are currently...

    Forget the Midwest. Minnesota Casts Itself as the North

    It won’t help the Vikings but to solve its population problem, the state is branding itself as ‘the North’;  ‘Sick of being this afterthought in this afterthought called the Midwest’

    ...Convincing people to move to Minnesota is “the most important work we can do in terms of growing our economy and staying competitive for the future,” said Michael Langley, chief executive of the regional economic development group Greater MSP and an executive board member of the Super Bowl host committee.

  2. 7 minutes ago, HOUTEX said:

    "City of Houston Controller Chris Brown told the Houston Business Journal Houston's lack of a robust rail network, particularly one that connects to an airport, may have been one of the city's shortfalls. Egan agreed, saying Houston's lack of rail connections to the airport likely played a particularly large role. "

    7 minutes ago, HOUTEX said:

    Reinforces the opinion that rail is what makes a difference in commercial real estate investment. Bus systems, though they serve a more diffuse service area, are easily removed and don't provide an assurance that might compel a firm to invest in putting down roots. 




    I'm calling BS on this.  Half of the finalists they picked don't have rail to the airport!  We once had fast express bus service from downtown to IAH and it attracted less than 2 riders per bus - how could we support (slower!) rail on that route!?  DART's airport service has pathetic ridership.  This is classic: everybody who has a pet issue in Houston is coming out to claim it's the reason Amazon didn't put us on the short list. Don't believe it.

    • Like 6
  3. 4 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

    Minneapolis-St Paul for one.

    Median home price: $242,000 (vs Houston $230,000)

    Median income $66,282 (vs Houston $42,877)

    Unemployment 3.0% (vs Houston 4.1%)

    Environmentally and in terms of sustainability better off than Houston.




    Good one. I see the appeal of their model. From an Opportunity Urbanism perspective, I'd guess they're very appealing for college-educated whites (except for the winters!), but I doubt there's as much opportunity there for immigrants, minorities, or people with less education.  I think we're more vibrant in industries that employ more of those people - home building, restaurants, industrial/mfg, port trade.  I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

  4. 6 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:


    All that limits LA and NYC is really cost, which is the penalty of too much success. They are at a point where they are not trying to win big corporate relocations, but have elite small offices for international companies. Not sure what you mean by Chicago being more domestic in orientation... take for example a firm like Optiver, headquartered in Amsterdam, which could open a U.S. office anywhere and picks Chicago for prestige of location.


    Yeah, I have thought of Houston and Dallas following on an LA/SF route as being dual great cities, but it seems like Texas is going through a major boom era right now due to a combination of low regulation and cheap immigrant labor, and will come back down to earth at some point. 60 years ago the Midwest was in its heyday and Detroit might have thought they could rival Chicago (5th largest city in the U.S.), with Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cleveland also huge cities, but eventually the region deflated and all that was left was Chicago, because it alone had made it into orbit as a global city. Everyone else sank.


    I feel like Chicago's set of big companies is more domestically oriented than Houston's, but I might be wrong about that.  Chicago has probably the best global aviation hub in the country because of geography - more Asian connections than the east coast, more European connections than the west coast, and total domestic coverage (better than either coast).  That really gives it an edge despite massive financial problems, horrible winters, crime, population loss, high taxes, corruption, and dysfunctional state government.  There is a bubble at the core of Chicago that is doing quite well despite all the drags around it.  We'll see how long they can keep it up.


    Texas has a pretty strong position in the American economy right now, and I'm not sure that will shift soon the way it did for the Midwest.  I'm not saying we don't have challenges, but I feel like ours are more manageable than those in much of the country.

  5. 5 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:


    Give me a break. Apples to oranges. There is a difference between cities that have low growth, low income inequality because everyone being poor, and cheap housing because everyone moved away, all due to a major industry cratering, versus a city already on a good growth trajectory trying to see how many more people they can cram into the telephone booth.

    Still curious if you see any cities out there doing it right?

    • Like 1
  6. 1 minute ago, H-Town Man said:


    This cuts both ways. All those global cities you mentioned have an industry that is considered a world-leader, but they are usually not dependent on that industry the way we are on oil. I think to be a "global" city, you have to be multi-dimensional. Traditionally the consensus three "global" cities in the U.S. are New York, L.A., and Chicago. All three of those cities are leaders in industry. And all three of them could contend for just about any major headquarters you can think of. If you combined Houston's industrial side with Dallas's white collar side, you'd have a global city. But Houston and Dallas seem to each be specializing in their respective side of things, and that is keeping either of them from becoming an L.A. or Chicago. Probably our region of the country can only support one global city long-term, and that will be either Dallas or Houston. Right now we are looking more vulnerable because we are so dependent on one industry, whereas Dallas is establishing itself in a way that will allow it to survive the ups or downs of any one industry. I'd be really happy if anyone can show me what I'm missing here.



    But can you name any substantial companies that have relocated to either LA or NYC? (LA has almost no F500 HQs) Chicago has had some wins lately, but mostly executive HQ's for companies located in smaller towns in the Midwest (i.e. I feel like Chicago is the "winner" of the Midwest and consolidating HQs there into a regional capital, but they do seem more domestic in orientation rather than global, with the exception of Boeing). 


    Houston has Dallas beat for global city, but you're right we're dependent on the energy industry for that, with stronger ups and downs than diversified Dallas.  I think Texas can support two global cities long-term, just as CA supports both LA and SF.  They have different niches.

  7. 2 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:


    Well, I work in the environmental field, and from that perspective, the positives of unrestrained economic growth never do make up for the negative environmental impacts. They only do a slightly better job of making up for negative social impacts. Unrestrained economic growth increases income inequality and exacerbates the effects of it, especially IRT housing affordability.

    From that description, it sounds like your model city is something like Cleveland, Buffalo, or Detroit - low or no growth, lower income inequality, high housing affordability.  Or do you have examples of cities you think are following more ideal models/approaches?

    • Like 1
  8. 7 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

    I was a bit nonplussed about the claim of Dallas supposedly having better infrastructure and technical talent than Houston. Houston certainly is able to support HP and BMC. I get why Austin might appeal more to a company from Seattle, due to national perceptions of culture, livability, and then of course having Dell, but if Amazon were to pick Austin (which I think is a serious longshot), I don't think either party would be all that happy. As bad as Houston's city planning is, Austin's city leaders have always been provincial in mindset and the city's growth in the past 20+ years has outstripped its infrastructure, its ability to manage it, causing terrible traffic congestion, pricing the middle class out of home ownership anywhere with a reasonable commute into the city, overwhelming school districts and degrading the quality of education, and the whole cool laid back urban culture that Austin still touts as a reason to live there has been largely overrun and displaced.


    I never expected Houston would get serious consideration, especially not after Harvey, and am rather glad for that. Houston, too, has grown too fast, out of control, since the 90s. All the boosters crying "come to Houston, our cost of living is so low" and "we need to bod on the Olympics, on the Superbowl, it'll show everyone how great we are and they'll want to move here" have been wildly irresponsible. Any Houston booster trying to woo outsiders by the droves to move to Houston is telling native and decades-long Houstonians "I don't care about you, your reward for your loyalty to this city is your property taxes are going to skyrocket, your commute is going to double in time, your risk of your house flooding is going to go way up."


    Houston's median home price is $229,900, and Seattle's is $718,700. Homes that seem overpriced to Houstonians will look like a steal to anyone relocating from the Seattle area to set up HQ2. That would have bumped prices up even more than they already have gone up. That may sound great for you if you're wanting to sell your house, but remember, unless you're leaving the Houston area, you're going to be buying another house, and the Seattlite influx would have jacked up the cost of that house too. And all of us would be paying higher property taxes as well. That's what's so stupid about this national boosterism to try to get more people to live in Houston. Houston is ugly. It's hot and humid. It's floodprone. There is no real mass transit to speak of and traffic sucks. The main thing we have going for us as a city is our low cost of living, mostly related to cheap land and low taxes. But the more people you lure in, the more you cancel out those pluses. And the last thing Houston needs is more people on the road, more coastal prairie bulldozed and paved over to make more Cinco Ranches and Lakes of Eldridge. Texas as a whole, but especially Houston, needs to focus on making life better for the people already living here - property tax relief so a person's tax burden doesn't skyrocket even if his income hasn't just because his neighborhood has suddenly become desireable , better schools, better transportation, better climate resiliancy - before it works on luring in more people.


    I think you raise some fair points, but you're missing the positive side of growth, described on my blog here: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2007/02/size-matters.html 

    • Like 1
  9. 5 minutes ago, 102IAHexpress said:


    One thing to keep in mind is that Houston is the world leader in energy. That's a truly rare achievement. Very few cities are the world leader in any industry. Dallas has a growing banking and finance sector, but it's not the world leader. Austin has a booming tech sector but it's not the world leader. So where you see Houston being weak in other sectors you are glancing over the fact that Houston is the leader in a sector where most cities are just players in different sectors. Don't forget about cities that were former kings of an industry; Pittsburg, Detroit and how they would kill to still be a world leader in their respective sector today. Diversifying is important, however there's nothing wrong with trying to remain the leader in energy. 


    I wouldn't support any policies that would cause Houston to lose its status as world leader in energy just to gain a larger market share in other industries that Houston will never be a leader in like, tech, finance or tourism. 

    I totally second this. If you look at any top-tier major global city, they usually have at least one industry cluster that is a world leader - finance in NYC, entertainment in LA, tech in SF - and the economics of those industries drive their city.  Houston is no different with energy.  Diversification is not bad, but if you look at typical diversified cities - Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Philly, etc - they're not usually considered top-tier global cities.

    • Like 1
  10. 7 hours ago, H-Town Man said:


    I think the main think for these cities is guaranteeing themselves a future in the 21st century. Pittsburgh was relevant in the 20th century because of industry, but industry is gone. They need something new to be relevant. Newark is doling out more than anyone because they are a hellhole. They need to put themselves on the map again.


    The intoxicating thing about HQ2 is that it's a magic bullet - you can instantly go from irrelevant to relevant. It's like hitting a grand slam when you're down 3-0. If you have 50,000 Amazon jobs, no one can say you're not a relevant city for tech. And more jobs will follow these.


    Houston also needs to worry about its future post-oil, but the first thing we need to worry about now is flooding. Nothing else we do really matters if that fear is hanging over us. We might just need to exit these beauty pageants for awhile and get back to fundamentals.



    Your "instant relevancy" reminds me of desperate sports teams that overpay for veteran free agent talent - it's a shortcut that almost never works out.  Better to build a foundation over time with young talent at affordable prices (like the Astros!).


    5 hours ago, nate4l1f3 said:

    Enjoyed the article. You mentioned Austin and Dallas as better fits for Amazon. Speaking on Dallas only, why do you believe it’s a better fit for Amazon? I’m asking because I really don’t know. What doesn’t Dallas have that we don’t? Does Dallas have a better reputation than Houston outside of Texas?


    This is a tricky one. Of course I think Houston is better than Dallas - more global, more diverse, more authentic and organic (from the lack of zoning).  But outsiders just see "ugly" (we're not a tidy hyper-planned Disneyville) with a bunch of ethnicities and cultures they're not very comfortable with.  And the reality is that we're also more industrial with more hurricane and flooding risk (and summer humidity) than Dallas.  Dallas is better at the tidy planned bland suburban corporate office park HQ, esp. for more tech-type companies like TI, AT&T, telecoms, and Toyota.  They are a safe, comfortable choice with a fantastic airport and lots of flights to everywhere. But we also have to accept the reality that the energy industry is a two-edged sword: it provides lots of high-paying jobs, but that's also why companies in other industries don't want to locate here and compete with energy for talent - especially when oil might spike to $100+ a barrel at any time (btw, for the same reason I would be stunned if Amazon ended up in NYC competing with Wall Street for tech talent).  In Austin, tech competes with govt and the university - pretty easy.  In San Antonio, Toyota competes with tourism and the military - also pretty easy.  Dallas doesn't have any companies that might suddenly be swimming in cash and poaching your talent.  In fact, it has plenty of talent you can poach! (although not as much as DC, which I think will be the ultimate winner).  Put simply, Amazon wants to be the big fish in their new pond, and there's a definite risk that might not be the case in Houston (depending on energy prices).

    • Like 3
  11. 1 hour ago, H-Town Man said:


    This may be the case but most corporations don't seem to mind having HQ staff and rest of company in the same city. You don't meet lower-level employees at a restaurant or playing golf unless you specifically set an appointment with them. And I've never seen anything to this explanation of Exxon's choice aside from internet rumors. I think they were also considering Conroe for their location at the time.


    It's not much of an issue is a company is in a single major line of business, like most are.  Very few companies are so large as to have multiple large business units operating independently.

  12. Just now, H-Town Man said:


    I have heard this explanation of why they went to Dallas before and it seems like an urban legend. Couldn't they have a separate office within the Houston area? Downtown vs. Springwoods? Is the distance from Houston to Dallas really meaningful anymore in the era of teleconferencing? GE and Boeing aren't really comparable. In those cases, the HQ office moved to a big-name city for prestige of location and left the lower positions where office space was cheap.

    The way I've heard it, if they're in the same city then they're mixing at events and on the golf course and meeting at restaurants.  The people in that business unit get undue influence on the HQ staff, which are supposed to be making objective investment and promotion decisions.  Personal relationships undermine that.  Distance makes it much easier.  But you're also partially right about small/thin executive HQs moving to bigger cities with more global nonstop flights and service firms (accounting, consulting, etc.).

  13. 1 hour ago, htownbro said:


    I agree.  NYC, LA and Chicago considered while we are the 4th largest city and not even considered?  My guess is DC or NYC will get it so that Amazon will be on both coast


    I believe it will be DC.  Clearly Bezos wants it since he also included North VA and MD.  And he owns the Washington Post.  The major benefit to Amazon is that DC is absolutely chock full of disillusioned, underpaid tech talent working for the government - easy pickings. Once the idealism wears off, they'd be happy to jump to Amazon.  

  14. 17 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:


    I don't think so. Just a few hundred employees, but that's where the prestige is and the decisions are made. They moved the lower-level jobs here because they had to, it's where the industry is; they moved the upper-level jobs there because they wanted to.


    I expect the HQ will move down here at some point with the fancy new consolidated campus.  If not, it's probably because of corporate values that want to keep HQ staff separated from business units so they make more objective budgeting and investment decisions (people are naturally biased towards the people they're around every day).  GE and Boeing - among others - do the same thing.

  15. 14 hours ago, Vy65 said:

    Pretty strong repudiation of Houston when Indianapolis and Columbus, OH are seen as more desirable locations. This needs to serve as a wake up to city, county, and business officials that the city itself needs drastic changes if its to have relevance over the next several decades.


    It's important to remember that economic incentives are driven far more at the state level than the city, and so Amazon wanted a wide range of states in the bidding war.  Amazon knows that by including Indy and Columbus, Indiana and Ohio will go all-out on incentives, which they can then leverage over more desirable locations that aren't as likely to play the incentive game (NYC, DC, Boston, LA, Denver, etc.).  It doesn't mean they're more desirable locations than Houston.  Houston was not needed because Texas is already in the game with DFW and Austin, which are honestly better fits for Amazon if they choose Texas.

    • Like 1
  16. Silver lining for Houston:



    "The cities which made this list may also regret it. Putting together an initial bid only required a limited amount of money and civic time and attention. Now the costs start going up for the losers. It may well have been better to be one of the people who got cut early than to keep making through all these rounds only to lose (or potentially even to win)."

    • Like 5
  17. We're unfortunately out of the running :-( I never thought we had much of a chance, but I'm a little surprised we didn't make the top 20.  I'm guessing they want a lot of competition between states with incentives, and they've already got Texas in the game with Dallas and Austin.  The silver lining is we no longer need to waste time and resources dangling ever-larger incentives for a winner's curse.


    NYT: Amazon Chooses 20 Locations as Finalists for New Headquarters


    • Sad 2
  18. 18 hours ago, 102IAHexpress said:


    No.  But, If you have 105 million of free money the sky is the limit. The astrodome is 42 million cubic feet of indoor space.  So, I would just build structures inside the dome: kind of like this




    Then, surround the indoor astrodome campus with parks, trails, rock walls, or whatever else millennials deem desirable. Outside the dome you have more free space with the astrodome parking lots which could also be given away for free. 



    This is really interesting.  Facebook's main HQ building is a massive single-floor open concept building with 430k sq.ft and 2800 employees (and a park on top!).  Can somebody do the sq. footage math on concentric circular floorplates rising inside the Astrodome? (so each higher level has a wider hole in the middle allowing light to the lower floors, and no internal roofs are necessary like in the pics above)  I'll bet it could easily be the 500+k they need to start, with room for new buildings expansion to the south and east towards the old Astroworld site (which might need to become parking for NRG if the parking next to the Astrodome gets converted into a campus).  It could be integrated into a growing TMC expansion to the south to revamp the whole area.  Their urban employees could live along the LRT, and their suburban family employees could have a short commute up 90a/Main St. and 288 (or even a southern rail expansion) from very nice yet affordable southern suburbs - best of both worlds.  They'd have easy access to the convention center for events and even NRG stadium if they want to have a corporate event with all 50,000 employees at once!


    It is a real advantage that the only signoffs on the whole plan would be the county, the rodeo, and the Texans.  Relatively speaking, that's a pretty small group to get on board.  As long as their parking and space needs are met with offsetting space elsewhere (including potentially the old Astroworld site), I don't think it would be a hard sell.

  19. 6 hours ago, Houston19514 said:

    Why does Eric (and you) diss our quality of life and culture.  Below average quality of life and culture??



    That's a fair point. I've modified the post to mention those disadvantages are outside public perception, rather than reality.

  20. 20 hours ago, 102IAHexpress said:

     @ToryGattis do you think Houston has the best public transportation system of the southern cities putting in bids? Obviously, Houston was wise to limit their light rail spending and improve their bus system. Dallas' DART seems to be huge disaster now, and Atlanta's is not much better. How much is Houston's commuter and local bus service an asset to Houston's bid?


    Good questions. It depends on how enlightened Amazon is. If they can see how well we've tailored our transit to the type of city we have, they should love it.  If they just simplistically mean "rail" when they say "transit", then obviously they're not going to like us so much.  It might actually give Dallas a leg up on us that they built so much worthless rail, if for some reason it ticks Amazon's boxes, which it only should if they're going to locate in downtown Dallas, which seems unlikely to me vs. a northwest suburban campus closer to DFW.


    After better understanding some of their sq. footage/land requirements, I'm starting to think we might have a slightly better shot, since we can do that amount downtown and few other cities can.  On a superficial level, I'm sure they'd prefer Denver, Dallas, or Austin - but there may be space complications with all of those choices.  Still a real longshot though, especially after Harvey.

    • Like 1
  21. 8 hours ago, 102IAHexpress said:


    I don't understand your good fit comment. Last month you made the case for an innovation tech district in downtown. If I remember correctly you said it was critical for Houston's future. 

    I do believe Houston still needs to cultivate a local startup scene, especially in our natural strengths like energy, biomedical, and enterprise IT. But Amazon is a completely different beast. It would be amazing to get Amazon, just like it would be amazing to win the lottery, but given the competition and probabilities, I just don't want to see Houston waste too much time and resources when there are much higher priorities for the city, especially right now.


    8 hours ago, H-Town Man said:


    I've seen you mention this before about other companies not wanting to compete with energy companies for talent. Can you elaborate on how you know this? Is it anecdotal? Do you see Houston diversifying its economy as long as oil is strong? Have non-energy companies in the past (like Compaq or Continental) had problems in Houston? Genuinely curious.


    It's mostly anecdotal. The official story is that Toyota picked San Antonio over Houston because of air pollution, but I've heard the real reason is that car factories require a stable work force, and they were worried a spike in oil prices would suck all of the workers out of their factory to work in higher paying refineries or offshore/onshore fields (ironically, that's exactly what happened with the Eagle Ford shale next to San Antonio, lol).  In their analysis, competing with tourism and the military to be the employer of choice in San Antonio was easy.  Amazon probably wants to be the employer of choice wherever they go (definitely the case in DFW and Denver), and not have to pay too much to attract and keep talent.  Normally, I think they could hold their own fine in Houston, but not if the oil companies suddenly start swimming in money again.


    Honestly, as long as oil is a strong industry, I do see Houston having trouble substantially diversifying, just like you don't see non-tech companies rushing to set up shop in the SF Bay Area.

    • Like 1
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