While a lower gas price has resulted in slower growth predications for Houston, the city's mayor, Annise Parker, has insisted that Houston is not moving into a recession. Houston used to be all about oil and gas. In the 1980s, the oil and gas industry made up 80% of the city's economy, but today this figure is down to 40%. “As a headquarters town, we are not sensitive to oil prices,” said Ms Parker. “Our economy goes broader and deeper.”
There are a number of factors that make the city a good location for headquarters: it is multi-lingual and multi-cultural. The Houston Airport System – comprising the city's four major airports – is expanding air links worldwide, adding six new non-stop destinations in 2014. The Port of Houston is the US’s second busiest port and largest for tonnage, offering connections to Mexico and the US mid-west.
“We are the logistical gateway for the Heartland with quicker transit of cargo,” said Ms Parker.
Houston also boasts an easy permitting system and low cost of living, and tax abatements are also available to further incentivise potential investing companies. “We have incentives, but we leave them for later in the conversation,” said Ms Parker.
But, the mayor has admitted that the city has not done well in promoting itself among pharmaceutical companies. “We’ve pioneered open heart surgery and cancer research, but we do not make drugs or medical equipment,” she said. “We are trying to grow those direct ties. My message to big pharma: Do it here!”