I recently returned from consulting in Houston, and I am pleased to report that the economy is looking pretty good down there. New residential subdivisions are still going up, and roadwork projects are abundant. Looking downtown, I saw a half dozen cranes on the horizon constructing at least as many new office buildings. A couple years ago, I could have said this about many cities in the States; however, Houston may be one of the few areas where it remains true today.
I toured a subdivision in the Woodlands where prices ranged from $400K-1M, and significant construction activity was under way. Several visitors were touring the models while I was there, so it appeared to be a fairly good market for housing. Realize that a house in this price range in Houston is likely to cost two or three times that in other major cities, so these homes were on the high end. On the other hand, I saw billboards for new three-bedroom houses on the outskirts of town going for $150K. I have always found Houston to be a good place to live (in fact, I lived there for 12 years) because it provides good value to its residents. This may be because Houston has an abundance of land and an excellent quality of life. The ratio of salary to expenses may be one of the best in America.
While help-wanted signs are a rare sight in most cities, I saw them on many small businesses in Houston, such as the local hardware store in the Galleria. A friend of mine owns a manufacturing plant in Houston and told me they are hiring for executive sales positions. A quick search on Monster.com revealed more than 4,200 jobs posted in the Houston area.
I spoke with some teachers and support staff for the school district, and there isn’t much talk of cutbacks; in fact. they are getting increased funding due to the hurricane from last year. They are taking in students from other areas and are receiving federal funding to assist this effort, and new schools are under construction.
As I was driving around the Galleria area, I noticed no shortage of Ferraris, Bentleys and other high-end sports cars. There were few signs of a recession in this city.
Of course, things aren’t perfect. A Houston Chronicle newspaper report claimed that unemployment recently rose to 6.3 percent due to low oil prices, the ripple effect of the national economy and tight lending practices. But what many cities wouldn’t give for a 6.3 percent unemployment rate! Consider that in light of rising oil prices, loosening credit restrictions and a growing population rate, and Houston may be a great place for work for the next year or so as the nation recovers from this economy.
My team is headed to Savannah and Atlanta, Ga., next, followed by Los Angeles. We’ll provide a roving economic report as we assess these areas.
What do you think? Please post your comments below.