Chicago has been dubbed America’s “Second City” since the mid-20th century, but is it still really America’s “Second City”? While Chicago is still the third most populous city in the United States and still scores well on various metrics of importance, the city’s upward trajectory has waned compared to Houston, Texas. Houston has long been a modern metropolis but the Texas city’s growth since the dawn of the 21st century has been notable, attracting millions of people and corporations to an already established and influential business hub. Here are 10 reasons why Houston, Texas is modern America’s new “Second City.”
Fortune 500s in Houston
There are 26 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Houston, Texas, giving it the fourth most in the United States. New York hosts the most Fortune 500s, while San Francisco has the second most calling it home, and Chicago only hosts a handful more than Houston, but Houston’s number of Fortune 500 companies is on the upswing. Texas hosts 52 Fortune 500s, giving Houston’s business district close proximity to even more major corporate headquarters.
A World Energy Hub
Houston has been dubbed the “Energy Capital of the World” due to the city’s big oil presence. The city has over 500 oil and gas exploration firms and production companies, and over 150 pipeline transportation companies call Houston home. In fact, 40 of America’s 145 publicly traded oil and gas exploration firms are located in Houston and the city also has nine refineries. The presence of oil production, trading, and engineering entities permeates the cityscape, creating one of the most influential energy hubs in the world.
Theater District and Arts Scene
But what about culture, you ask? Many people judge Houston by their experience driving through it, but that is an unfair way of judging any city since most cities seem drab when you merely experience their freeway system. Houston has a vibrant Theater District that ranks second only to New York City in terms of concentration of seats in one location. Houston’s Museum District provides a range of art galleries, museums, and cultural centers. The city is one of only a handful in the United States to have year-round resident companies in all of the performing arts, making every season one of culture in Houston.
Johnson Space Center NASA
The Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas houses Mission Control, the center responsible for controlling all NASA space shuttle missions. Additionally, the Johnson Space Center is the go-to facility for the International Space Station, meaning that the facility is the key global control center for space travel. The amount of research conducted at Houston’s NASA complex makes it another key contributor to Houston’s economic and intellectual capital.
Healthcare in Houston
The Texas Medical Center is located in Houston and contains the largest concentration of medical research and healthcare institutions in the world. The largest medical center in the world houses the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and the UT Health Science Center, just to name a few. MD Anderson consistently ranks as one of the world’s leading cancer centers, while Baylor’s medical school is widely considered one of the best in the nation.
Texas Higher Education
In addition to having the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center which houses world-renowned medical teaching institutions like Baylor and the UT Health Sciences Center, the city also offers over 40 institutions of higher learning including Rice University, a school that consistently ranks as one of the 20 best colleges in America. Houston’s location places the city within just a few hours of highly regarded schools like SMU in Dallas, Baylor University in Waco, Trinity University in San Antonio, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Most Ethnically Diverse City in America
According to a study by Rice University, Houston, Texas is the most ethnically diverse city in America. There are over 90 different languages spoken in the Houston metropolitan area and the city hosts consular offices for over 90 countries, giving the city an intercontinental feel that few cities in the United States can match.
Low Cost of Living
While New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are all known for their strong job markets and various cultural amenities, those cities also carry very high costs of living, making it hard for many to get by in those metropolitan areas. Forbes recently ranked Houston as having the lowest cost of living of any major city in the United States after considering median income and taking into account costs for goods, services, transportation, and housing.
Texas > Taxes
While some states tax you for everything you do, the state of Texas has one of the lowest tax burdens in America. Texas does not have a corporate income tax, nor does it have an individual income tax, allowing you to keep more of your hard-earned paycheck. There are property taxes and sales taxes in the state of Texas, but for those just starting out, the lack of a state income tax allows them to build up a nice nest egg in their 20s as they get established.
Houston’s Mayor Is…
Many people like to buy into negative and false misconceptions about Texas, painting it as some kind of backwoods state full of rednecks. Texas is a big state with a large and diverse population, and painting the people of Texas with such a broad brush misses the progressive nuances of the Lone Star State. So, about that war on women and homosexuals in Texas, you ask? Well, Annise Parker is Houston’s second female mayor. She is also one of the first openly gay mayors of a major city in the United States. In November of 2013, she won reelection, giving her a third term as Mayor of Houston, Texas.
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