Anyone who has driven past the George R. Brown Convention Center in recent weeks will no doubt have noticed multiple street closures and the sounds of heavy construction directly north of the center.
A new 10-story Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) building is under construction, and it consolidates many of Houston’s trade and tourism groups under one roof. The building will house GHP, Houston First Corporation, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Center for Houston’s Future. The new facility will provide large-scale meeting spaces and encourage collaborations between organizations that shape Houston’s economic future.
The new building is just one of the ways GHP is expanding in 2015. GHP members met at the Hilton Americas downtown on Jan. 15 for their 2015 Annual Meeting to discuss this year’s goals and welcome incoming chair, Gina Luna.
GHP is a business organization founded in 1840. Over time, it has come to serve business and community interests across 11 counties in the Houston metro area. With more than 1,400 member organizations, GHP represents about one fifth of the workforce in the region.
In her address, Luna spoke of challenges the city faces, including falling oil prices.
“It will impact the economy,” Luna said. “No one has a crystal ball, but thanks to the leaders who were here in the dark days of the ‘80s, the economy is more diverse.”
Diversity was a key word at the meeting, from growing economic diversity to the diversity of the workforce.
Luna stated it’s a good time to be doing business in Houston, regardless of oil prices. She pointed out the rich leadership and economic history in the city, from pioneering space travel to performing the first heart transplants.
“Houston is a city that gets things done,” Luna said. That enterprising spirit rebounds, even during a downturn.
The Partnership’s top priority for 2015 is “investing in people.” Several initiatives have already started to bring in and retain a quality workforce.
GHP research identified as many as 74,000 open, high-paying middle skills jobs in areas such as healthcare, production, transportation, construction, oil and gas and advanced manufacturing, but there aren’t enough skilled Houstonians to fill the positions.
Overall, GHP states there are more than 1.4 million middle skills jobs spread across 348 occupations in the greater Houston area.
The UpSkill Houston initiative was started to identify opportunities, create core curricula for certificate programs and strengthen partnerships between employers and education providers.
One of the programs that launched through the initiative is a welding program through Lone Star College. One of the graduates of the program was on hand during the meeting. After completing the program she landed a high-paying middle skills job as a welder.
Attracting top talent
A campaign to attract highly skilled workers from other cities was launched in 2014. Houston: the City with no Limits campaign was developed after extensive market research by Houston’s MMI Agency and Austin’s Avalanche Consulting.
The campaign highlights Houston’s history as a cutting-edge meritocracy with deep roots in science and technology, innovative architecture and construction methods and positive quality of life.
Through an interactive website and advertising campaign, The City with no Limits aims to bring more young professionals and recent college graduates into the workforce.