Skip to main content

Thad Hill's Remarks at 2022 Annual Meeting

Published Jan 28, 2022 by A.J. Mistretta

thad hill

Thad Hill

See 2022 Annual Meeting recap. Also see slides that complement these remarks. 

It is great to be here today. I am incredibly honored to serve as chair of the Partnership this year and look forward to working with so many of you here in the room today.

Before I get started, I want to thank my wife, Margaret for being here today, along with two of our three kids, Channing and Sarah Margaret. 

No doubt, the world has changed significantly over these last two years. How the world works and how each of us thinks about getting our work done has radically shifted. 

At the Partnership, one thing has not changed.  We remain focused on supporting Houston’s growth and creating opportunity for all Houstonians. 

But in this period of rapid change, companies are rethinking how and where they work. This makes it especially critical that we bolster our efforts to attract companies and talent to Houston and get economic development right.

For decades, Houston’s growth was fueled by business leaders who understood economic ambition; individuals such as Jesse Jones, George R. Brown, and Oveta Culp Hobby along with Ben Love, Bob Onstead, and Charles Duncan, who we just recognized.

Fast forward a bit…to almost a decade ago, when in July of 2012, Forbes declared Houston “America’s Coolest City.”

At the time, Houston was leading the nation out of the Great Recession, fueled by the unbridled growth of the shale revolution.

But rather than resting on our laurels a decade ago, we at the partnership were asking the question: if we are going to be a great global city in 2020, 2030 and beyond, how would we need to transform our region to keep pace? 

Well, over the last decade or so, we’ve focused on the answers to that question, bolstering the very foundations of what makes a great global city. 

I think about our UpSkill Houston program tackling the middle skills talent shortage. Or our work alongside Mayor Turner and members of the legislature to reform Houston’s broken pension system. 

Mayor Turner, it is so wonderful to see you here today – thank you for joining us.

I should mention our efforts to kick-start the regional movement to build our tech and innovation ecosystem through the launch of Houston Exponential and the HX Venture Fund.

And then of course we have our work on the Houston Energy Transition Initiative that Amy and Bob both mentioned.

Other partners have acted on bold visions like the TMC3 commercialization campus at the Med Center and the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Field, which are each on their way to drive innovation for decades to come.  

We could also talk about the tremendous investment in our greenspaces or that we are now one of the leading culinary and cultural capitals of the world, with so many acclaimed institutions. 

All of this hard work was steered by so many in this room, and you have helped position Houston as an attractive market in which to live and do business. 

And it’s paying off.

We’ve picked up four new Fortune 500 headquarters since 2017, either through growth or relocation, including, as Amy mentioned, the mega-wins of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NRG. Houston had the largest net pick-up of Fortune 500 headquarters among the major metros. Consider that over the same timeframe, Dallas remained flat, and New York lost 16 Fortune 500 headquarters.

We’ve also had a number of huge manufacturing wins, including the four million square foot Daikin Texas Technology Park, an HVAC engineering and manufacturing facility in northwest Harris County – that’s larger than 50 football fields and employs more than 8,000 people.

Those are some of the big wins – the home runs, if you will – but we are also hitting important singles and doubles in our innovative target sectors and traditional bases of industry.

In fact, Site Selection Magazine, the economic development trade publication, consistently ranks Houston among the top 2 or 3 cities in the entire country for annual economic development wins, often trading places with Chicago and Dallas each year. 

And importantly, these wins are creating opportunity. In fact, Houston has a higher percentage of middle class-or-better jobs than any other major metro in the country.

So, overall, Houston is doing well, and I would add: we’ve really upped our economic development efforts in the last 2 to 3 years. 

But the competition is stiff and getting stronger. 

I could rattle off the list of projects we have lost out on over the last few years: of course, there was the Amazon HQ2 project, or the Tesla and Samsung plants which landed in Austin or the Honeywell HQ that landed in Charlotte. 

Or it could be wins that went to the DFW Metroplex such as the Toyota headquarters, McKesson, the PGA, Charles Schwab, and several others. 

I ask these questions: are we prepared to meet both the challenges of our changing economy, and will we capture the opportunities these changes bring? 

The good news is we are doing a lot of things right, but we simply must do better. 

We must amp up the tactics that are working, change the tactics that aren’t, and launch new approaches to accelerate growth.

I’ve been working closely with the Partnership team to determine the areas to really press, leveraging an excellent base of pro bono research from BCG along with input from past Partnership chairs, regional and state economic development groups and even our competitors. 

I should pause to welcome Adriana Cruz who is joining us today. She is Governor Abbott’s head of economic development and leads the state’s business recruitment and attraction efforts. Thank you for being here today.

We’ve categorized our key actions into four areas that we will advance with your help.

The first, and most important, is to execute a true, business-led, economic development program that further mobilizes the expertise, energy and guidance of our regional business leadership. 

The second area is to accelerate the work of our sector-specific plans to grow strong industry clusters.

Third, the Partnership will accentuate and improve our collaboration and engagement with our regional allies across our entire 12-county footprint. 

Finally, we will embolden our efforts to elevate the global perceptions and understanding of today’s Houston.

Let’s start with the first, and perhaps most important in regard to our organization: the development and execution of a true “business-led” economic development program.

I would like to recognize Jay Brown, President and CEO of Crown Castle, who is chairing our board-level Economic Development and Trade Steering Committee. 

He will work alongside our 11 committee chairs to drive our economic development work forward. Their names are on the screen. 

This year we are refreshing these committees to function in a very focused manner. The work will be new and energizing, focusing our time and efforts on attracting a curated list of prospects in our target sectors.

We’ve learned a few lessons from other markets, and one thing is clear – leveraging local business leaders is a key to success for both sourcing new economic opportunities and then advancing and closing deals through leader-to-leader outreach and relationship building.

Bob, Jay, and I are calling on business leaders to take part in this committee work, and we will call upon specific leaders to be more directly engaged in direct outreach efforts on Houston’s behalf in the coming months.

Shifting to our next area. A key part of our Houston Next strategy is our focused work across six key industry sectors: Energy 2.0, Life Sciences, Aerospace and Aviation, Manufacturing and Logistics, Digital Tech, and Headquarters. 

To help drive this work, we have brought hired subject matter experts onto the staff in the Energy 2.0, Life Sciences, and Aerospace sectors. 

Our next step is to develop deep “playbooks” for how we execute and win in these sectors. 

We must sharpen our approach with clear, sector-based action plans aimed at very specific companies.

We must be laser-focused, rather than scatter-shot. It sounds simple, but not many cities do this well.

The good news is we’ve already started the process. 

With the help of a number of partners across the region, we are working with an outside expert firm to build out a detailed and rigorous life sciences playbook, and plan to expand this to cover each of the key verticals. 

We know we have the real estate, the assets, the talent-base and the leadership to win, and these playbooks will help us align and better sell Houston.

Another very important priority, will be to improve our efforts to better engage and highlight our very talented regional allies and the areas they represent. 

There are more than 35 economic development organizations in the Houston area, and we enjoy a strong relationship with most all these groups. 

We must have a vibrant core, a vibrant Houston itself. But broader regional prosperity and growth is also important for our competitiveness. 

While we regularly collaborate with these allies, we can do much more to better showcase the entire asset base of our region, harnessing what each community brings to the table. 

For instance, we know large-scale manufacturers, on the order of Tesla and Samsung, want to locate in the rural periphery of a major metro. Think about these projects in relation to Austin – neither is in Austin proper. Dallas has many similar examples related to Richardson, Plano, Frisco and McKinney.

And let me tell you, these suburban communities – particularly in North Texas – are hyper-competitive with each other. They aggressively market and have created special programs and incentives to attract companies into their specific communities. Through this intense competition, prospect companies have no doubt that the Metroplex wants them – it’s just a matter of which community fits best. The whole idea is that we are all better off when the city complements the region, and vice versa. 

We are in the early stages of developing a Houston Economic Development Summit for both our government and EDO allies later this spring – this is our first step toward getting on the same page – sharing resources, tapping into national experts, and further leveraging our region as an entire area of opportunity.

Last, but not least, we must elevate the perceptions of Houston. 

We know that people’s pre-conceived notions of Houston often lag reality – we’ve seen it in study after study. 

We’ve got to do a better job of telling Houston’s story – and that story is best told face-to-face.

With minimal travel in the last couple of years, it is essential that we intensify our domestic and international missions to top cities around the globe. 

This face-to-face outreach is critical, so we’ll be taking groups of business and civic leaders to both the West and East Coasts calling on tech, life sciences, energy 2.0 companies along with firms considering new headquarters locations.

We’ll kick off our international outreach at the end of March in Mexico City and Monterrey, with missions to Europe and Asia in the works for later in the year.

We are also reenergizing our work with the site selection consultants who help companies navigate the location process.  We’ll host a number of them throughout the year for tours of Houston and we’ll connect with them during our missions around the world. 

And with all of this outreach, it is critical that we get our sales pitch right – how do we shift those inaccurate perceptions of Houston?

We’ve been working with partners at Houston First and the Mayor’s Office to employ a unified messaging platform that we will all share. This platform focuses on not just the city, but really captures the ethos of the broader region.  And importantly, by working together, and employing the same messaging, we can amplify each other’s efforts. 

I wanted to share a sneak peek at a brief promo video we are working on. 

This messaging is geared to appeal to those who want to solve the problems that matter and do something bigger than themselves but doing it in partnership with others.

We will leverage this messaging across all of our work including our trade missions, site selector engagement, and marketing campaigns.

I’ll close with this. The Partnership has been doing good work in this area for years, and many in this room have much to be proud of.

But now is the time to really step it up. We can and we will do better.
These four key action areas will provide a strong platform for success going forward. 

The mission is clear, and we are mobilizing. And I hope you will join us.

I am excited about the year ahead because Houston is positioned to win.
With the expertise and hard work of leaders like yourselves, we will be a great global, and even more inclusive, city for years to come.

Thank you.

Related News

Economic Development

Mixed-Use Projects Transforming Allen Parkway Corridor

When the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park renovation project that beautified and transformed the iconic green space was completed in 2015, the area stretching from I-45 West to Shepard Drive, known as the Allen Parkway corridor, was primed for growth.  Gaining attention from developers and businesses, the area quickly became a hotspot for residents looking for a short commute to work and easy access to food, entertainment and green space. Groundbreaking developments such as Regent Square, the 24-acre master-planned mixed-use district combined with the area’s close proximity to downtown, propelled growth, establishing the Allen Parkway Corridor as a premier destination.  However, after Hurricane Harvey hit Greater Houston in 2017, people and businesses faced costly damages, and Buffalo Bayou Park was left submerged underwater. Dedicated to stay in the growingly popular Allen Parkway corridor, businesses implemented new flood mitigation processes, including podium-style parking garages that feature concrete parking structures on the bottom floors, serving as a barrier to protect buildings from possible flooding.   Other flood mitigation projects following Harvey include the North Canal project that will provide flood protection to 30,000 commercial and residential buildings downtown, and along White Oak and Buffalo Bayou, over 300 local drainage projects, and more than $100 million in dredging projects. Six years later, the Allen Parkway corridor proves to be “Houston strong,” as it now reflects a bustling community, booming with new developments and business.    A new, sophisticated $500 million mixed-use development dubbed The Allen is breathing life back into the area and redefining its real estate market.  The first phase, The Residences at The Allen, includes the development of a $290 million, 35-story skyscraper that towers over Buffalo Bayou Park. The stylish new building will offer luxurious condos, high-rise penthouses, and a sleek 170-room Hotel – the Thompson, which will reside on the first 15 floors. The Thompson Hotel will feature lavish amenities such as a 24-hour valet service, a resort-style pool deck, a full-service spa, and a helipad that both guests and residents can access.  Click to expand The Residences at The Allen is nearing completion, with residents expected to move in this fall. Nearly four years in the making, the remarkable development is set to revolutionize the Allen Parkway corridor, driving high-end property buyers and businesses to the area.  "These residences epitomize the pinnacle of the development,” said Acho Azuike, COO of DC Partners, the developer leading The Allen project. “The Penthouse Collection, each a masterpiece in design and style, take inspiration from the grandeur of condo living, infusing every residence with the world's most coveted luxury features. Buyers now seek properties and amenities that rival those found in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami. The Residences at The Allen are setting a new standard for elevated living in Texas."  Click to expand The project also includes a 62,000-square-foot retail building – the Pavilion at the Allen, which has already been completed. The Pavilion at the Allen is home to a 34,000-square-foot gym by EOS Fitness, formerly known as Texans Fit, and Toca Madera, a high-end Mexican steakhouse scheduled to open by the end of this year.  Phase II of The Allen is anticipated to break ground in early 2024 and will include more retail and restaurant space and luxury multi-family living.  Alongside The Allen comes another massive mixed-use project – Autry Park, a 14-acre urban village designed to increase connectivity and walkability to food, entertainment, retail, and living.  Click to expand The project's first phase includes two apartment buildings, Hanover Autry Park, a 24-story apartment tower with 324 units, and Hanover Parkview, an eight-story mid-rise with 421 units, as well as 50,000 square feet of mixed-use space. The apartment buildings opened last year, featuring gyms, dog parks and pet salons, movie rooms, coworking spaces, and all-inclusive pools.  Many unique restaurants, shops, and amenities will open in the upcoming months at Autry Park’s mixed-use space, including Doko, a sushi restaurant complemented by an intimate, 12-seat bar – Bar Doko, Duo, a fitness studio and café offering Pilates and spin classes and a full bar and kitchen and Sloan/Hall, an eccentric boutique featuring gift items, ready-to-wear clothing and fine jewelry.  The project will also bring a new lighted intersection on Allen Parkway at the development's main entrance on Buffalo Park Drive. This new road will create safer access to and around Buffalo Bayou Park. Other infrastructure updates include revamping pedestrian crosswalks and traffic signals and a new bike lane along West Dallas.  Future phases will include five additional buildings encompassing 1,450 residential units, thousands of square feet of retail space, and a hotel.  “With a 14-acre blank slate, we saw an opportunity to ‘re-mix’ the concept of mixed-use by creating great spaces that integrate entertainment, technology, and wellness in a way that meets the needs of today’s workers, residents, shoppers, and visitors,” Lionstone CEO Jane Page, Autry Park developer, said in a news release. “Sustainable and healthier spaces can result in more productive people, and Autry Park combines best-in-class real estate in a walkable environment with access to the relaxation and outdoor activities afforded by the park.”  Click to expand Other new developments bolstering the Allen Parkway corridor include the Ismaili Center, a cultural hub spanning 11 acres placed at the southeast corner of Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard. The new center will consist of breathtaking outdoor gardens and serve as a gathering space for the Ismaili community to worship and provide cultural and educational programs. The center is slated to be completed by the end of 2024.  Additionally, the second phase of Regency Square – The Sterling, a 590-unit multi-family complex, recently opened in 2021. Adjacent to the apartment building, the new section will add 55,000 square feet of retail space, including three stand-alone restaurants surrounded by a pedestrian-friendly plaza featuring captivating green space and stunning water features.  Discover Houston’s neighborhoods and communities. 
Read More
Aerospace & Aviation

New Developments and Innovation Driving Growth in Bay Area Houston

Often referred to as the “Boating Capital of Texas”, Bay Area Houston is a top destination for businesses, families, and tourists, thanks in part to its close proximity to Galveston and Houston.  Encompassing a widely diverse region, the Bay Area stretches from Pasadena to Galveston, consisting of communities such as La Porte, Seabrook, Clear Lake Shores, Webster, Friendswood, League City, Dickinson, Texas City, and La Marque.  Boasting the nation’s third largest concentration of recreational boating centers and a variety of amateur sports, outdoor activities, beaches and parks, the Bay Area’s waterfront contributes to its high quality of life and has propelled growth in its recreation and tourism industry, while population growth in the area and the arrival of new facilities has buoyed the region’s health care sector.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the Bay Area has experienced consistent growth in population, income, and employment since 2016 and is home to over 560,000 residents, based on 2019 data from the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.  Business Climate  Home to the NASA Johnson Space Center, Ellington Airport, and one of the world’s only truly urban commercial spaceports, Bay Area Houston is known as the nexus for Houston’s aerospace and aviation industries.  Additionally, the Bay Area is also an important hub for transportation and logistics, health care and life sciences, and tourism. Other industries of note include specialty chemical, maritime, and recreation.  Its robust industrial presence is supported by the construction of several industrial parks and complexes, as well as new warehouse and distribution centers and facilities.   Packwell, a plastics bagging and logistics company based in La Porte, recently broke ground on a 725,000-square-foot resin packaging facility at Port Houston’s Bayport Industrial Complex while Kao Corporation recently broke ground on a $250 million tertiary amine production plant in Pasadena.  Business Developments  Houston Spaceport  The Houston Spaceport serves as a center for collaboration and innovation in the aerospace community. Earlier this year, the company announced that it will launch Phase II of its expansion project with plans to begin work within the next 12 months. Phase II will stretch over 300 acres, offering more parcels for aerospace companies, a hotel, restaurants, and retail space.  Axiom Space broke ground this spring on a 23-acre campus that will house its new headquarters and space station production facility at the Spaceport. The campus will contain spaces for astronaut training, mission control facilities, and engineering development and testing labs. Axiom has also leased space in Webster for engineering and production operations.  Collins Aerospace recently opened a 120,000-square-foot facility that will allow for expanded operations, manufacturing, and testing. Its new facility will support the development and testing of several key space systems, including the next-generation spacesuit.  Intuitive Machines broke ground on 12.5 acres at the Houston Spaceport with a 125,000-square-foot facility under construction that will house office, laboratory, production, assembly, and test space.  Mixed Use  A number of communities in the Bay Area Houston region have mixed use developments planned, including Seabrook, League City, Texas City, Friendswood, and more.  Seabrook Plaza on NASA Parkway is a 15-acre, $170 million mixed-use waterfront development that will feature two Margaritaville-branded hotels. The development will also include a 10,000-square-foot event center, a seven-story apartment complex, and 20,000 square feet of waterfront dining.  Riverview at Clear Creek in League City is another waterfront mixed-use development spanning 59 acres that will include a hotel, multifamily project, townhomes, an amphitheater, boardwalk and trails, and retail space and restaurants. The project also has marina infrastructure work currently underway.  Plaza 96 is a 75,000-square-foot mixed use development in League City that will have space for retail, restaurants, medical offices, and office warehouses. It is expected to break ground this year. One Sixty One in downtown Friendswood is a 5.5-acre development anchored by a boutique hotel and banquet room. The project will also include residences and executive offices, restaurants, retail, collaborative spaces, and a green rooftop experience. New construction began this spring. Click to expand Rendering of One Sixty One boutique hotel Photo courtesy of Banfield Properties, Inc.   Recreation & Tourism  Peninsula Beach Resort is a 110-acre resort development on Bolivar Peninsula at Crystal Beach that will include over 200 beach houses and cottages, in addition to five mid-rise condominium buildings and 50 RV sites. The development will also include a clubhouse, beach bar, and an FAA-approved airport, making it the only fly-in beach resort in the U.S.  Great Wolf Lodge broke ground on a new hotel, indoor waterpark, and conference center in Webster in 2022, with the resort planned to open in 2024. Representing a $200 million investment, the 27-acre site will also boast a 58,000-square-foot family entertainment center called Great Wolf Adventure Park.  Education  Bay Area Houston is home to several higher education institutions, including the University of Houston-Clear Lake, which touts one of the most complete biotechnology graduate programs in the state, as well as San Jacinto College, College of the Mainland, Lee College, and Houston Community College.  College of the Mainland, a community college in Texas City with locations in League City and La Marque, opened its Industrial Careers Building in fall 2022 and has several new buildings planned, including a 134,000-square-foot library and classroom building, a 20,000-square-foot corporate and continuing education center, a 50,000-square-foot public services center, and a three-story classroom building.  Lee College recently opened its new 11,000-square-foot Corporate Training Center that will offer hands-on technical training, including onboarding and upskilling, and leadership development for employees of all levels. The center will give students and employees the opportunity to work with equipment that is being used in the field, as well as a number of training labs.  San Jacinto College is planning to launch a new degree program in spring 2024 that seeks to fill the workforce gap in early childhood education. The new Bachelor of Applied Science in education will target paraprofessionals and individuals who work for other early-learning programs.  Learn more about Houston’s surrounding regions. 
Read More

Related Events


28th Annual Golf Classic

The Greater Houston Partnership returns to the greens for its 28th annual Golf Classic on Thursday, October 12 at Memorial Park Golf Course this fall. We are honored to have this year's tournament chaired by …

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners