A new report shows Houston continues to lead the nation in exports; analyzes economic impact of immigrants

HOUSTON—More than 2,500 Houston manufacturing firms are currently engaged in global trade and more than 500 foreign-owned firms have announced investments in the Houston area over the last decade. Those and other findings are part of the latest Global Houston report released by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The new report illustrates the growing role that international trade and investment play in the Houston region’s economy. Houston has led the nation in exports nine out of the past 10 years, exporting more oil field services, refined products, chemicals, and fabricated metals than any other U.S. metropolitan area.  Approximately 17.3 percent of Houston’s economy is tied to exports, nearly double the percentage in 2003, according to the latest data from the Brookings Institution.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Houston is also on the rise. Over the past 10 years, at least 517 foreign-owned companies have announced plans to invest in Houston through 659 different deals. Though the value of investment was made public in less than half of these deals, the cumulative total of the disclosed investment is reported to be over $33 billion. Foreign investments in Houston have come from 36 different countries and cover 63 different industries in the last decade.

“These foreign-owned companies came to Houston for a variety of reasons, from being closer to their clients to establishing a beachhead for entering the U.S. market,” said Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski, in a statement. Foreign investment is important to Houston for multiple reasons, he added. “It infuses new capital into the region, expands the manufacturing base, helps underpin jobs, facilitates the exchange of ideas and best practices, increases trade, adds to the tax base, and stimulates growth.”

The report also analyzed the economic impact of Houston’s foreign-born population. Nearly one in four residents (more than 1.6 million people) in the Houston region was born outside of the United States. Since 2008, immigration has contributed 390,000 new residents to Houston’s population—about one-third of the region’s total population growth. The Partnership estimates that foreign-born workers contributed $142.1 billion to Houston’s GDP in 2017 alone—29 percent of the total GDP.

Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said as the organization works to reinforce Houston’s identity as a great global city, one of the key elements is a strong, diverse 21st Century economy.

“Over the last couple of decades, Houston’s economy has become more diversified,” he said. “We’ve surged beyond traditional oil and gas to include a burgeoning energy tech and renewables industry, a thriving life sciences and healthcare sector, and a robust advanced manufacturing ecosystem. And in that time, as this report shows, Houston’s trade and investment ties with the rest of the world have grown as well. These global connections are essential to our long-term success.”

The 2019 report examines several headwinds to growth, including the ongoing trade war with China, the slowdown of foreign investment, and the potential failure to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) intended to replace NAFTA.

The Greater Houston Partnership (Houston.org), representing more than 1,000 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, works to champion economic development in the Houston region.

A full copy of Global Houston is available to view and download here:

https://www.houston.org/sites/default/files/2019-06/Global%20Houston%20-%202019_web.pdf

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