Houston must diversify its economy for post-pandemic success, Greater Houston Partnership chair says – Houston Chronicle

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For Houston to thrive in a post COVID-19 economy, it must continue to diversify its economy and develop its technology sector, Amy Chronis, chair of Greater Houston Partnership, said Tuesday.

“I believe the pecking order of global cities is being re-established as we speak,” Chronis said. “Everything is up for grabs, and there will be metros that are winners and losers.”

Houston’s economy was harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than other metro areas because of the concentration of oil and gas companies here. The oil bust — spurred by a collapse in demand and prices last spring — cost the region more than 100,000 energy jobs, according to the partnership, a business financed economic development group. Some 500 companies in exploration and production and oil field services filed for bankruptcy.

“These were the bedrock jobs of Houston’s past success,” Chronis said, “and I don’t believe we will be getting those back one-for-one.”

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Chronis, however, said Houston has made progress in building its tech sector. The Ion, a 288,000-square-foot innovation space in Midtown is slated to open later this quarter. Developed by Rice University, it will serve as a hub for the Innovation District planned for the stretch between downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

Bob Harvey, CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, noted recent announcements from companies such as Amazon and Google that will add hundreds of jobs. In November, tech giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise said it would relocate its corporate headquarters to Houston from Silicon Valley.

Economic indicators, he added, suggest that a difficult 2020, better days are ahead for the local economy.

“For nearly a year now, our members and businesses across Houston have struggled to keep employees and customers safe while maintaining operations as best they could,” Harvey said. “This has proven more difficult for some than others, but time and again I’m amazed by the resiliency of Houston companies to innovate and persevere in the face of significant obstacles.”

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