In his latest Forbes column, writer Joel Kotkin describes Houston as a model "city of the future" and advises, "If you want to see successful 21st-century urbanism, hop on down to Houston and the Lone Star State."
« You won't be alone: Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the U.S. save the city's similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past decade Houston's population has grown by 24%—five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York. In that time it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the U.S., while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration. It is even catching up on foreign immigration, enjoying a rate comparable with New York's and roughly 50% higher than that of Boston or Chicago.
So what does Houston have that these other cities lack? Opportunity. Between 2000 and 2009 Houston's employment grew by 260,000. Greater New York City—with nearly three times the population of Houston—has added only 96,000 jobs. The Chicago area has lost 258,000 jobs, San Francisco 217,000, Los Angeles 168,000 and Boston 100,004.
Although it also attracts a large number of low-skill migrants, Houston has considerably expanded its white-collar workforce. According to the Praxis Strategy Group, Houston's ranks of college-educated residents grew 13% between 2005 and 2008. That's about on par with "creative class" capital Portland, Ore. and well more than twice the rate for New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.
But Houston's biggest advantage cannot be reduced to numbers. Ultimately it is ambition, not style, that sets Houston apart. Texas urbanites are busy constructing new suburban town centers, reviving inner-city neighborhoods and expanding museums, recreational areas and other amenities. In contrast with recession-battered places like Phoenix, Houston remains remarkably open to migrants from the rest of America and abroad. »
Kotkin summarizes, "Innovation, job growth and immigration put this Lone Star city ahead of New York and Boston."
(To that list, I would add delicious cuisine, Southern hospitality, great schools, beautiful women, and general quality of life.)