Greater Houston Partnership’s Energy Strategy
Houston is known as the “Energy Capital of the World” with almost half of its economic activity driven by the energy industry. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was once known as the oil and gas capital, Pittsburgh once the steel capital, Detroit once the automobile capital, and New York City is even facing pressure on retaining its financial capital status. Experience has shown a region’s core strengths can change without a proactive, strategic initiative to keep abreast of new dynamics. Because of this, over six years ago, the Energy Collaborative was established within the Greater Houston Partnership to “perpetuate Houston as the Energy Capital of the World while capitalizing on the strengths of Texas.”
The Energy Collaborative is an economic development cluster council consisting of an overall Leadership committee and subcommittees on Marketing, Cluster Development, Work Force Development, and Energy Policy. There are four fundamental strategic pillars to support the overall mission: 1) strengthening Houston’s role as a premier energy hub; 2) expanding Houston’s energy portfolio through cluster development initiatives; 3) building the energy work force of the future; and 4) promoting a balanced energy policy framework.
Energy Hub Strategy
It is critical that Houston perpetuate its global center of gravity as the premier energy hub. Energy is a core pillar of economic and national security. A diffusion of this critical mass will spawn a new center of gravity likely outside the United States which would have unfortunate national implications.
In this new energy landscape, greater Houston must not only be known as the world leader in developing energy sources, but also known for promoting energy conservation and environmental sustainability, the other essential elements of the energy equation. The recommendation is to pursue activities that set the pace for best practices, including economic viability, that help promote Houston as the Energy City of the Future. In concert, the recommendation is for an expansive marketing program that incorporates the annual Americas Energy Future summit, website development, publications/marketing collateral, and extensive communications and outreach activities.
This energy policy subcommittee has been formed to proactively develop balanced energy policy resolutions and evaluate the ever increasing legislative proposals at the state and federal levels, and initiate legislative activities in support of this energy strategy through the normal Partnership procedures. Beyond this, there has been consideration to pursue the formation of a National Energy Security Partnership whose fundamental mission would be to integrate technologies and policies into rational, comprehensive energy security strategies necessary to our nation’s future through a partnership of industry, government and academia.
Energy Cluster Strategy
The critical mass of energy strengths in the greater Houston region and the state of Texas provides a competitively advantaged platform to expand Houston’s energy portfolio. A concept involving “strategic action” by forming a cluster through an organized alliance and then seeking to fill in the gaps proactively is an economic development initiative being pursued. Alliances form the catalyst in pursuing focused cluster initiatives by bringing together industry, academia and the public sector through an economic development platform. Through the alliance, the economic development component initiates searches to bring industry and infrastructure to form a critical mass for that energy sector.
Four energy sectors have been chosen for cluster development that leverages Houston and the state’s capabilities as follows: wind energy, solar energy, biofuels, and the smart grid. Specific plans have been developed for each cluster that will foster economic and job growth in the greater Houston region. The strategy is for these alliances to become self-perpetuating as standalone entities when feasible. The wind alliance has already reached this critical mass. However, this group will continue to require ongoing support from the Partnership, particularly for federal and state lobbying. The Partnership’s Economic Development division will leverage the alliances to attract targeted energy companies.
Work Force Strategy
To attract and retain energy companies, it is critical to have a workforce development pipeline to support industry needs. The strategic focus is on students in grades K-16 to provide the talent pool to fit the skill requirements of the key energy sectors in greater Houston: oil and gas upstream, midstream, downstream; biofuels; wind; solar; power transmission, distribution and storage. This also includes work force support for energy service companies, law firms, consulting organizations, accounting firms and related energy technology companies.
The objective is to reinforce Houston’s position as the Energy Capital of the World and establish it as the leading region for energy education and talent development. This requires programs to achieve significant scale among a number of such programs that have already been identified and are operating. There is a particular emphasis on promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and development of minority students.
Partnership’s Ten Year Strategic Plan
This strategy fully supports the Greater Houston Partnership’s Ten Year Strategic Plan visions of establishing the region as a Business Magnet and Gateway to Global Markets, Infrastructure that Sets Houston Apart, and Public Policy that Places Houston in the Top 4 U.S. Regions for Business. Energy is the largest industry in the world and represents one of the greatest challenges of this 21st century. The Energy Hub Strategy focuses on energy policy issues central to the nation and the world. The oil and gas sector already represents a world-wide magnet having attracted over 3700 companies to the region; this Energy Cluster Strategy expands on that foundation. Infrastructure such as Work Force Development, research and defining the value pipeline for new emerging industries is a crucial to this strategic plan.