We're No. 1

New report ranks Houston as the top city for foreign investment, points to green innovation as its spur

Houston's history in oil and gas — as well as its momentum in the energy transition space — helped the city claim the top spot in this new report ranking. Photo via Getty Images

For the second time, a report has analyzed the top markets in the United States for the rest of the world to do business in. This year, that top spot belongs to Houston.

The second annual FT-Nikkei Investing in America ranking, which came out this week from the Financial Times and international financial newspaper Nikkei, put the Bayou City — and six other Texas cities — at the top portion of the ranking. Houston's at No. 1, up four spots from last year, but Austin and four cities in the Dallas area also claim spots in the top 20.

The report looked at four dozen metrics, including workforce and talent, quality of life, openness, business environment, investment trends, and more.

In addition to the ranking, the Financial Times dove a little deeper into what made Houston a standout this year, interviewing many of Houston's most prominent business community members. The article points to the city's storied past as an oil and gas leader, also calling out its busy airports and global shipping ports, as well as its medical technology and aerospace industries. But one of the biggest factors in Houston's business climates success is its opportunity within the energy transition.

“We’re clear in Houston that if we’re going to continue to have prosperity — to the degree to define prosperity as job growth and wealth creation — it’s going to need to come from places other than the incumbent energy business,” Bobby Tudor, chief executive of Artemis Energy Partners, tells FT in the article.

Houston scored an overall 73 out of 100, and its scores across metrics in the report include:

  • Workforce and talent: 68/100
  • Openness: 80/100
  • Business environment: 64/100
  • Foreign business needs: 100/100
  • Quality of life: 47/100
  • Investment trends: 73/100
  • Aftercare: 69/100
Last year's top city was Miami, which ranks at No. 6 this year. Most of the top 10 cities in this year's report represent major gains on the ranking.
This report falls in line with others in terms of noticing a change within the green economy in Houston. Earlier this year, personal finance website SmartAsset ranked the Houston metro area as the fifth best place in the U.S. for green jobs, which pay an average of 21 percent more than other jobs. The SmartAsset study found that 2.23 percent of workers in the Houston area hold down jobs classified as “green.”

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A View From HETI

Junichiro Kono has assumed leadership of the Smalley-Curl Institute at Rice University. Photo via Rice.edu

A distinguished Rice University professor has assumed the reins of a unique institute that focuses on research within nanoscience, quantum science, and materials science.

Junichiro Kono has assumed leadership of the Smalley-Curl Institute, which houses some of the world’s most accomplished researchers across fields including advanced materials, quantum magnetism, plasmonics and photonics, biophysics and bioengineering, all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology, and more.

“With his great track record in fostering international research talent — with student exchange programs between the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and France that have introduced hundreds of students to new cultures and ways of researching science and engineering — Jun brings a wealth of experience in building cultural and technological ties across the globe,” Ramamoorthy Ramesh, executive vice president for research, says in a news release.

Kono is the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor in Engineering, chair of the Applied Physics Graduate Program and professor of electrical and computer engineering, physics and astronomy and materials science and nanoengineering, and is considered a global leader in studies of nanomaterials and light-matter interactions. He currently leads Rice’s top 10-ranked Applied Physics Graduate Program.

Under his leadership, the program is expected to double in size over. By 2029. The Smalley-Curl Institute will also add additional postdoctoral research fellowships to the current three endowed positions.

The Smalley-Curl Institute is named for Nobel Laureates Richard Smalley and Robert Curl (‘54). Earlier in his career, Kono once worked with Smalley on the physical properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which led to the experimental discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect on the band structure of SWCNTs in high magnetic fields.

“I am deeply honored and excited to lead the Smalley-Curl Institute,” Kono says in a news release. “The opportunity to build upon the incredible legacy of Richard Smalley and Robert Curl is both a privilege and a challenge, which I embrace wholeheartedly. I’m really looking forward to working with the talented researchers and students at Rice University to further advance our understanding and application of nanomaterials and quantum phenomena. Together, we can accomplish great things.”

Kono succeeds Rice professor Naomi Halas as director of the institute. Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the founding director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics.

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