EDITORIAL FEATURE Houston – One of the Most Misunderstood and Underappreciated Cities in the U.S. By Ludmila (Mila) Rusakova Golovine W hen someone thinks of Houston and is from someplace other than Texas, a myriad of misinformation might come to mind such as cowboys talking with thick Texas drawls riding on horseback down Main Street of an old west town with tumbleweeds rolling around and they all work in the oil industry. The fact is that only once a year is it likely that one would see people dressing like cowboys and riding down Main Street and that’s for Go Texan Day and the annual rodeo and parade. There are no tumbleweeds here as Houston is very warm, humid, and tropical due to its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. We are the fourth largest city in the U.S. and very cosmopolitan. We are the energy capital of the world but we also have the second largest port in the country and one of the largest medical complexes. We have fortune 500 companies from technology, manufacturing, professional services, and a range of other industries. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Houston is the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the United States, having surpassed both New York City and Los Angeles. With more than 92 different consulates here, you very well may hear someone speaking with an accent but it’s because they are originally 14 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2015 ] also had a relevant impact. For decades, land around Houston has been inexpensive in comparison with other metropolitan areas. Comparatively, homes are very affordable, From 1990 to 2010, the city thus augmenting the city’s experienced an unprecedented attractiveness to potential resgrowth of 2.2 million people, an idents. And above all, Housincrease of nearly one third of ton is a great place to live with the population and 93 percent wonderful, friendly people and of this growth was nonwhite. tremendous opportunities. Yet, despite its enormous deHouston’s welcoming charmographic growth, Houston’s diversity is fairly well-balanced. acter itself has also contribThere is no dominant ethnic uted to its diversity. Houston group. Only 40 percent of the has welcomed more than population is Caucasian. Lati- 70,000 refugees since the late nos make up 35 percent, while 1970s. In several waves, refuAfrican-Americans comprise gees came to the city, settled in, around 18 percent. Finally, and established support netAsians occupy fourth place works. These networks have with 7 percent; however, this made it easier to accept new group is the fastest growing refugees and connect them and has doubled in the past de- with family members who can help. In the 1970s, the refugees cade. arrived primarily from VietThe cause of this phenom- nam and Cambodia fleeing the enon is evident for it is linked war. In the 1990s, they were to the city itself; Houston is a primarily Bosnians, Croats, colossal jobs creator. The cre- and Serbs fleeing the civil war ation of jobs has been driven in the former Yugoslavia while by the oil and gas industry, the Congolese and Rwandans largest in the U.S. but the Texas who came here were escaping Medical Center is constantly ethnic strife in their respecdrawing in talent not only from tive countries. Currently, the the U.S. but from the rest of the Houston is experiencing a large world as well. Houston’s port is influx of ethnic groups from a commercial powerhouse for Burma fleeing the civil unrest trade. In the last decade, Hous- there. Additionally, there has ton’s job base has grown by an been a marked increase in refastounding 7 percent. In addi- ugees from Iraq, Syria, and Aftion to these driving economic ghanistan due to U.S. involvefactors, residential factors have ment in those countries. from another country but native born Houstonian’s have rather non-regional accents making it hard to discern where they are from.