Lone Star Sparkle

Signs are good that the oil and gas sector is burgeoning once again and the engine that drives the Houston economy is moving In the right direction, says Gillian Upton.


“Not surprisingly, Wings is a player in the giant oil and gas market across the Lone Star State”


Think of Houston and you imagine a sea of oil derricks and pumpjacks punctuating the skyline. It’s known as the world capital of the oil and gas industry but in truth none are within the city limits today. Hundreds of oil fields surround Houston’s city limits, as well as refineries and power plants. This is Energy Central with over 5,000 energy firms doing business in the region.

For the year up to April 2018, total production from Texas was 1.104bn barrels of crude oil and 7.873bn cubic feet of total gas. Texas produces 25% of the total oil produced across the country, the majority from just two of the country’s largest oil-producing fields – Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale.

It does mean that the city’s fortunes rise and fall with the fluctuations in the oil and gas market.

“When the oil is good, the city reaps the benefit from a business standpoint,” explains Chris Martin, VP Business Development Americas at Wings in Houston. “It’s a thriving economy when the market is good but when the market is slow, the city feels it. While we are diverse in our economy the vast majority is tied to energy.”

Not surprisingly, Wings is a player in this giant oil and gas market across the Lone Star State. Located in the Energy Corridor area of town near the likes of Shell, BP and Modec, it opened its doors 12 years ago.

The company has a solid base of energy clients – large and small – and has witnessed 30% year-on-year growth from existing and new clients.

This upbeat picture is reflected in the sector as a whole, with industry observers seeing signs of a solid upturn after the major downturn of a few years ago. “Signs are pointing to a healthy energy sector,” says Martin. “Jobs are improving, projects are being pushed and the overall census is that energy has returned.

“We are hearing growth of double digits in price per barrel in 2019 and we could be seeing signs of $100.00 per barrel which is significant for long term offshore projects.“

Martin explains that while the onshore project can rely on $65-$70 per barrel – the long-term massive projects need substantial projections to push forward. When people think of energy business they assume it’s all offshore but it’s the mixture of onshore drilling coupled with offshore drilling that makes up the entire industry.

Houston attracts business from a variety of industries, including aerospace, medical, and logistics; Exxon Mobil, AT & T and Walmart are some of the giant Fortune 500 companies that have chosen to locate here. A dozen of the wealthiest Americans also call Houston their home. These billionaires include Tilman Fertitta, owner of Houston Rockets; Richard Kinder, cofounder of oil and gas pipeline giant Kinder Morgan; the four children of the late founder of energy pipeline giant Enterprise Products Partners; and Alice Walton of Walmart.

The city is a large sprawling metropolis of almost 615 sq miles, which takes in The Woodlands at its northernmost reaches, to Sugar Land in the southwest. The Woodlands is where many energy companies are located, including Chevron Phillips Chemical, Anadarko Petroleum, Maersk Line, Safmarine, Halliburton, ExxonMobil and Southwestern Energy.

Any visitor should do their homework and book a hotel near the offices they are visiting. The main areas are downtown, the uptown galleria, the Energy Corridor, Westchase, Greenspoint, Hobby Airport and the Texas Medical Center. These are all a distance from Houston’s two airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby International Airport.

“Downtown is compact and walkable as is the Galleria area,” says Jorge Franz, Senior VP of Tourism at VisitHouston. “It is recommended that if you are spending several days here, to rent a car. If only here for a day, we have plenty of Uber and taxis available. Taxis can be expensive when travelling long distances.”

While downtown is compact and walkable, as is the Galleria area, Franz recommends making use of the ground transportation system, which connects downtown, the Museum District, Midtown, The Houston Zoo, the Texas Medical Center and NRG Stadium (home to the Houston Texans and the largest Rodeo in the world every March) on the North – South Route. The East West Route connects downtown to East Downtown (Eado) and the University of Houston.

It’s a friendly city and the general commercial areas are safe. Doing business may include a spot of entertaining and over-size steaks feature large on menus so go with an empty stomach. Franz recommends a few. “Some of my favorites are Pappa’s Brothers Steakhouse and Vic and Anthony’s in downtown and Caracol, Brennan’s of Houston and State of Grace in other parts of the city,” he says.

Downtime in Houston is easily soaked up with major attractions such as Space Center Houston, probably the city’s top attraction. It gives access to NASA too. Other diversions include the Museum of Natural Science Houston, the Houston Zoo, the Downtown Aquarium, and the Kemah Boardwalk.

Clearly there’s more to Houston than oil-drilling cowboys; visitors can savour fine food and great shopping areas around The Heights, Montrose and Midtown, dip into the rich cultural scene anchored in the Museum District which is home to around 20 museums or drive out to the Gulf of Mexico for a change of scenery.

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  • Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States
  • The city has a population of 2.3m and is the most diverse city in the country; 39% of the population are Hispanic/Latino
  • There are plentiful Uber and taxis to get around the city
  • There are more than 700 hotels in Houston. One can find any level of hotel and brand in the city.
  • If you don’t like heat, stay away in July and August; July for example is normally 33-35 degrees C/92-96 degrees F, plus peak humidity.

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  • Most Houston-based companies have moved to business casual attire but some continue to require business dress so it’s best to check before attending meetings
  • Texas accents can sometimes be difficult to understand for those who don’t speak English
  • The business environment is fairly formal, with punctuality expected and appointments made in advance
  • Depending on the working relationship, business lunches and dinners may be expected.

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