Facts of Life You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have Houston

February 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

You are right. There are more people around town, more cars to take the parking space you want, and we have the nation’s second-largest Bible museum. You need to know all of this, and more, about your potential customers if you are going to recoup your investment losses in the Clemens &Pettitte Drug Store.

Here are a few short facts about Houston and our neighbors:

* Houston has more HOV lanes than any other city in the nation.
* More than one of every four Houstonians is foreign-born.
* The Houston area has more jobs than all of the state of Colorado.
* If you moved here from most any other big city, consider that you just got a hefty raise.
* Our living costs are 22 percent below average compared to most other major metropolitan areas.
* We spend more than half the city’s budget (52.78 percent) on public safety — so why can’t we ever find a cop when we need one?
* On average, we go through 393 million gallons of water a day.

Attention Lounge Lizards: One guaranteed ice-breaker is Houston traffic, so remember these facts and figures because they are great pickup lines in singles’ bars. “Hello, good looking. Did you know we have 3,107,456 vehicles in Harris county, including — no surprise — 31,730 large trucks? That is an increase of 169,081 total vehicles over the previous year. Every time you backed out of your driveway in 2007, weekends included, there were 463 more vehicles on the road than there were the day before.” Such sweet nothings work every time.

Incidentally, we number crunchers and head counters speak in strange terms, so when I refer to an MSA, that is our Metropolitan Statistical Area. This includes Harris and the surrounding seven counties, plus Austin and San Jacinto counties.
In this MSA, there are a stunning 43,965 adults with no schooling completed. Another 287,316 got no further than the 8th grade. At the other end, we have almost 300,000 neighbors with a graduate or professional degree.

Speaking of education, including Texas A&M and Sam Houston State, we have 144,017 students attending our senior colleges and universities in the region, which is actually down 2,430 from the previous year. But we have even more students (149,179) enrolled in our community colleges.

Let’s look at our continuing flow of newcomers, because they keep arriving. As of the last official count, summer of 2006, Houston’s population was 2,144,491, up 190,860 from the 2000 census. Harris County’s population stood at 3,886,207, which was an increase of 485,653.

This MSA’s population was 5,539,949 – a jump of 824,547. So in those six years, the city of Houston increased by the size of Amarillo, while the county’s population jumped by the size of Corpus Christi and Amarillo combined. Since 2000, it was as though every man, woman and child in the Albuquerque MSA moved to this MSA. Sometimes, I think they did.

If Harris County was a state, it would rank 27th in the nation in population, ahead of Oregon and Oklahoma. If the city of Houston was a state, it would rank 36th in population, behind Nevada but ahead of New Mexico.

Here in the nation’s fourth-largest city amidst the skyscrapers and freeways, 1,034 Houstonians list their occupation as farmer, fisher or forester. Include the entire county, and the number is 2,173. We are big into agriculture, with nursery crops being worth more than a half billion dollars annually. We even do more than a million dollars a year in Christmas trees. But we continue to pave over the back 40. Harris County is now 19.12 percent agriculture acreage, down from 20.2 percent in 2005. The year before it was 22.7 percent, and the previous year it was 23.2 percent. In the meantime, we have 20 nuclear engineers. At this point, some are asking, “How do we know this?” Once again, the Greater Houston Partnership has produced Houston Facts, a compilation of everything around us. The new twist is that the annual report is now online. You can read it at: But, Houston Facts is 66 pages long, so you may want to go ahead and buy a copy. It costs $10.

OK, where were we? The Bayou City is aptly named: 25 percent of Harris County lies within the 100-year flood plain. Elevation varies from zero to 310 feet above sea level. In area, the city of Houston covers 639 square miles, adding five square miles since 2005, and spreads into three counties. Within this area, Houston could contain all of the following cities: New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami. Harris County contains all or part of 35 cities, and there are 126 cities in this MSA. That’s a lot of mayors and a lot of gavels.

How do you commute to work? In Houston there are 2,468 workers who ride a bike to their jobs, while 16,357 walk. When it comes to income, households making $10,000 or less per year outnumber households earning $200,000 or more, by 76,090 to 23,689. So we’ve got roughly three poor people for every Richie Rich.

Four years we may want to remember: 1882 –Houston and New York City are the first two cities in the nation to build electric power plants. 1929 — The City Planning Commission recommends Houston adopt zoning, but finds little support. Nothing’s changed. 1930 –Houston becomes Texas’s most populous city with 292,352. 1995 — KHOU Channel 11 is the nation’s first all-digital TV station.

Which is the largest private employer in the Houston area? Exxon Mobil? McDonald’s? Or maybe that department store where all the employees are standing around talking to one another while you’re trying to find a homecoming gift for your uncle who was cleared by the DNA test? Wrong on all counts. It’s the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, with some 19,000 workers.

We now have 87 foreign consulates, up three in the past two years, ranking us third in the nation. OK, I know a lot of you have been asking, “But what about museums?” There are 62 museums around here, including those specializing in battleships, funerals, offshore drilling and, as mentioned earlier, the nation’s second-largest Bible museum.
In this MSA, we travelled 134,219,397 miles in 2005. That means the average per vehicle moved 33.1 miles per day.

The Port of Houston remains the busiest port in the nation in foreign tonnage and ranks 10th worldwide in tonnage.

As for religion, Roman Catholics are by far the most numerous with 18.2 percent. We have more Muslims than Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians (USA).

Face the facts: we are growing, expanding; more people are arriving who need everything from beer to babysitters. If you’re not making a killing in Houston these days, you’re just not trying.

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