|— City —|
|City of Houston|
|Downtown Houston, Houston Ship Channel, The Galleria, Rice University, and the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center.|
|Nickname(s): Space City (official), more. . .|
|Country||United States of America|
|Counties||Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery|
|Incorporated||June 5, 1837|
|• Body||Houston City Council|
|• Mayor||Annise Parker (D)|
|• City||627.8 sq mi (1,625.2 km2)|
|• Land||599.59 sq mi (1,552.9 km2)|
|• Water||27.9 sq mi (72.3 km2)|
|• Metro||10,062 sq mi (26,060 km2)|
|Elevation||43 ft (13 m)|
|Population (2012 Estimate)|
|• City||2,160,821 (4th U.S.)|
|• Density||3,623/sq mi (1,505/km2)|
|• Urban||4,944,332 (7th U.S.)|
|• Metro||6,177,035 (5th U.S.)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Area code(s)||281, 346, 713, 832|
|GNIS feature ID||1380948|
Houston ( // HYOO-stən) is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the United States. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of over 2.1 million people within a land area of 599.6 square miles (1,553 km2). Houston is the seat of Harris County, and its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the U.S., with over 6 million people.
Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou (now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city was named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had commanded and won at the Battle of San Jacinto 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.
Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. It is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.
In August 1836, two real estate entrepreneurs—Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen—from New York, purchased 6,642 acres (26.879 km2) of land along Buffalo Bayou with the intent of founding a city. The Allen brothers decided to name the city after Sam Houston, the popular general at the Battle of San Jacinto, who was elected President of Texas in September 1836.
Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County (now Harris County) and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in part to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.
By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. During the American Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas.
In 1900, after Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane, efforts to make Houston into a viable deepwater port were accelerated. The following year, oil discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont prompted the development of the Texas petroleum industry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910 the city's population had reached 78,800, almost doubling from a decade before. African-Americans formed a large part of the city's population, numbering 23,929 people, or nearly one-third of the residents.
President Woodrow Wilson opened the deepwater Port of Houston in 1914, seven years after digging began. By 1930, Houston had become Texas's most populous city and Harris the most populous county. In 1940, the Census Bureau reported Houston's population as 77.5% white and 22.4% black.
When World War II started, tonnage levels at the port decreased and shipping activities were suspended; however, the war did provide economic benefits for the city. Petrochemical refineries and manufacturing plants were constructed along the ship channel because of the demand for petroleum and synthetic rubber products during the war. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I, was revitalized as an advanced training center for bombardiers and navigators. The Brown Shipbuilding Company was founded in 1942 to build ships for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The M.D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center in 1945. After the war, Houston's economy reverted to being primarily port-driven. In 1948, several unincorporated areas were annexed into the city limits, which more than doubled the city's size, and Houston proper began to spread across the region.In 1950, the availability of air conditioning provided impetus for many companies to relocate to Houston resulting in an economic boom and producing a key shift in the city's economy toward the energy sector.
The increased production of the local shipbuilding industry during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as did the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973), which created the city's aerospace industry. The Astrodome, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World", opened in 1965 as the world's first indoor domed sports stadium.
During the late 1970s, Houston experienced a population boom as people from Rust Belt states moved to Texas in large numbers. The new residents came for the numerous employment opportunities in the petroleum industry, created as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo.
The population boom ended abruptly in the mid-1980s, as oil prices fell precipitously. The space industry also suffered in 1986 after the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after launch. The late 1980s saw a recession adversely affecting the city's economy.
Since the 1990s, as a result of the recession, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology and by reducing its dependence on the petroleum industry. In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown as the city's first African American mayor.
In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 40 inches (1,000 mm) of rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history; the storm cost billions of dollars in damage and killed 20 people in Texas. By December of that same year, Houston-based energy company Enron collapsed into the third-largest ever U.S. bankruptcy during an investigation surrounding fabricated partnerships that were allegedly used to hide debt and inflate profits.
In August 2005, Houston became a shelter to more than 150,000 people from New Orleans who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. One month later, approximately 2.5 million Houston area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast, leaving little damage to the Houston area. This was the largest urban evacuation in the history of the United States.
Twelve years later, Houston itself was subjected to almost unprecedented flooding. As noted in a Dick Eastman newsletter, "Family Tree DNA is based in Houston, where Hurricane Harvey devastated the city and surrounding areas. As members of the community and corporate citizens, we are donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of all tests (including upgrades and paid transfers) during the month of September toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts."
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 656.3 square miles (1,700 km2); this comprises 634.0 square miles (1,642 km2) of land and 22.3 square miles (58 km2) of water. Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie, which are all still visible in surrounding areas. Flatness of the local terrain, when combined with urban sprawl, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city. Downtown stands about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level, and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38 m) in elevation. The city once relied on groundwater for its needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston, Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston. The city owns surface water rights for 1.20 billion gallons of water a day in addition to 150 million gallons a day worth of groundwater.
Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Houston Heights community northwest of Downtown and then towards Downtown; Braes Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico.
Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from river deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic marine matter, that over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath the layers of sediment is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into salt dome formations, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. The thick, rich, sometimes black, surface soil is suitable for rice farming in suburban outskirts where the city continues to grow.
The Houston area has over 150 active faults (estimated to be 300 active faults) with an aggregate length of up to 310 miles (500 km), including the Long Point–Eureka Heights fault system which runs through the center of the city. There have been no significant historically recorded earthquakes in Houston, but researchers do not discount the possibility of such quakes having occurred in the deeper past, nor occurring in the future. Land in some areas southeast of Houston is sinking because water has been pumped out of the ground for many years. It may be associated with slip along the faults; however, the slippage is slow and not considered an earthquake, where stationary faults must slip suddenly enough to create seismic waves. These faults also tend to move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep", which further reduces the risk of an earthquake.
Houston's climate is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa in Köppen climate classification system), typical of the lower South. While not necessarily part of "Tornado Alley" like much of the rest of Texas, spring supercell thunderstorms do sometimes bring tornadoes to the area. Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat from the western deserts and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
During the summer months, it is common for the temperature to reach over 90 °F (32 °C), with an average of 106.5 days per year above 90 °F (32 °C) and at least 4.6 days at or over 100 °F (38 °C) . However, the humidity causes a heat index higher than the actual temperature. Summer mornings average over 90 percent relative humidity and approximately 60 percent in the afternoon. Winds are often light in the summer and offer little relief, except near the immediate coast. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every vehicle and building in the city; in 1980 Houston was described as the "most air-conditioned place on earth". Scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms are common in the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Houston is 109 °F (43 °C), which was reached both on September 4, 2000 and August 28, 2011.
Winters in Houston are mild. The average high in January, the coldest month, is 63 °F (17 °C), while the average low is 43 °F (6 °C). Snowfall is very rare. Recent snow events in Houston include a storm on December 24, 2004 when one inch (2.5 cm) fell and more recent snowfalls on December 10, 2008. This was the earliest snowfall ever recorded in Houston. Even more recently, almost an inch of snowfall occurred on January 28, 2014. In addition, it set another milestone marking the first time in recorded history that snowfall has occurred in two consecutive years, and was the third accumulating snowfall occurring in the decade of 2000–2010. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 23, 1940. Houston receives a high amount of rainfall annually, averaging about 50 inches (1,270 mm) a year. These rains tend to cause floods over portions of the city.
Houston has excessive ozone levels and is routinely ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is Houston's predominant air pollution problem, with the American Lung Association rating the metropolitan area's ozone level as the 8th worst in the United States in 2011. The industries located along the ship channel are a major cause of the city's air pollution. In the past, Houston's air quality has been compared to that of Los Angeles.
Houston was incorporated in 1837 under the ward system of representation. The ward designation is the progenitor of the eleven current-day geographically oriented Houston City Council districts. Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside the Interstate 610 Loop. The inside encompasses the central business district and many residential neighborhoods that predate World War II. More recently, high-density residential areas have been developed within the loop. The city's outlying areas, suburbs and enclaves are located outside of the loop. Beltway 8 encircles the city another 5 miles (8.0 km) farther out.
Though Houston is the largest city in the United States without formal zoning regulations, it has developed similarly to other Sun Belt cities because the city's land use regulations and legal covenants have played a similar role. Regulations include mandatory lot size for single-family houses and requirements that parking be available to tenants and customers. Such restrictions have had mixed results. Though some have blamed the city's low density, urban sprawl, and lack of pedestrian-friendliness on these policies, the city's land use has also been credited with having significant affordable housing, sparing Houston the worst effects of the 2008 real estate crisis. The city issued 42,697 building permits in 2008 and was ranked first in the list of healthiest housing markets for 2009.
Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993. Consequently, rather than a single central business district as the center of the city's employment, multiple districts have grown throughout the city in addition to downtown which include Uptown, Texas Medical Center, Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Memorial City, Energy Corridor, Westchase, and Greenspoint.
Government and politics Edit
The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government. Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan. The City's elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 16 members of the Houston City Council. The current mayor of Houston is Annise Parker, a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot whose second term in office will expire at the end of 2013. Houston's mayor serves as the city's chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative, and is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced.
The original city council line-up of 14 members (nine district-based and five at-large positions) was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. At-large council members represent the entire city. Under the city charter, once the population in the city limits exceeded 2.1 million residents, two additional districts were to be added. The city of Houston's official 2010 census count was 600 shy of the required number; however, as the city was expected to grow beyond 2.1 million shortly thereafter, the two additional districts were added and the positions filled during the August 2011 elections. The districts are labeled A through K while the at-large positions are numbered 1 through 5.
The city controller is elected independently of the mayor and council. The controller's duties are to certify available funds prior to committing such funds and processing disbursements. The city's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Ronald Green is the city controller, serving his first term as of January 2010.
As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms. The term limits were spearheaded by conservative political activist Clymer Wright. The city controller and city council members are also subject to the same two-year, three-term limitations.
Houston is considered to be a politically divided city whose balance of power often sways between Republicans and Democrats. Much of the city's wealthier areas vote Republican while the city's working class and minority areas vote Democratic. According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County are declared or favor Republicans while 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the area are declared or favor Democrats. About 62 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the area are declared or favor Democrats. The city has often been known to be the most politically diverse city in Texas, a state known for being generally conservative. As a result the city is often a contested area in statewide elections. In 2009, Houston became the first US city with a population over 1 million citizens to elect a gay mayor, by electing Annise Parker.
|Top publicly traded companies|
in Houston for 2013
with Texas and U.S. ranks
|7||Enterprise Products Partners||64|
|9||Plains All American Pipeline||77|
|18||National Oilwell Varco||144|
|37||Group 1 Automotive||343|
|39||Enbridge Energy Partners||38`|
|Rankings for fiscal year ended January 31, 2013.|
|Energy and oil (22 companies)|
Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in Houston. The ship channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network and by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The Houston area is the top U.S. market for exports, surpassing New York City in 2013, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. In 2012, the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land area recorded $110.3 billion in merchandise exports. Petroleum products, chemicals, and oil and gas extraction equipment accounted for approximately two-thirds of the metropolitan area's exports last year. The top three destinations for exports were Mexico, Canada, and Brazil.
The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy ship channel, the Port of Houston. The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world. Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston's economy as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry.
The Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land MSA's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 was $449 billion, the fourth-largest of any metropolitan area in the United States and larger than Austria's, Venezuela's or South Africa's GDP. Only 26 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product. As of 2010, mining, which in Houston consists almost entirely of exploration and production of oil and gas, accounts for 26.3% of Houston's GAP, up sharply in response to high energy prices and a decreased worldwide surplus of oil production capacity; followed by engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.
The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.
In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine. Foreign governments have established 92 consular offices in metropolitan Houston, the third highest in the nation. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.
In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance Best Cities of 2008 list which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs and quality of life. The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500 list of company headquarters, ranked first for Forbes Best Cities for College Graduates, and ranked first on Forbes list of Best Cities to Buy a Home. In 2010, the city was rated the best city for shopping, according to Forbes. Also in 2013, Houston again appeared on Forbes' list of Best Places for Business and Careers.
Houston is multicultural, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong industries as well as being a major port city. Over 90 languages are spoken in the city. It has among the youngest populations in the nation, partly due to an influx of immigrants into Texas. An estimated 400,000 undocumented people reside in the Houston area.
According to the 2010 Census, whites made up 51% of Houston's population; 26% of the total population were non-Hispanic whites. Blacks or African Americans made up 24% of Houston's population. American Indians made up 0.7% of the population. Asians made up 6% (1.7% Vietnamese, 1.3% Chinese, 1.3% Indian, 0.9% Pakistani, 0.4% Filipino, 0.3% Korean, 0.1% Japanese), while Pacific Islanders made up 0.1%. Individuals from some other race made up 15.2% of the city's population, of which 0.2% were non-Hispanic. Individuals from two or more races made up 3.3% of the city. People of Hispanic origin, regardless of race, made up 44% of Houston's population.
As of the 2000 Census, there were 1,953,631 people and the population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.3% White, 25.3% African American, 5.3% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 16.5% from some other race, and 3.1% from two or more races. In addition, Hispanics made up 37.4% of Houston's population while non-Hispanic whites made up 30.8%, down from 62.4% in 1970.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,000, and the median income for a family was $40,000. Males had a median income of $32,000 versus $27,000 for females. The per capita income was $20,000. Nineteen percent of the population and 16% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26% of those under the age of 18 and 14% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
|Black or African American||23.7%||28.1%||25.7%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||43.8%||27.6%||11.3%|
Located in the American South, Houston is a diverse city with a large and growing international community. The metropolitan area is home to an estimated 1.1 million (21.4 percent) residents who were born outside the United States, with nearly two-thirds of the area's foreign-born population from south of the United States–Mexico border. Additionally, more than one in five foreign-born residents are from Asia. The city is home to the nation's third-largest concentration of consular offices, representing 86 countries.
Many annual events celebrate the diverse cultures of Houston. The largest and longest running is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held over 20 days from late February to early March, is the largest annual livestock show and rodeo in the world. Another large celebration is the annual night-time Houston Pride Parade, held at the end of June. Other annual events include the Houston Greek Festival, Art Car Parade, the Houston Auto Show, the Houston International Festival, and the Bayou City Art Festival, which is considered to be one of the top five art festivals in the United States.
Houston received the official nickname of "Space City" in 1967 because it is the location of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Other nicknames often used by locals include "Bayou City," "Magnolia City," "New Houston," a tribute to the cultural contributions of New Orleans natives who left their city during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, and "H-Town."