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By Michelle Sandlin
February 8, 2019

WeWork, known the world over for its innovation in creating collaborative, shared working spaces, provided the perfect setting for a YTexas event held on Jan. 29 in downtown Houston.  The event gave YTexas members and invited guests an opportunity to network with one another and discuss a very timely topic: “The Educated Workforce of Tomorrow.”

Opening remarks were presented by YTexas CEO Ed Curtis, who gave a brief description of the work that YTexas does around the state, and what it hopes to accomplish in Houston.

“Our organization started in 2013 for one sole reason, and that was to provide a welcome and a platform for every new company that has relocated into Texas to become an integral part of the fabric of their region and of our state,” Curtis explained.  “Economic development organizations like the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Dallas Regional Chamber, and the Austin chamber do an unbelievable job of luring companies here and incentivizing them to move here, and they also help integrate them into the community.”

He went on to say that YTexas wanted to form an organization that was CEO-centric, and that would help integrate these companies, and expose them to things that might be happening outside of their region.

Houston, of course, is the perfect example, since so many companies relocate here or expand their operations into the area.  At the same time, their customers might be located all over the world, so these companies need to know the resources and people available throughout the state who can help them to accelerate their growth.

Curtis added that people are often curious about how YTexas works with the various Chambers and Economic Development organizations across the state.

He said, “We just want to be an additional resource for those companies.  Over the last five years, we have found a very effective way to do that in Dallas and in Austin, and our role here in 2019 is to integrate ourselves into the Houston community, and enhance what’s already happening here.”

The event at WeWork was the perfect example of how YTexas does that successfully.  They host various events around the state, typically at the headquarters of a company that has made a commitment to invest in Texas, and they invite their members and other executives to meet each other, find out about what’s happening, and give them exposure to the market.

Curtis then introduced Michael Pena, who is the community manager for WeWork in Houston.  Pena discussed the tremendous growth that WeWork has had, with its 400 locations worldwide, and the anticipated growth in Houston.

“By the end of 2019, we will have 4 more locations here in Houston, so that’s going to be about 6 locations here in Houston,” said Pena.  “Next year in 2020, we will have an additional 4 to 5 locations.  So, the growth is definitely coming here to the Houston Market.”

Pena also said that in March, WeWork will be launching WeWork Labs in Houston, which is an incubator for small businesses and entrepreneurs that will help them connect with tutors, people who can provide information on how to pitch a company and how to get funding.

WeWork will also be offering a coding school, which is a 15-week course on web design and development.

“The workforce of tomorrow is here,” added Curtis.  “These are small companies and even enterprise companies that WeWork is working with that are taking space here and innovating and doing unbelievable things for the region and for the world.”

Then he introduced Bob Harvey, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, and invited him to talk about some of the workforce challenges in Houston, particularly the concerted efforts to attract, educate and train the workforce with the skills needed by Houston companies today and into the future.

“The Greater Houston Partnership is very active when it comes to shaping policy to benefit Houston, whether it is here locally or in Austin or Washington,” said Harvey.

He added that when it comes to the workforce, the Houston area has to attract a lot of degreed talent.  As it is now, Harvey said that Houston produces less talent within the metro area that most major metros.  This has become a significant challenge for employers.

“We have a complete need and desire to bring talent to Houston.  Therefore, we are very sensitive to our image and reputation on the college campuses.  Talent, attraction and the baccalaureate degree level are important, but part of the effort underway at the Partnership right now is to build up our local institutions so that they are contributing more,” Harvey explained.

He talked about the importance of the Partnership working together with the community colleges, such as HCC, to ensure that they are providing the training and credentials that are most valuable and desirable in the Houston workplace.

The most exciting thing perhaps, is what Harvey referred to as Houston’s innovation ecosystem.

“We are trying to work on the Houston innovation ecosystem.  We have been working on it really intensively for the last several years. If you’ve noticed, we have kind of taken the Houston innovation ecosystem that existed three years ago, and really turned it on its head.  You won’t hardly find the things that were here three years ago.  They’ve been reshaped to better align themselves with what the world is looking for today,” said Harvey.

Curtis then opened up the floor for questions for Harvey.  It also provided an opportunity for everyone to discuss what they are seeing from their perspective based on their industries and companies.