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America’s Best Cities: Houston Tops Global Trade’s Seventh Annual Roundup

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America’s Best Cities: Houston Tops Global Trade’s Seventh Annual Roundup

For Global Trade’s seventh annual list of America’s Best Cities, we have crunched the numbers from various public and private sources regarding ports, education, utilities, NAFTA access, export assistance, intermodal access, skilled workforce, transportation, workforce development programs and quality of life.

We ranked the 10 best cities for each related category, awarding points that ultimately put Houston, Texas, over the top as America’s Best City.

Houston is used to topping such lists, as we note with its separate No. 1 ranking on the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

Incidentally, that government data showed U.S. metro areas exported a significant $1.5 trillion in merchandise across the world in 2018, a $110.3 billion (or 8.1 percent) increase from the year before. Of the 259 metropolitan areas that reported positive export growth, 94 reached record levels.

“The Trump Administration is committed to addressing trade imbalances, breaking down trade barriers, and providing U.S. companies with new reach in foreign markets,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gilbert Kaplan. “With this increase in exports over the last year and the continued work of the Commercial Service, it is a fruitful time for American businesses.”

Charts throughout this section show the top cities and their rankings overall and in key areas, while honorably mentioned are the top 10 cities to watch, any of which could be on the way to leading a future Global Trade list of America’s Best Cities. But first, here are the top 20 cities, with their rankings, overall scores and some details about what made them leaders.

1. Houston

Overall score: 44

Top category: Education and Colleges (No. 1)

The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area also topped the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. That Texas metropolitan area had $120.7 billion in goods exports while also showing the highest annual dollar growth in exports, expanding $25 billion from 2017 to ’18.

2. Minneapolis

Overall score: 38

Top category: Skilled/Educated Workforce (No. 4)

Eight miles west of Minneapolis is Minnetonka, which is home to a key player in the region’s beefy export data. Cargill Inc. reported global beef sales helped lead the nation’s largest privately held company to a $915 million profit for the quarter ended Aug. 31. Minnesotans can moo about state exports rising 10 percent to a record $23 billion in 2018, outpacing the nation’s 8 percent jump.

3. Chicago

Overall score: 37

Top category: Transportation Infrastructure (No. 5)

Trading defines Chicago’s importance as a major international city, with two of the biggest commodity exchanges based there. With exports of $47.3 billion, the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin) Metropolitan Statistical Area was fifth the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 MSAs.

4. New York

Overall score: 32

Top category: Capable, Connected and Logistically Viable Ports (No. 1)

“If you want to start a business, create a new product or have a big idea, New York City is the place to be,” then-mayor Michael Bloomberg said in 2012. That remains true today of the world’s epicenter of finance, communication and culture. The New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania) Metropolitan Statistical Area came in second in the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 MSAs, with exports of $97.7 billion.

5. Seattle

Overall score: 29

Top category: Transportation Infrastructure (No. 4)

About 70 percent of the Port of Seattle’s containerized cargo originates in, or is destined for, regions of the country outside the Pacific Northwest, making Seattle a trade gateway of regional, national and international significance. That’s partly due to being closer to Asia and Alaska than any other major U.S. seaport and also to two major U.S. railroads being within two miles of container terminals, and two major interstate highways just minutes from all terminals. With exports of $59.7 billion, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue MSA came in fourth in the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data rankings.

6. Los Angeles

Overall score: 27

Top category: Transportation Infrastructure (No. 3)

Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles means showbiz, with movie studios, TV stations, and more. Its West Coast location also makes it a key hub for trade with Asia. With exports of $64.8 billion, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim Metropolitan Statistical Area was third in the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s 2018 goods export data for the nation’s 392 MSAs.

7. San Francisco

Overall score: 25

Top category: Education and Colleges (No. 7)

San Francisco has a long history as an international gateway and is one of the major global business centers in the U.S.; its home to international companies such as Kikkomann (Japan), GCL Solar (China), Aegon (Netherlands), Deutsche Bank (Germany) and Globant (Argentina). ‘Frisco has also gained an international reputation as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship, with many global brands having been founded there, including GAP, Levi Strauss, URS Corp., Gensler, Salesforce and Twitter.

8. Atlanta

Overall score: 20

Top categories: Transportation Infrastructure and Intermodal Access (No. 2)

“Hot-lanta” was the 16th largest exporter in the U.S. in 2016, with a 7 percent increase over the previous year leading to $20.5 billion in the total Atlanta goods export value. What’s more, that represented a whopping 80 percent jump in export growth from 2006.

9. New Orleans

Overall score: 19

Top category: Capable, Connected and Logistically Viable Ports (No. 9)

Ports situated along the Mississippi River—from Baton Rouge to Myrtle Grove—are close enough together (some are even adjacent) to act as one large port complex often referred to the New Orleans Port Region. The region brings together all modes of transportation (ocean, barge, rail and truck) to link ports 228 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico with the gulf, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Panama Canal. The Port of South Louisiana moves more tonnage than any other North American port.

10. Austin

Overall score: 17

Top category: Skilled/Educated Workforce (No. 8)

You likely know that Austin is the state capital of Texas, home to the University of Texas flagship campus and the site of a thriving art, film, music and cultural scene. What you may not know is, with a population of more than 945,000 people, the Austin-Round Rock area is the 28th largest exporter in the U.S., exporting about $10.1 billion in goods and services annually.

11. Boston

Overall score: 15

Top category: Skilled/Educated Workforce (No. 5)

With M.I.T. and Harvard’s intellectual capital and strong financial markets, Boston possesses a wealth of infrastructure to accommodate global traders. The transportation infrastructure alone, which hubs six New England states, includes a deepwater port, three interstates, Amtrak and Conrail railroads and busy Logan Airport.

12. Omaha and Savannah

Overall score: 14 each

Top Omaha category: Developed Workforce/Development Programs (No. 4)

Top Savannah category: Intermodal Access (No. 6)

Greater Omaha is growing places. Over the past 10 years, exports in that region of Nebraska have increased by $1.9 billion, growing an average of 0.9 percent each year. Despite Savannah’s East Coast location, the historic Georgia city’s top trade lane for both export and import cargo is northeast Asia.

13. Denver

Overall score: 13

Top categories: Skilled/Educated Workforce and  Developed Workforce/Development Programs (No. 1)

Colorado exports increased 3.3 percent in 2018 to $8.32 billion, up from $8.06 billion in 2017. Being strategically located between Canada and Mexico allows metropolitan Denver to capitalize on NAFTA opportunities. That explains why Canada, with $1.4 billion in 2018 export value, and Mexico, which was just behind at $1.3 billion, are Colorado’s largest trading partners.

14. Jacksonville and Milwaukee

Overall score: 12 each

Top Jacksonville category: Capable, Connected and Logistically Viable Ports (No. 5)

Top Milwaukee category: Export Assistance (No. 2)

JAXPORT, as the cool kids call the Port of Jacksonville, annually ranks with nearby Brunswick, Georgia, and Baltimore as being among the top three U.S. ports in roll-on, roll-off vehicle shipments. High and heavy shipments are also growing at JAXPORT. With more than 2 million people and 50,000 businesses, the seven-county Milwaukee Region, which is centrally located on the Great Lakes, has a reputation for innovation, quality, ease and choice. In 2018, Wisconsin goods exports were $22.7 billion, an increase of 10 percent ($2.1 billion) from its export level in 2008.

15. Boise

Overall score: 11

Top category: Best City to Live in (No. 4)

Given Idaho’s population of 1.754 million people, its total $4 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $2,300 for each Gem State resident. Most of that export activity is centered in Boise, which is experiencing a boom due to its affordability and quality of life.

16. Charleston, Detroit, Washington, D.C.

Overall score: 10 each

Top Charleston category: Capable, Connected and Logistically Viable Ports (No. 4)

Top Detroit category: NAFTA Access (No. 10)

Top Washington, D.C., category: Education and Colleges (No. 4)

Ranking as the country’s fastest-growing mid-sized metro for aircraft manufacturing, Charleston is flying high in the aerospace sector. Already home to aerospace leaders like Boeing and SKF Aero Bearing, Charleston in June was revealed to be French aerospace supplier AHG Fasteners-USA’s U.S. operations hub. AHG is the sixth company to locate in the historic South Carolina region as part of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance and the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s Landing Pad program, which assists global companies entering the U.S. market.

The hub for America’s automotive industry—thanks to three major automobile businesses with headquarters within principal city Detroit’s metropolitan area—Michigan shipped $57.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That made Michigan America’s seventh-biggest exporting state behind Texas, California, New York, Washington, Louisiana and Illinois. Washington, D.C., was the top-ranked city on the 2019 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, followed by Copenhagen, Oslo, Vienna and Zurich.

The GTCI report, which includes a special focus on the encouraging, nurturing and developing of entrepreneurial talent, attributed the strong performance of the nation’s capital to its steady economy, dynamic population, outstanding infrastructure and connectivity, highly-skilled workforce and world-class education.

Trucking Training & Safety Evaluated Following Multi-Fatality Crash

A devastating crash involving 28 cars and a long-haul truck driver has left the trucking industry re-evaluating safety protocol involving trucker training and vehicle inspections.

The accident – which occurred in April in Lakewood, Colorado, turned deadly when a driver for Castellano 03 Trucking LLC of Houston stated to police the breaks of the truck failed on a downhill grade. The driver – who has a clean driving record, was charged with three dozen felony counts and could face prison time.1 According to records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 30 violations were reported out of 19 inspections spanning two years – some of which were directly related to brakes.2

“Exactly what happened and how remains a matter for the courts to determine,” said John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems, a leading designer and manufacturer of virtual simulators for truck driver training. “This tragic incident makes clear the importance of stringent enforcement of truck safety regulations and the best possible training for operators.”

“Trucking is thus a linchpin of the economy,” Kearney said. “It is also an industry under intense pressure to manage explosive growth within tight financial margins.”


With trucking moving a reported 70 percent of total freight in the U.S. by American trucking associations, 3 trucking companies are undoubtedly feeling the pressure to provide training while meeting market demands. Additionally, it’s reported the industry is in need of 50,000 more full-time drivers.4 The challenge is recruiting, training, and deploying drivers quickly and safely.

The real question asks if simulator training is the next best step in addressing the challenges and extreme pressures present within the industry. Simulator training provides room for learning without incurring damages and risking lives on the road.

“It’s a key component of training, but not the only component,”  Kearney said. “Classroom instruction still is essential, along with behind-the-wheel training with an experienced operator in a real truck. This is exactly the mix of mandatory training modalities used by the airline industry, which also should be mandatory in the trucking industry. As delivery schedules shorten, highway congestion and the demand for highly skilled truck operators will only increase. It’s to everyone’s benefit to make sure those drivers have had the best training possible.”

This report was provided by Advanced Training Systems LLC and includes the following references:

1 Helsel, Phil, “Truck driver in fiery Colorado crash charged with 40 counts, may face decades in prison,” NBC, May 3, 2019.

2 Miller, Blair, “Company that I-70 crash driver works for has past federal violations for brakes, English proficiency,” The Denver Channel, April 29, 2019.

3 “Reports, Trends & Statistics,” American Trucking Associations, 2019.

4 “Pressure’s on the Trucking Sector,” Insurance Journal, November 15, 2018.


Air Partner Announces Houston Location

Following the most recent opening of its Los Angeles office, global aviation group Air Partner confirmed the opening of its newest headquarters in Houston, Texas this week. The new Woodlands office supports the company’s vision to continue efforts in expansion to better serve its clients in various regions.

“We are excited to open an office in Houston as we expand our reach and services across the U.S., providing local Air Partner representation to both established and new customers,” said David McCown, president of Air Partner U.S. “Houston is one of the fastest-growing major cities in the United States and is a hotbed of economic activity.  We see massive potential for growth in the region.”

In addition to extending reach for customers, the Houston office is in favorable proximity to the major oil and gas hub in the region, creating opportunities for Air Partner to extend its freight and corporate jet shuttle programs. With the Port of Houston currently serving as a top foreign trade zone, the company’s strategic location for the new office will also provides ample opportunities for the expansion of large freight and cargo operations.

The London-based company offers services including air charter,cargo services, private air travel solutions, specialist travel management, emergency planning, aircraft remarketing and aviation safety consultancy and training, including air traffic control and wildlife management

Air Partner currently has U.S. office locations in Fort Lauderdale, New York City and Washington, D.C. and shows no plans of slowing down expansion efforts in key regions.

New Interjet Service Links Houston and Monterrey, Mexico

Houston, TX – Interjet has officially began flight operations linking George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas with Monterrey International Airport in Monterrey, Mexico.

The airline will now offer passengers a choice between two daily flights Monday through Friday and one daily flight on Saturdays and Sundays.

Depending upon demand, the airline will feature service aboard its 150-seat A-320 and its 93-seat Superjet 100 aircraft, with passengers departing from Terminal D at the airport’s Mickey Leland International Terminal.

Interjet’s daily service will include service twice a day Monday through Friday, and once a day on Saturday and Sunday.

The arrival of Interjet is the latest example of an unprecedented level of growth for international air travel in Houston.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport is currently on pace to see more than 10 million international passengers in 2014, a number never  reached in the facility’s 45 year history.

10/23/2014

Houston Handles Record Steel Shipments

Houston, TX – The Port of Houston handled more steel shipments in July than in any month since 2008 as 844,000 tons of the product were handled at the port, according to Executive Director Roger Guenther.

Addressing the most recent meeting of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority (PHA), Guenther also noted that the port had achieved a record with operating revenues in July 2014 of more than $24 million.

Steel and bulk cargo grew by “a solid 5 percent” in July, he said, adding that more than 22 million tons of cargo moved across PHA docks during the first seven months of the year.

Container volume was relatively flat compared to last year, but recorded a four percent increase in the number of loaded boxes year to date.

This was offset, Guenther said, “by a reduced number of empty containers being imported through PHA terminals due to an increase in loaded imports.”

Combining the strength in revenues and controlled spending, PHA has generated more than $65 million in operating cash flow for the year, a growth of 5 percent, he reported.

Following the first two quarters of 2014, the PHA said that it’s prepared a “re-forecast budget” for the remainder of the year, reflecting a $5.8 million increase in annual operating revenue, a decrease of $2.1 million in annual operating expense.

“This revenue generated will be reinvested in the infrastructure assets needed to increase capacity and provide for increased economic activity and job growth for the region,” said Guenther.

09/11/2014