Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is HXTV, the show that champions Houston’s innovators and entrepreneurs. Brought to you by PKF Texas, the CPAs and advisors serving Houston’s innovators for over 15 years. I’m very pleased to have as my guest today the leader of Houston and a major champion of Houston’s innovation ecosystem, Mayor Sylvester Turner. Mayor welcome to the show.
Mayor Turner: Thank you Russ go to be with you today.
Russ: So early this Spring I was in the audience of a cool event announcing the Innovation District that Rice got together and the Sears building, and man when you stepped up to the microphone it was obvious that you were passionate and serious about Houston’s ecosystem. And I specifically remember you saying this is not a marathon, it’s a sprint. So we’re still early on – 6 or 7 months – how are we doing?
Mayor Turner: We’re running and we’re running hard and fast. A lot of things have taken place in the city in the last 24 months. People have come together, people are collaborating, we are partnering. Just like we were celebrating the innovation hub Rice has stepped up along with other colleges and universities in the Houston community, we are taking an old building – the Sears building – and converting that into that innovation hub; not just innovation hub, the corridor.
The Texas Medical Center has stepped up and now we’re talking about TMC3 and that’s all about startups, technology innovations with the hospital nonprofit community combining with the commercial sector, so that’s big. Verizon for example has been in the city and installed the first 5G in a home in the city of Houston; that’s for them the first in the world, not just in Texas or the United States, so that’s a plus. Microsoft has been in the city partnering with us in a major way, so I would say that we are springing, we’re running fast.
The fund to fund account, had a press conference on that and already generated $25 million and that’s growing. The Houston Technology Center has now being turned into Houston Exponential working with the Greater Houston Partnership and others in the business community and there are conversations that are taking place all over the city. Many of us have gone to Israel to look at what they are doing there, we’ve gone to London to look at what they are doing on that end, so a lot of things have taken place in the last 2 years, I’m very excited.
Russ: Well that’s good to hear because if it was going to be a bad report card I was going to say we’re going to have to hurry up so I can get back to work. You mentioned the fund to funds, which really solved a problem we had in venture capital, but man nine Houston companies really stepped up. We had Insperity, Chevron, Shell, PROS Holding, Quanta Services, Westlake Chemical, Plank Companies and HEB; what did that mean to you that those companies – and then we’ve got some in line too that are ready to come in after them.
Mayor Turner: Well that means the city is a can do city, if you ask people respond. One thing I now know about this city, if you put out the call, set the goals and the objectives, people in the city and companies in the city rise to the occasion. So to have those nine companies come together and already contribute close to $25 million plus, because that number is growing which means that the excitement is growing as well so the future for the city in terms of technology innovation, the future is very, very bright.
Russ: I’ve always thought Houston is so unique and innovative, the innovation of the past is just unbelievable, but what is your perspective on the personality of our city?
Mayor Turner: It’s a can do city. We’ve always been a city where you dream big, you make big things happen. We didn’t become the energy capital of the world without putting forth that effort; the largest medical center in the world right here, the number port in terms of foreign tonnage right here in the United States, the Johnson Space Center all right here, so this is a can, can do city. Our mantra is saying you go big or go home.
Russ: That’s right. I heard that last Tuesday when you were – in fact speaking of that meeting part of the mission of Houston Exponential is to attract a big, anchor company here, part of it or all of it, and some people might think that’s pretty challenging. What are you going to say to a big company? I know what you sad last week to one but share with our audience how you explain it.
Mayor Turner: This is a city that’s still developing, evolving, maturing, we can pretty much customize ourselves to meet your specific business demands. This is not a city where you’re going to be bogged down by zoning or a lot of regulation. This is a city that provides the infrastructure for businesses large and small and then we try to get out of your way so that you can innovate and create. So there’s no better environment in which to host a large anchor tenant because literally whatever you need we can customize the city’s resources to meet your demand. And if you’re an anchor tenant and you’re looking towards the future then this is the city.
If you’re looking for yesterday you don’t want to come to Houston. What I tell people all the time – if you’re asking yourself where the future of this country is then that’s right here in the city of Houston. SO this is fertile ground for a major anchor tenant. Quite frankly Russ we could have more than one. This is a city 640 square miles, I think everything that a company would need; we’re young, we’re dynamic. We’re the most diverse city, one of four Houstonians is foreign born. If you’re looking for young, gifted talent that comes from all over the globe there’s no better place to choose than right here in the city of Houston.
Russ: You talked about diversity. I heard you recently talk – everybody knows now I think that we’re diverse, but I heard you add a little descriptor to the end of diversity that we are very inclusive too.
Mayor Turner: Yeah, because it’s not enough just to talk about diversity. Being diverse is an adjective, it’s descriptive, but you can be diverse separate, segregated and apart. The key id can you be diverse and can you be inclusive all at the same time. The uniqueness of the city of Houston is that we are highly diverse, but we’re also inclusive. People get along very well. We don’t have what I call the de-friender schisms that exist and we have diversity in the seats of decision-making.
So if you look at City Hall and city operations the police chief is Hispanic, fire chief Hispanic, the Finance Director is an Asian female, the Head of Public Works is the first woman and the Public Works Department is the largest in the country. So the city reflects that diversity in terms of governance and in terms of living. It’s diverse in every sector of our city you will see that diversity reflected. So you get the richness of history, culture, personality, but it’s inclusive. It’s not like you head from one zone, one sector and then you’re in to a new world.
In this particular city that diversity has been interwoven into the fabric of who we are. That’s the beauty of this city and that’s reflective of being an international, global marketplace right here in the city of Houston and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to attract people from all over the globe. This is a diverse city, it’s an inclusive city and it’s a very welcoming city.
Russ: I smile when you say that because we all that live here we experience it all the time. When my wife and I go out to eat at one of the wonderful restaurants…
Mayor Turner: 11,000+ restaurants…
Russ: That represent cuisine from all over the world and we love it and it works so very well.
Mayor Turner: We’re the only city – and I tell people this all the time – we’re the only city where you can come here and on any single day we can take you to space to the Johnson Space Center and you can literally travel all around the globe all in the course of one day in the city of Houston.
Russ: Fantastic. I really appreciate you giving us some of your time but I’m going to leave you with this last question that when we interview entrepreneurs I always like to ask this; imagine we’re going to make progress – 5 years from now what do you think our whole innovation ecosystem is going to look like at that time?
Mayor Turner: I think 5 years from now people will say the city of Houston, energy capitol of the world, largest medical center in the world, #1 port in the United States, the Johnson Space Center and now with all of those different assets and the collaboration that’s taken place, the number one ecosystem in the world that’s uniquely Houston.
Russ: Mayor thank you so much for your time.
Mayor Turner: Thank you, appreciate it Russ.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Mayor Sylvester Turner and this is HXTV.
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