Read it here first
Inside Fast Company's Houston No. 1 City issue: "Evangelist" Parker tackles theinferiority complex
Remember that Fast Company magazine profile on Houston we told you about? The one where they named us their City of the Year?
Well, we got our hands on an advanced copy, and we're here to spill all the juicy details before it hits the newsstands on Tuesday.
It's fitting that the Houston love song was penned by Houston Press editor Margaret Downing, a non-native who's been living in Texas for more than 30 years now.
Downing cites the booming pedestrian growth of downtown since the addition of Discovery Green in 2008 as an indicator of how far Houston has come since she first arrived in 1980. Back then, she writes, "given the choice between a parking garage or a park, the former would win every time."
Now, she says, Houston has reinvented itself yet again. She mentions the common misconceptions — that cowboys roam the streets outside of Rodeo season and everyone's got a gun — and cites the stats that those who live here are familiar with: The enormity of the Texas Medical Center, the vibrancy of Houston's business community, Houston's diversity and its projected growth.
She also writes poignantly about Houston in a way that only someone deeply familiar with our city can.
"[In Houston] I found opportunity — in jobs, friendships and recreation. This is where I started my family. This is where I've also reckoned with disaster. I've lived through hurricanes, lost power for days, had my office destroyed by rainwater, and come home to the task of chopping up toppled trees. Houston has always been able to roll with what happens, good or bad."
Alongside Downing's loving testament to our diversity, warmth and adaptability were pullouts from 10 "creative Houstonians" spotlighting their favorite Houston haunts to get ideas and spark creativity. Fast Company talked to a land man, a consultant, a husband-and-wife marketing team, a teacher and a firefighter, among others, who highlighted West Alabama Ice House, Domy Books, Brasil Cafe, the Museum of Fine Arts, Rothko Chapel, Discovery Green, the Menil Collection, Westheimer's antique shops and even the refineries as sources of inspiration.
Also in the mag is a two-page feature on Mayor Annise Parker, whom the mag has dubbed "The Evangelist" for her dedication to tell the world "that her city isn't the redneck capital of their imagination."
Parker poses with partner Kathy Hubbard for the Q&A, which took place over lunch at Irma's, a place that Parker told writer Jeff Chu she picked for its egalitarianism. "Everybody waits in the same line — politicians, lawyers, workers. It's idiosyncratic and entrepreneurial: Everybody talks about local, fresh ingredients and daily menus but Irma was doing it years ago."
The Parker interview touches on Houston's straddling of cowboy culture and urban sophistication — "Some of us may wear cowboy boots, but we wear them with our tuxedos," its affordability — "You can live palatially here compared with other cities" — and her administration: "My emphasis is on infrastructure; our job is to provide the platform on which business can thrive [...] We've been neglecting our infrastructure for a very long time."
Parker says her oddest job has been having to convince Houstonians of the same things she's insisting to the rest of the world. "I think we've had an inferiority complex," Parker says. "People feel like they have to say: We are, too, cultured!"
The issue hits newsstands Tuesday and will be available in full online on May 2.