Diversity, leadership & friendliness
Houston leaders celebrate No. 1 city status: Fast Company really likes us!
As Houston leaders gathered at Rice University's Baker Institute Friday to celebrate Fast Company magazine's designation of Houston as its No. 1 city of the year, it reminded me of when Sally Field won her second Oscar and famously exclaimed, "You like me, you really like me!"
No city seems to care more about what other people think than Houston, where an overwhelming number of residents tell pollsters they love living here but still seem defensive about negative perceptions (too hot, too polluted, too sprawling).
Amid all the back slapping over the Fast Company honor, Mayor Annise Parker told a lunchtime audience of business leaders and local media that she hopes to build on the designation so Houstonians don't have to constantly feel like they have to apologize for the city.
"This article allows us to do a little bragging and take stock and I hope begin to incorporate what we are at a level so that we don't have to explain why we love Houston or justify or apologize for loving Houston," Parker said. "We can just love Houston."
CultureMap broke the news last week that the business magazine had picked Houston as its "2011 City of the Year" in its May issue and then obtained an advance copy of the article, which spotlights Houston as "one of the world's next great cities."
Editor Jeff Chu told the audience that Houston's diversity, leadership and friendliness figured strongly in the designation. "Houston looks like America is going to look in 2030, 40 and 50," he said.
As an example, he cited a visit to an antique store on Westheimer, where he met an art dealer from Rotterdam, who ended up in Houston and loves living here. "That serendipity is part of the magic we want to celebrate," Chu said.
He also cited Parker's diverse background as a reason why the city was chosen.
Although Houston's relative economic well-being factored into the designation, Chu said it wasn't based on a set of facts or figures. "It's a little bit like romance, You look around and fall in love with a place."
Chu certainly seemed smitten with Houston during a fact-finding tour a few months ago. He says he hung out every day at Taco Tierra Caliente, a taco truck located in front of the West Alabama Ice House. "You can't get good breakfast tacos in New York (where the magazine is based)," he said.
And he discovered several creative Houstonians profiled in the magazine while roaming the streets of the city. At Discovery Green, he met Ashley and Ryan Small, who own a brand development company. "It was where they got engaged," Chu recalled.
"It's a very strong endorsement by a very credible publication," Moseley said. "Quality of place and quality of life are critical to business decision makers. Fast Company is helping us tell that story."
He points out that one in five Houstonians are foreign born, which shows that the city fosters an "open spirit" for commerce and trade. "This is where people can make it and get ahead," he said.
"This is another way of saying, yes, people are noticing," he said. "We have to quit apologizing. We have to let people understand we are great."