The Ion — a to-be entrepreneurial hub for startups, universities, tech companies, and more — is, in a way, the lemonade created from the lemons dealt to the city by a snub from Amazon.
In 2018, Amazon narrowed its options for a second headquarters to 20 cities, and Houston didn't make the shortlist.
"That disappointment lead to a sense of urgency, commitment, and imagination, and out of that has come something better than we ever could have imagined," David Leebron, president of Rice University, said to a crowd gathered for The Ion's groundbreaking on July 19.
However disappointing the snub from Amazon was, it was a wake-up call for so many of the Houston innovation ecosystem players. The Ion, which is being constructed within the bones of the historic Midtown Sears building, is part of a new era for the city.
"Houston's on a new course to a new destination," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Here are some other overheard quotes from the groundbreaking ceremony. The 270,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in 18 months.
“We have the capacity — if we work together — not only to make this a great innovation hub but to do something that truly represents the Houston can-do, collaborative spirit.”
— David Leebron, president of Rice University. Leebron stressed the unique accomplishment the Ion has made to bring all the universities of Houston together for this project. "When we tell people the collaboration that has been brought together around this project, they are amazed," he said.
“The nation is seeing what we already know in the city of Houston. That this city has the greatest and most creative minds. We are a model for inclusion among people and cultures from everywhere. We are a city that taps the potential of every resident, dares them to dream big, and we provide the tools to make those dreams come true.”
— Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said he remembers shopping in the former Sears building as a kid, but notes how Houston's goals have changed, as has the world.
“When this store opened in 1939, it showcased a couple of innovations even back then: The first escalator in Texas, the first air-conditioned department store in Houston, the first windowless department store in the country.”
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