The Greater Houston area, which contains over 281 million square feet of office and nearly 500 million square feet of industrial/flex space, has a diverse industry mix which drives business activity, including a significant presence of companies in the fields of Energy (dubbed the “Energy Capital of the World”); Healthcare (The Texas Medical Center in Houston is the largest of its kind in the world); the Port of Houston (2nd in the U.S. in total tonnage); Petrochemicals; Biotechnology; Education; and Manufacturing.
Houston was the last large metro to enter the recession and one of the first to emerge, losing a smaller share of jobs compared to other large metros. Houston has recouped all jobs lost in the recession, and with better job numbers than pre-recession levels. The Houston Metro area added 111,200 new jobs in the 12 months ending April 2013, a 4.2% increase over April 2012.
In terms of commercial real estate, leasing momentum that started in 2011 has carried into 2013, however, Houston began the year with limited positive net absorption of 80,000 SF. This was mainly due to Devon Energy and Kinder Morgan placing space on the sublease market in the CBD. Most of the large leases that were signed in the first quarter were in the suburban markets and were all tied to Houston’s thriving energy sector. Absorption is expected to increase significantly throughout the year as some of the almost ten million square feet of product that is currently under construction hits the market. For example, Skanska recently signed its first tenant in the Galleria for 49,000 SF. On the investment front, a couple of high-profile projects changed hands in the Galleria, Williams Tower sold to Invesco for $278/SF and Post Oak Central traded for $182/SF. Investor interest in Houston will continue to gain strength and support as the economy improves. This was evidenced by AFIRE naming Houston the 5th most attractive investment market in the world.
The energy industry continued to remain vibrant and more job creation is expected throughout 2013 as evidenced by several major corporate expansions currently in the market. The Baker Hughes rig count decreased slightly over the 1st quarter to 1,748. However natural gas and WTI crude pricing remained strong at $4.01/MMBtu and $97.24/bbl. Houston should see significant capital expenditures (resulting in elevated head counts and space demand) from exploration and production groups should both resources sustain their current levels.
The Houston ten-county, 10,062-square-mile MSA is one of the healthiest major MSAs in the county, historically outperforming the top ten MSAs in population growth, job growth, GDP growth, housing costs, and cost of living. A report released in November 2012 by the Brookings Institution found that Houston has the fastest growing metropolitan economy in North America.
The vast majority of the world’s leading energy firms are headquartered or maintain major corporate offices in Houston, the U.S. energy headquarters and a world center for virtually every segment of the petroleum industry. Boasting an economic base employment 50% anchored in energy, Houston’s economy is still widely diversified with other major sectors including Healthcare; Trade (the Port of Houston); Petrochemicals; Biotechnology; Education; and Manufacturing.
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