In Houston, tech and health are cures for the oil 'curse'

phys.org | 3/28/2019 | Staff
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In the heart of Texas oil country, the city of Houston rode high on the oil boom, but then fell hard when the bottom dropped out of crude prices.

But bit by bit America's fourth-largest city is weaning itself off its dependence on oil, betting instead on industries like healthcare and tech, even though black gold is never far from view in the birthplace of the American petroleum industry.

Part - Town - Texas - Medical - Center

In the southern part of town, the Texas Medical Center covers two square miles (more than five square kilometers), with glass towers stacked between multiple medical schools, a children's hospital and a trauma center.

About 10 million patients a year seek specialist treatment at the center, where 110,000 people work, making it Houston's biggest employer.

TMC - Expansion - Health - Sector - Job

And TMC's rapid expansion has helped to make the health sector the biggest job creator in the state as well, employing more than 11 percent of workers in Texas, compared to only 8.6 percent in energy.

Patrick Jankowski, vice president of the Greater Houston Partnership, told AFP the city had "no choice" but to bank on other industries.

Jobs - People - Healthcare - Life - Sciences

"To provide jobs for people here, we had to grow healthcare, life sciences, tech," he said, noting that just 30 years ago, eight in 10 jobs in the city depended on the hydrocarbon industry.

The state has always had an embarrassment of oil riches. With 30 million Texans, the state is the second most populous after California and home to the largest oil reserves of the world's biggest petroleum producer.

Blessing - Times - Countries - Abundance - Commodity

But this underground blessing has at times been a "curse." As many developing countries have experienced, the abundance of one commodity often discourages investment in other industries and linking their fate to a single industry.

The last oil slump was in 2014, when prices for benchmark crude sunk from $107 to $44 in just six months, causing...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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