Comment of the Day: They Still Make It Here

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THEY STILL MAKE IT HERE “Houston isn’t a small, postindustrial city like Portland where PhDs drive cabs because they’re there for the ‘quality of life.’ Houston is a big industrial city that still makes stuff. You can’t look at a ‘cruddy’ low-rise industrial or manufacturing district and wish to replace it with trendy lofts, because those industrial districts are a big part of the city’s prosperity. The oil company office jobs could choose to locate *anywhere*; they choose to locate in Houston because it’s close to where their industrial operations are.” [Keep Houston Houston, commenting on The Swamplot Award for Special Achievement in Sprawl: The Official 2011 Ballot]

11 Comment

  • Yes, but Houston is also a large enough city that it can accommodate areas of industry and areas of post-industrial culture. There’s a tendency to characterize Houston as monovalent, as if the only people who live here are single-minded petrochemical engineers who don’t mind living and working in mirrored glass office parks next to oil refineries. The hope of a lot of us who live in Houston is that the city’s self-image (and its portrayal to outsiders) is more diverse. It would be great if Houston could be known for something other than a monomaniacal focus on industry, because the city has a lot to offer. Industry + culture, or industry as a vehicle for funding and creating civic space and culture, seems like a model with a lot of potential.

  • If you run the industry out of Houston, or make the climate so hostile to new industry to fill more spaces with “culture” or more attractive and diverse buildings that do not produce anything of tangible value – Houston will become an uglier void of dilapidated business and industry. Property values will fall to almost nothing, and you will pray to god that those companies return. Industry is 9/10 of Houston…the other 1/10 is servicing those industries.

  • Don’t listen to them. You can replace these areas with lofts if you want. Funny how the free marketeers suddenly shift into protectionist mode…

  • Daaaamn… first comment in over a year and I make COTD. Thanks y’all!

    As for “protectionism” (@anon22)… lolwut? Almost all the heavy industrial is sitting on unrestricted reserves. Valero could tear down their refinery and put up garden apartments if they wanted to. They don’t because it’s more profitable to run the refinery.

    Naw, protectionism would be restricting development on the periphery, out of some mistaken idea that “we ought to gentrify the rest of the inner loop first” (or as movocelot puts it, “‘rein it in’ and insist on smart & dense growth.” Protectionism would be restrictive land use codes intended to “bring homes closer to where people work and move these eyesores somewhere else,” as Kasia suggested.

    That’s what I was responding to. I would NEVER argue against some junkyard owner’s right to turn his junkyard into trendy lofts.

  • (good luck getting financing for that, though)

  • Compared to places like Monterrey, Mexico and Shenzen, China, Houston is not an industrial City. Houston does have a large petrochem complex that makes chemicals and refines oil. The oil and gas industry originally chose to locate in Houston because that was where the oil was. ExxonMobil is really just Humble Oil by way of Standard Oil. The oil and gas industry stayed in Houston because it is close to the Gulf offshore drilling, W. Texas production and Houston refining. Not because Houston is a leading industrial city. And the gripe over the ExxonMobil facility is not that it is an ugly industrial complex. It is actually a very attractive development. The gripe is that they clear cut a forrest in the suburbs to make it instead of reinvigorating old dead industrial areas closer in.

  • A lot of industrial districts are trending post-industrial because the structures in them have become functionally obsolete with the passage of time and the advent of new technologies. There’s still plenty of land in every direction from Houston, and Houston will still get the benefit of them being located in our region.

    I don’t see a problem.

    Besides, as a matter of public policy, it might be useful to concentrate all the hipsters in one place, where they can feel collectively self-important without being visible or consequential to the rest of us.

  • Right, Marksmu, because New York, Paris, London, Chicago, Sydney, et al are such ugly voids–despite the fact that they were or are also capitals of industry. What holds Houston back, if anything, is the narrow perception that it only exists for the sake of industry, and not for the sake of its inhabitants as well.

  • Houston became the energy center of the world because of the oil discoveries here in the early 20th century and it’s proximity to the gulf of Mexico. But now we continue that dominance because of the people and the attitude we have. Change that attitude or make the city undfriendly to those people and we could lose our place overnight. I for one will move away as soon as there is a place in the world that will offer me a higher standard of living with the skills I have. The energy industry is not loyal to Houston, Houston is loyal to it.

  • We’ve had land use codes for some time now, whether or not you personally consider them “protectionist” or even restrictive is beside the point.

    Reining it in is a good idea; start by *not* expending taxpayer dollars on sprawl inducement via freeway subsidies. Easy enough, right?

  • Houston doesn’t depend on the oil industry; Houston depends on cheap money