Houston is one of the top 10 cities in the nation for entrepreneurs.. // Photo: NeonLight/Shutterstock
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Why Houston Attracts So Many Small Businesses

Houston is home to many small businesses, and it’s now considered one of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurs, according to the Houston Business Journal.

The journal notes a high concentration of small businesses in the city — nearly 20 small businesses per every 1,000 residents. And there are many factors that contribute to that growth, says Matt DeLeon, Business Development Coordinator for the City of Houston. For example, Houston’s job growth is twice that of the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.

“It’s just easier to do business in Houston,” DeLeon says. “There are no zoning laws, which means small businesses have an easier time setting up shop. And our city is unique in that it doesn’t require a general business license, so there are fewer forms to fill out and no charge for being a business in Houston.”

Texas also has no state income or corporate taxes, according to the Tax Foundation, which can help attract business.

Programs to Get Started

Houston and local organizations also offer a number of tools for small-business owners to get started. The city’s Business Solutions Center offers the Liftoff Houston business plan competition, providing tens of thousands of dollars in prize money for the best new business ideas.

The University of Houston’s Small Business Development Center offers help with business plans, accessing startup capital and educational seminars for entrepreneurs. And the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) offers a wealth of resources for small business owners, ranging from export assistance to essential business training.

Strong Infrastructure

Manuel Gonzalez, district director of the Small Business Administration’s Houston Division, says that a number of local organizations work together to help small businesses, including the GHP, a 25-year-old group that advocates for “a positive business environment.”

“The Chamber of Commerce, GHP, universities, banks and lenders, and the mayor’s office — they’re all focused on promoting economic development through small business,” Gonzalez says.

And as the area’s population and trade grow, the city is undertaking major infrastructure projects, Gonzalez says.

“The Port of Houston is already the nation’s largest by exports, and is spending billions to accommodate even larger ships,” he says. “[George Bush Intercontinental] Airport is spending $1 billion on a new international terminal to handle additional flights to places like China. And the [William P.] Hobby Airport is building a new international terminal, too. This all helps small business and trade in our city.”

An International City

The growth in trade is a byproduct of the city’s energy industry. But other sectors, such as health care and technology, also are leading to new migration and increasing internationalization. A recent Rice University study found that the Houston metro area is now the nation’s most diverse, with many small businesses in ethnic communities.

“Our city’s immigrants come here not only to work hard, but also to build businesses,” Gonzalez says. “Everything from Vietnamese pho shops in Midtown to the Post Oak Grill to chains like Taquerias Arandas were started by foreign immigrants, and that trend is only growing.”

As the city diversifies even further, the variety of small businesses that emerge may begin to change, too.

“Food trucks and taco stands are really taking off,” DeLeon says. “We didn’t see it coming, but gourmet and ethnic food vehicles are booming in Houston right now. They’re kind of the wave of the future.”

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