Guest blog post by Len Waterworth, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority.
It was an honor to host the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, at one of the nation’s busiest and most critically important ports, the Port of Houston.
As a civic and business leader and entrepreneur, Secretary Pritzker understands that excellent transportation infrastructure allowing manufacturers to access materials and deliver products is key to increasing exports. It is how a port like Houston, geographically positioned as the gateway to America’s heartland with exceptional rail and roadway connections, has grown to be the nation’s number one port in terms of foreign tonnage.
The Port of Houston's economic activity helps keep Texas the nation's top exporting state. For the past 11 years, Texas has outpaced the rest of the country in exports. In 2012, Texas exports totaled $265 billion, up by 5.4 percent from 2011, according to Commerce Department data. Top export markets include Mexico ($94.8 billion), Canada ($23.7 billion), China ($10.3 billion), Brazil ($10 billion), and the Netherlands ($9.5 billion).
Exports from the Houston metro area topped $110 billion in 2012, an annual increase of almost $6 billion. That was enough to surpass New York for the first time since 2006 as the top export region in the U.S.
The partnership between the Port Authority and Department of Commerce is crucial for continued success and for making America awesome. A good example is Foreign Trade Zone 84, which is number one in the nation for merchandise received in warehouse/distribution centers. The FTZ program in the Houston region is providing economic stimulus in the form of jobs, tax base and revenue.
The Port of Houston has been vital to the city of Houston becoming the international trade center it is today. It is home to the largest petrochemical complex, in the nation and second largest in the world, with more than 150 public and privately-owned cargo terminals and facilities along the 52-mile long Houston Ship Channel.
The more than 400 chemical plants and refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast help contribute to the port-related employment of more than one million Texans. Overall, the economic impact of the Port of Houston means 2.1 million jobs nationally, and $499 billion in economic activity to the U.S. The Port of Houston alone accounts for more than 40 percent of the nation's base petrochemical manufacturing capacity.
International companies find Houston attractive because of its well-developed financial infrastructure, skilled work force, good labor relations and diverse population. Texas just received the “Best Business Climate” designation by Business Facilities magazine. The publication cited infrastructure, natural gas production, free trade zone activity and wind-power capacity. A recent survey showed that Houston Ship Channel industries have committed an unprecedented $35 billion in capital investments through 2015. We also have been investing in public facilities at the port to ensure customers have access to the most efficient cargo handling possible.
Maintaining valuable national assets such as the Port of Houston is paramount to national economic growth.