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Regional Profiles – South – Texas – A Whole Other Country

Home of the Dallas Cowboys, Big Oil, and the Bushes, the state of Texas may be the perfect example of the distinction between famous and popular.

An immense level of pride emanates from our friends and colleagues from The Lone Star State. However, from the ski slopes of Colorado, to the train stations of Europe, the reputation of Texas is that we’re a bunch of brash, boastful polluters. The fact is, Texas’ vast land acreage, rich natural resources and business friendly government have made it an economic juggernaut producing outsized wealth in the last fifty years. And with three American Presidents from the state during this time, the accompanying spotlight has revealed both good and bad. Those of us from Texas just seem to like it, and here is a glimpse as to why.

The state’s three major cities, Dallas, Houston, and Austin each have their unique character, offering something to just about everybody, making it really feel like “A Whole Other Country” (tourist office slogan).

Dallas is known by many who visit as a place that’s dressed up. The city very much wants the shiny and new to take your eye off the drab northern Texas landscape. Although it is home to America’s Team (the Dallas Cowboys), and the State Fair of Texas, Dallas is still very much known for being the place where JFK was assassinated. In fact, the Sixth Floor of the School Book Depository is the city’s #1 tourist attraction (#2 is Texas Stadium).

The best part about Dallas, I feel, is the quality of life you get from a given level of income. Cost of living is low and good neighborhoods are plentiful. The Dallas economy is diverse enough for you to find work in your field of interest. Companies based in Dallas, including American Airlines, Frito-Lay, EDS, and ExxonMobil could pass the Jim Cramer “Are you Diversified?” Test. Its central location makes traveling to both coasts very workable. Dallas is also lauded for its shopping and restaurants. Think of your college friends from Dallas and recall how many have moved back. A Dallas native myself, it’s something we try to do sooner rather than later.

The energy capital of the world, Houston attracts considerable capital, which in turn, provides economic opportunity like no place else in the state. More Fortune 500 companies are based in Houston than in any other city but New York. The climate in Houston is harsh; it’s hot, muggy and your house getting flooded is never more than one storm season away. However, the can-do attitude of Houston is exceedingly high. People go to Houston to be successful. I believe you can get a better job in Houston than you could in most other cities. No callbacks from Goldman or McKinsey? Try the Houston office.

Attractions in Houston include NASA, the beach in Galveston and the Rodeo held in March every year. Houston is home to the best restaurants in Texas, as well as a world-class medical community home to such medical pioneers as Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley. The largest sporting event in the city is the Houston Marathon, more do-able among marathons because of Houston’s flat terrain.

Very much the blue-collar town, Houston prides itself on being a place where things get done. The energy industry is a dominant force in the town’s culture. For those working in the “oil business”, Houston is the most exciting place in the world to be – the equivalent of Los Angeles for starlets or New York for financiers. Houston is the most down-to-earth and friendly city I’ve ever visited. The people desperately want you to like their city and will go out of their way to make you feel at home in Houston.

The Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is an oasis of progressive mindedness and intellectualism. Austin is a place where college graduates work at sandwich shops and people are “taking a class” well into adulthood. Whole Foods is based here, it’s the state capital, and no one cares if you have a business card much less what it says on it. Parents of University of Texas students lament the fact that their children never want to leave Austin. Outdoor life, from biking, hiking, and lake activities can be enjoyed year-round. Many wealthy entrepreneurs who can set up their businesses anywhere choose to do it in Austin.

Michael Dell started Dell in his UT dorm room and still hasn’t left the city. Dellionnaires who have gone on to launch their own ventures have made for a very nice technology presence. One of Austin’s main attractions is Sixth Street, a row of bars, clubs and restaurants downtown you’ve got to see to believe.

Live music culture is the beating heart of Austin. South-by-Southwest and the Austin City Limits Festival are the foundation for what is a deep-rooted live music scene in Austin. Free spirits enjoy countless other outdoor festivals, including Eeyore’s Birthday, Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic and the Bob Marley Festival. It’s the town where Matthew McConaughey was arrested for playing bongos naked in his living room while under the influence. “Keep Austin Weird” is the city’s tagline, and a motivated, community-minded political base advocates heavily to make it stay this way.

Other Texas attractions include the city of San Antonio, home of the Alamo and Riverwalk. Big Bend National Park is a camper’s paradise of rugged Old West terrain. The beaches of South Padre Island are a destination for spring breakers from all over America.

What makes people most fond of Texas is the friendliness of its people. Space is plentiful, so when we see you, we say hi. The tasty food makes us happy on a daily basis. Barbecue, Tex-Mex, steakhouses, and spicy dishes make it a gastro-tourism destination. Texas’ welcomeness toward newcomers, warm climate and economic opportunity will keep the state an attractive place to live and work for many years to come.

February 2, 2009
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