Innovation

President’s Perspective: Helping Houston Thrive


Unknown William F. McKeon, President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center (photo: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle)
By William F. McKeon | February 07, 2018

On this page, I often tout the qualities that make Houston unique. But here’s a new distinction I’m not happy to report: Houston is the largest city in the U.S. that Amazon is unwilling to consider as the future of its second headquarters.

After Amazon announced the list of its 20 finalist cities, with Houston absent, leaders here reacted with shock, outrage, indignation and sadness—not unlike the stages of grief. The sting was even worse since our friendly rivals, Austin and Dallas, made the cut. Amazon didn’t pass on Texas. It just took a pass on Houston.

Despite the frustration, some business and civic leaders quietly shared the emerging consensus that maybe our city really is lacking some of the key ingredients needed to attract the world’s top companies. We should encourage that type of introspection.

Houston has a lot going for it, including its diversity, the energy industry, NASA, the Port of Houston and, of course, the Texas Medical Center—the largest medical city in the world. But the Amazon decision is a signal that those assets are no longer enough. Instead of touting the same qualities we’ve always relied on in our pitch, we must honestly address our shortcomings and create new sources of value to attract emerging Fortune 100 companies and millennial talent. If we don’t, Amazon won’t be the only company that refuses to consider Houston.

My pledge is that the Texas Medical Center will do its part in that effort. We recognize we must do more than simply represent a collection of individual institutions that happen to share proximity. We must completely change the way we operate.

Our institutions are aligning in new ways, leveraging our collective expertise. We’re competing to attract industry as well as the brightest clinicians and researchers in the world. It might be a cliché, but it’s true: together, we can be greater than the sum of our parts.

Specifically, our bold plan is to create an iconic, translational research campus we call TMC3 that proudly shows we’re the Third Coast for life sciences in the United States. This will serve as a beacon to the world that Houston is diversifying its value proposition, and we intend to compete globally in the innovation of health care.

Houstonians are resilient, and every time they’ve been tested, they do whatever is necessary to thrive. I’m optimistic that Houstonians will rise to this occasion as well, and they’ll find new ways to invest in and advance our city.




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