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All About Houston

 

Facts and figures about the country’s fourth-largest city. To really get an accurate picture of the Houston region, you need to have a sense of how truly large it is. The city of Houston encompasses approximately 640 square miles, and the metropolitan area covers more than 10,000 square miles. Houston is located in Harris County, the nation’s third most populous county. The population of the city of Houston is more than 2 million. Only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are larger. Houston’s metropolitan area has 5.6 million residents, making it the sixth-largest metro area in the country. In January 2005 the City of Houston launched a mandatory freeway vehicle-towing program called SAFEClear. The program was implemented to address safety and congestion concerns associated with disabled vehicles on freeways inside the city limits of Houston. Prior to December 1, 2005, only the exclusive contracted SAFEClear tow operators were allowed to provide roadside assistance on these freeways. Currently, two SAFEClear operators are required to provide a free tow to a safe location off the freeway within one mile of the nearest exit to any motorist whose vehicle is not in a moving lane on the freeway and has a flat tire, a mechanical failure, or an empty gas tank. If the vehicle has a flat tire and a good spare, the SAFEClear tow operator will change the tire without charge. If the vehicle is out of gas, it will be towed for free to the nearest gas station, even if that is beyond one mile after the nearest exit. The program also allows motorists to call a roadside assistance service provider of their choice in many situations.

Airports The Houston area is served by two major airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). IAH offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other airport in the country and provides nonstop service to approximately 170 destinations—third in the United States behind Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD). When it comes to performance and customer service, HOU is among the world’s best, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). Hobby came in at number four in both categories in the 2008 ACI Airport Service Quality Awards. A third site, Ellington Airport (EFD), is a joint-use civil and military airport serving the needs of the U.S. military, NASA and general aviation. Check individual airlines to see which airports serve a particular carrier.

Living Well Is Easy In Houston 
• The Q3/08 ACCRA Cost of Living Index shows that Houston’s overall after-taxes living costs are 10 percent below the nation-wide average, largely due to housing costs that are 23 percent below the average.  
• In the context of the 27 metropolitan areas with more than two million residents, Houston’s cost-of-living advantage is even more pronounced. Houston’s housing costs are 42 percent below the average for the large metro areas, and its overall costs are 20 percent below the average for this group. 
• Houston has the third-lowest housing prices among the 27 large metros. Houston’s grocery prices, 18 percent below the major metro average, are the lowest within this group. Its utility costs are 1 percent below the major metro average, its transportation costs are 9 percent below the average, its health care costs are 8 percent below the average, and its costs for miscellaneous goods and services are 4 percent below the average. 
• Texas does not have a state personal income tax. The city, the state and METRO charge a sales tax. The Harris County Appraisal District provides the appraised value of property, and each jurisdiction sets its own property tax rate. The city and county charge fees for franchises, licenses and permits to pay for services. Some taxing authorities such as school districts can collect taxes independent of the county tax assessor-collector. In certain instances, taxing authorities offer tax exemptions for residents, people over age 65, veterans, and people with disabilities. For more information, log on to statelocalgov.net.

 
 
 

At Home in Houston

 

A few of the basics about relocating here. In Texas, residential consumers can shop around for the electrical service provider of their choice. The largest providers are Reliant Energy and TXU Energy. The Texas Public Utility Commission provides information about choosing an electric provider, rate comparisons and much more at the Texas Electric Choice Education Program, and the City of Houston offers an informative website that can help with shopping for electrical service providers in the region. In Houston, natural gas is supplied by CenterPoint Energy. For more information and to set up service, call 713-659-2111 or visit its website. Water and sewer service for residents of the City of Houston is provided by the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department and is available by calling 713-371-1400. Other incorporated municipalities in the Houston area provide their own water and sewer services to their residents. Contact your local governing body for full information.

Cable Service The primary cable service provider in Houston is Comcast, which offers high-speed Internet, cable TV and phone service. Another option is AT&T U-verse, with digital TV, Internet and phone options. Satellite dish services are available in Houston through DISH Network and DIRECTV.

Telephone Service The primary telephone service provider is AT&T, but there are more than three dozen local service providers, as well as most major brands of cell phone service providers. The City of Houston and the immediate surrounding area have three area codes: 281, 713, and 832. When calling from one of these area codes, 10-digit dialing is required for local calls. Three other area codes—409, 936, and 979—are part of the larger ten-county Houston metropolitan area.

Texas Drivers License New residents must obtain a Texas driver’s license within thirty days of establishing Texas residency. New residents with a valid out-of-state driver’s license who own a vehicle and would like to obtain a Texas driver’s license will need to provide proof of Texas registration, proof of liability insurance, Social Security number and out-of-state license. The only examination required is a vision test. If the out-of-state license has expired, a new resident must take a written examination, a behind-the-wheel examination, and a vision test. Those who do not own a vehicle do not have to show proof of insurance but are required to complete an affidavit of non-ownership. At the time of application, new residents are required to surrender their valid or expired out-of-state driver’s license. All original applicants for a driver’s license or identification certificate must present proof of identity satisfactory to the Texas Department of Public Safety, as well as take the written, driving and vision tests. For information about documents that may be presented as acceptable proof of identity, go to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website. First-time foreign applicants must prove legal U.S. residency before obtaining a Texas driver’s license. A beginning driver of age fifteen or older can apply for an instruction permit, which enables the holder of the permit to drive with a licensed driver who is eighteen years of age or older in the front seat. To obtain an instruction permit, a beginning driver must pass the written portion of the driving test, and those under the age of eighteen must also take the classroom portion of an approved driver’s education course. For more information and locations of Texas driver’s license offices, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety website.

Auto Registration/Tags Vehicles must be registered in Texas within thirty days of establishing residency. In Harris County, registration is done with the Harris County tax assessor-collector. Call 713-368-2000 for full information, office locations and associated fees. Residents of other counties must register at their county tax office. The following information is necessary to register a vehicle: an out-of-state title or registration; a sales or use tax affidavit; a current Texas driver’s license; a Vehicle Identification Certificate (Form VI-30-A), indicating the vehicle has passed a safety inspection; a current odometer reading; customs documentation if from a foreign country; and proof of insurance. Members of the U.S. armed forces and nonresident students attending accredited Texas schools on a full-time basis are not considered state residents. Registration and license tags must be renewed every twelve months by mail, in person or online. In addition, all Texas vehicles must pass a safety inspection every twelve months at a state-regulated inspection station. A vehicle that passes inspection must display a current state inspection sticker in the lower left-hand corner of the front windshield, just above or below the license sticker. Texas has a mandatory driver’s liability insurance law. All drivers are required to carry proof of liability insurance in their vehicles at all times.

State Liquor Laws The minimum drinking age in Texas is 21. Drivers are prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages while operating a vehicle. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws are strictly enforced and can carry a sentence of jail time, even for first-time offenders. Texas also has a driving under the influence (DUI) law that penalizes those who are under 21 and have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system when driving a motor vehicle.

Pet Licensing/Leash Laws In Texas, all cats and dogs must be vaccinated against rabies by the time they are four months old and must receive a booster one year after the initial vaccination. After the first two vaccinations, cats and dogs can be vaccinated at either one-year or three-year intervals. Additionally, cats and dogs in Houston must be licensed. Any veterinarian can vaccinate your pet and provide license tags. The City of Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control (BARC) may impound any dog or cat not restrained on a leash or without proper tags. For more information, contact BARC at 713-229-7300. In Harris County outside the Houston city limits, contact theHarris County Veterinary Public Health Division at 281-999-3191. Pet owners are also required by law to pick up after their pets in public areas.

Welcome to the world-class region

 

Everyone's heard the stereotype: it's all cowboys, cactus and cattle. While those Texas roots are strong, Houston will surprise you with everything it has to offer. The ten-county region is the largest city not only in Texas, but the whole Southern United States. Here the grass is green, landscaping is lush and the tree canopy is thick and widespread. It's the perfect mix of Southern greenery and urban sophistication. Known as the Bayou City, the Houston metro area—the sixth largest in the nation—is criss-crossed by a number of bayous, many of them flowing into Buffalo Bayou, the site of the city's birthplace in the downtown area.

 
 
Houston Life
 
Discover cosmopolitan living on whatever scale you choose. What makes living in Houston so special? Why does Houston continue to grow faster than other cities? Perhaps it’s because—even though Houston is big, diverse and multifaceted—it can be experienced on many different levels, large or small, depending on what you’re looking for and how you like to live. One thing’s for sure: there’s no shortage of things to do, places to go, or events to experience
 
Schools
 

Click here for news on the booming private school business in Houston.

A primer on educational opportunities in Houston. As you would expect in a city the size of Houston, educational opportunities and options are abundant and varied. Within the ten-county greater metropolitan area, there are 67 schools districts and 180 private schools to choose from. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest public school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the nation. From day care and preschools to community colleges and nationally ranked universities, Houston possesses a full range of educational opportunities for all ages.

Do Your Homework One way to learn more about a school is to contact the school district by phone or by visiting their Web site, which is a valuable source of information, providing school district statistics and information on individual schools. A valuable but often overlooked way to locate a new school is old-fashioned word of mouth. Colleagues already established in Houston can be helpful as well as your real estate agent, future neighbors, relatives and friends. Part of your background research should include reading available information on prospective schools and talking to administrators on the phone.

 

Health Care

 

Live within minutes of the world’s finest health care. Ask Houstonians what they like most about living in Houston, and chances are, one of the things they’ll mention is medical care. From the world-renowned Texas Medical Center south of downtown to fine community hospitals in outlying areas, Houston boasts medical facilities and expertise second to none. The city’s hospitals are routinely ranked among the top in the nation, and many Houston doctors and surgeons are considered number one in their fields. With 5.5 million patient visits a year—many from outside the United States—the Texas Medical Center has 46 not-for-profit member institutions providing patient care, cutting-edge research, and education for medical and nursing students. Beyond its impact on health care, the Texas Medical Center is Houston’s largest single-site employer, with more than 73,000 employees. Hospitals include Memorial Hermann, the primary teaching hospital for the University of Texas Medical School in Houston and a Level I trauma center. Memorial Hermann Healthcare System operates hospitals in Katy, Fort Bend County, The Woodlands, Memorial City and the northwest, southeast and southwest areas of Houston. The Methodist Hospital, for sixty years the home of internationally acclaimed heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, is among the country’s top centers for otolaryngology, neurology/neurosurgery, ophthalmology, gynecology, heart surgery, psychiatry and urology. One of the top ten heart centers in the country, the Texas Heart Institute of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System is where the first heart transplant in the United States was performed, thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Denton Cooley. St. Luke’s cares for more than half a million patients each year, and through an affiliation with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, patients have access to the expertise of more than 320 physicians in more than fifty specialties and subspecialties practicing at eighteen locations throughout the Houston area. Texas Children’s Hospital is internationally recognized for exceptional comprehensive care and trailblazing research. Consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten pediatric hospitals, Texas Children’s, in affiliation with Houston’s renowned Baylor College of Medicine, ranks first in National Institute of Health (NIH) research funding for pediatric hospitals, participating in more than four hundred groundbreaking research projects.The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is ranked as the nation’s top cancer hospital in U.S. News and World Report’s 2008 list of “America’s Best Hospitals” and has ranked as one of the top two hospitals for cancer care for nineteen years, since the magazine began its annual survey in 1990. Many of the advances that have pushed the combined five-year survival rate for all cancers to 66 percent were initiated at M. D. Anderson. Today its new Proton Therapy Center is making great strides in treating many types of cancer by directing highly targeted radiation to cancerous tissue while sparing healthy tissue.

Senior Care The Houston area has an abundance of services for the elderly, including more than 280 assisted-living facilities, 80 skilled-care facilities and about 30 independent-living communities. Some of the notable facilities are the Buckingham,TreemontClarewood HouseTerrace at West University and Parkway Place. Additionally, home health care is provided through a number of organizations, such asSheltering Arms.

Pet Care Houstonians take to pets in a big way, so it’s no surprise that you can find every pet service and activity imaginable, from doggie day spas to pet training, pet get-togethers (“yappy hour”) and dedicated rescue groups for countless breeds and all types of four-footed friends. Regardless of where they live, Houston pet lovers are never far from exceptional veterinary care. Many of Houston’s veterinarians are graduates of the renowned College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, one of the top veterinary schools in the country.

 

Neighborhoods & Communities

 

Choose from a wealth of living options in every style, location, and price range.When you decide to call Houston home, you’ll discover an extraordinarily large number of housing choices—from gated master-planned communities to near-town bungalows, family-friendly suburban neighborhoods to trendy downtown lofts, and rent or lease options large and small. No matter what your style or taste, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Houston’s oldest neighborhoods lie near the central business district downtown. These include the Heights, where distinctively updated turn-of-the-century homes stand next to newly constructed Victorian- and Charleston-style cottages with all the modern conveniences. Montrose, an eclectic mix of homes, townhomes and restaurants, is nestled near the Museum District. In MacGregor–Riverside, just east of the Texas Medical Center near Brays Bayou, old homes are being refurbished and new construction is taking place. The historic Fifth Ward north of downtown is revitalized. The Greater Third Ward is home to such Houston landmarks as Texas Southern University and the University of Houston. The Second Ward and Magnolia Park areas on the east end are two of the city’s oldest Hispanic neighborhoods. In Midtown, apartments, bungalows and townhomes are within easy reach of some of the city’s finest antique dealers, art galleries, and interior design boutiques. River Oaks, one of the oldest and most exclusive neighborhoods, sports white-columned mansions dating from the 1920s and Houston’s oldest country club. West University Place, a “small-town” cottage neighborhood in the shadow of Rice University and the Texas Medical Center, is one of several incorporated cities that lie within Houston’s borders. South Side Place, situated along a portion of West University Place, is only one block wide and nine blocks long. Bellaire, its own city within the city and one of Houston’s first suburbs, is home to a varied mix of residences of all sizes. Braeswood and Stella Link, perched along and adjacent to the banks of Brays Bayou, have easy access to the Texas Medical Center and the Reliant Park complex. Westward outside the 610 Loop, one of two major freeways that circle the city, neighborhoods take on personalities all their own. To the north, vibrant communities include Acres Homes, Aldine, Garden Oaks–Oak Forest, Greater Greenspoint and Inwood Forest. To the west, Galleria–Uptown Park (uptown- houston.com) reflects the excitement of Houston’s Galleria and Post Oak shopping hub and features soaring high-rises with magnificent city views. Memorial–Spring Branch features large tree-covered lots and ranch-style homes mixed with modern new construction, both north and south of Interstate 10. Tanglewood remains as one of Houston’s most exclusive and desirable close-in neighborhoods, with the Houston Country Club nearby. The Memorial Villages, a collection of some of Houston’s toniest addresses, include the incorporated municipalities of Piney Point Village, Bunker Hill Village, Hedwig Village, Hunters Creek Village, Spring Valley Village and Hilshire Village—each with its share of some of Houston’s most notable residents. Briargrove Park, just inside Beltway 8, is a picturesque family-friendly neighborhood on the west side. Further west, beyond Beltway 8 (the Sam Houston Tollway), more neighborhoods and communities stretch from the northwest to the southwest. The West Memorial area follows Memorial Drive past Wilcrest Drive and offers secluded, near-bayou living on tree-covered lots not far from Lakeside Country Club. Walnut Bend (walnutbend.org) is a quiet, tucked-away community bordering Beltway 8 to the east and Westheimer Road to the south. Royal Oaks is a gated community of luxury homes surrounding its own private country club (royaloakscc.com). And the Lakes of Bella Terra (lakesofbellaterra.com) offer resort-style living just thirty minutes from downtown Houston. As one continues west along Interstate 10, the city of Katy (katytexas.com) offers the charm of a small town and the quality of life of a burgeoning suburb. Cinco Ranch (cincoranch.com) provides exceptional master-planned community living on a grand scale. And the town of Fulshear is home to dynamic new developments for those who like the feel of country living with easy access to big-city amenities. Other communities in far west Houston include Firethorne (firethorne.info), Grayson Lakes (graysonlakes.com), the Lakes on Eldridge (thelakesoneldridge.net), Seven Meadows (sevenmeadows.com) and Weston Lakes (wlakes.com). In northwest Houston, along the U.S. 290 and FM 1960 corridors, several compelling communities attract new families and young professionals alike who value the top-rated Cypress-Fairbanks (Cy-Fair) School District. The 11,400-acre Bridgeland community (bridgeland.com) embraces a lifestyle within a peaceful, natural setting. Coles Crossing (colescrossing-hoa.com) is a master-planned community with 175 acres devoted to recreation. Jersey Village is an incorporated city in the area with a population of almost 200,000. The Champions– FM 1960 area has stylish neighborhoods, many tucked away and hidden among tall pine trees. Fairfield (visitfairfield.com) is a Friendswood Development Company neighborhood full of lakes, parks, pools, and greenbelts. Other communities in the area include Gleannloch Farms (gleannlochfarms.com), Northpointe, High Meadow Estates (highmeadowranch.com), Riata Ranch, the town of Magnolia (cityofmagnolia.com), the Spring-Klein area (oldtown-springtx.com), WindRose (wind-roseca.org) and the city of Tomball (tomballtexas.com). In northeast Houston, seven dynamic communities share an abundance of natural beauty near Lake Houston, as well as the highly acclaimed Humble Independent School District. Atascocita (humbleareachamber.org), Eagle Springs (eaglespringstx.com), Fall Creek (fallcreekhouston.com), the city of Humble (cityofhumble.com), Kingwood (kingwoodonline.com), Summerwood (summerwoodtx.com) and Walden On Lake Houston (waldenonlakehouston.com), the city of (CityofBrazoria.com), city of (Fortbend.com), the city of (Friendswoodtx.com), the city of (Nacogdochestx.com)

 

 

Job Opportunities & Hiring Trends

 
 

How to find a job in Houston. Once dominated by oil-related jobs, Houston’s economy has diversified as new, core industries join energy in the regional employment mix. These diversifying sectors account for 71 percent of the net job growth since 1986, according to calculations made by the Greater Houston Partnership based on the University of Houston’s Institute of Regional Forecasting data. The Greater Houston Partnership and Workforce Solutions implemented an innovative approach to meet employers’ skill shortages through an initiative to align the region’s education and training offerings with employers’ immediate needs. One major element of this initiative has focused on the shortage of registered nurses in the Gulf Coast region. The coalition’s Health Services Steering Committee was recognized with a national award in 2001 as an exemplary partnership. Also, the Texas Workforce Commission awarded the Workforce Solutions a grant to expand the model program at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for upgrading staff to registered nurse positions, including six area hospitals that chose to participate. That initiative resulted in a 20 percent increase in local nursing school enrollment and a corresponding increase in the number of nursing school facilities.

 
 
 

Welcome Letters

Governor Rick Perry

Mayor Annise Parker

Ed Emmett, County Judge, Harris County

Craig Richard, CEcD, Chief Economic Development Officer, Greater Houston Partnership

Wayne Stroman, 2012 Chairman, Houston Association of Realtors

Will Holder, 2012 President, Greater Houston Builders Association

Tracy Frazier, SPHR, 2012-2013 President, HR Houston

 
 


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