Is Houston really 'boomtown'?

July 21, 2008 4:36:28 PM PDT
Every day on the news, it seems we hear about high gas prices, the housing crisis and even some banks struggling. But a lot of people are looking at Houston as a city that's booming. Everywhere you look in the city, there are new construction projects going on and million-dollar homes in high demand. Houston has become the envy of other states, but is the city really booming? I found out that depends on who you ask.

Houston made national news last week. A report on ABC News suggested that while the rest of the country is struggling, the city has never been better with plentiful and good paying jobs.

"No, not in here," said Cue's Burgers owner Keith Kendall. "I'm one of your last mom and pops."

Kendall has owned Cue's Burgers for 20 years and while Houston is "booming," Kendall is facing the threat of closing his doors.

"My evening business dropped 50 percent down because schools not in now. Families are eating in now, not eating out," he said. "The heart of my business in the evenings is the families."

It's not just hitting restaurants. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, building permits are up, but new non-residential contracts are down 17 percent. It's the same with new car sales. They're down five percent. Home sales continue to decline while unemployment has remained the same.

"In every fluctuating economy, there are winners and losers," said Arthur Warga, dean of the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston.

Warga says the winners are those in the oil and gas industry, but the city has positioned itself well because our economy doesn't completely revolve around energy anymore.

"We are booming because the population of the state is booming," he said. "And as long as we can wisely find the right kind of educational and job opportunities for that booming population, we'll continue to be an engine of growth in the economy."

But that's a tall order, especially for people like Kendall at the bottom of this oil boom barrel.

"I've been in business 20 years," he said. "I want to be in business 21 more years, it would be nice. But the way it's looking, it's not looking good."

While home sales are down, some realtors tell me with 75,000 to 100,000 moving to the city a year, they are doing better than ever.

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