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HOUSTON-In a one-two punch, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area scored the top two slots on Site Selection magazine’s 2009 “Top Metro” rankings for 2009. The rankings put these two Texas cities as the most targeted areas for corporate location, relocation and expansion activity.

The Site Selection designations are based on corporate facility projects and real estate deals and according to the article in the magazine, Houston ended up with the crown thanks to 179 corporate real estate deals in 2008. Dallas-Fort Worth, in the meantime, finished with 156 projects. Both cities unseated former winner Chicago, which came in third. And sources in both cities point out that cost of living and climate were probably factors in the victories.

Dan Bellow, president of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s Houston operation tells GlobeSt.com that, while Houston has always lurked around the top of the rankings, this is the first year Oil City took top honors. Bellow and Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership say many reasons contributed to the selection, including population diversity, a strong workforce and lessons learned from the past.

“We really went through a difficult decade in the 1980s,” Bellow comments. “From that we moved to invest in many areas.” The areas in question include the Texas Medical Center, which employs upwards of 80,000 people and the Port of Houston, which now has two terminals for containerized shipping. NASA provides the aerospace component.

Then there is energy. Last summer’s announcement that Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems A/S will build its research and development hub in the area is helping Houston move from an oil and gas focus to “energy in all its iterations; as nuclear, solar and wind, oil and gas,” Moseley comments. “That’s why we were pleased that Vestus recognized that and came here, where energy is spoken.”

Moving north, up Interstate 45, the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth also have a strong aerospace and aviation component, as Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter call the area home. The population is well-educated, thanks to a variety of secondary educational institutions around the area. Life sciences and Big Pharma also play a role in the Metroplex’s economy.

There is up-to-date infrastructure as well consisting of three Interstate highways. Also available is rail, courtesy of Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

“There are all kinds of general manufacturing here, mainly because of the logistics,” explains David Berzina, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s economic development executive vice president. “You can make something here, and ship it almost anywhere throughout the country.” Furthermore, with Texas as a right-to-work state, “we don’t have the higher union costs you might find in other states,” he adds.

Neither area is planning to rest on its laurels for 2010, however. Bellow and Moseley say Houston leadership will continue building momentum to keep the Site Selection crown. Meanwhile, Berzina says look out for competition from up north.

Still, good-natured intra-state rivalry aside, Berzina says the Site Selection honors will help not only both regions, but the entire state. “The competition between D-FW and Houston for this is good for the overall state,” he comments. “We’re excited about this.”

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