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By Gary Hodges, Raba Kistner. Originally posted in the Houston Business Journal

Texas' population growth continues to surge, and the lucrative job market, affordable housing options and thriving culinary and arts scene in Houston make the city particularly attractive for new residents. As Houston looks to the future, the city and its people will require the roads, parks, buildings, flood control system and other infrastructure needed to support growth and provide residents with a desirable quality of life. 

According to a study by Cushman & Wakefield, Houston is projected to lead the nation's metro areas in the total number of new residents by the end of this decade. This growth will require a strong workforce of civil engineers to lead these efforts and position Harris County and surrounding areas as a hub for innovation, opportunity and optimal living conditions. While some of this will be made possible through new construction and transportation solutions, there is still work to rebuild parts of the city that have been neglected. Those parts of the city that have deteriorated over time or been damaged by natural disasters.

The engineering industry will be critical in implementing long-lasting solutions that allow Houston to thrive as it continues to grow. Now is the time to invest in the next generation of civil engineers, which includes support and expansion of STEM education efforts to ensure our city's workforce is equipped to handle expansion.

Below are a few of the many roles the industry will play in the growth of Harris County:

Rebuild and reshape

As new development progresses, Houston will need to simultaneously focus attention on areas that require updates to existing infrastructure. Additionally, consideration for flood mitigation solutions will need to be incorporated into planning efforts that continue repairing Hurricane Harvey's damage, minimize the impact of future environmental threats and increase resiliency. Intentional, innovative solutions can help ensure highways, schools, buildings and neighborhoods can withstand the test of time and weather the storms to come.

Increase connectivity

As the draw of affordable living and land bring an increasing number of residents to Houston's surrounding suburbs, the need for transportation solutions will continue to influence the city's level of accessibility and connectedness. While in many cities, the majority of office buildings reside downtown, Houston is a different story. The connection from Sugar Land to downtown, the Energy Corridor to The Woodlands, and Pasadena to Uptown are only a few of the commutes residents experience daily. As the city becomes less centralized, public transportation and highways will become more critical in connecting individuals to work, services, arts and culture, sporting events and community.

Spur economic recovery

As the city looks to rebuild post-pandemic, the engineering workforce will play a key role in economic recovery. Improvements and expansions of educational institutions at all levels and transportation and other infrastructure projects will need to move forward to meet the needs of a growing region and support the influx of residents moving to Houston. The demand for engineering work is growing, which will provide the city with job opportunities. It will also require Houston to invest in a talent pipeline to fill these positions with a skillful and specialized workforce. By promoting and investing in science, technology, engineering and math education opportunities, the industry will have a better chance of advancing and retaining innovative, homegrown engineers to lead the city moving forward.

Houston has the opportunity to be one of the largest and most robust business centers in the nation. Still, it will require the infrastructure, economic development and quality of life to make it happen. Let's make sure we have the engineering workforce we need to meet the challenges ahead and keep Houston a desirable place to work and live for generations to come. 

Gary Hodges is the vice president and marketplace leader for the Houston office of Raba Kistner Inc.