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Houston’s Diversity Brings New Economic Opportunities

Local business leaders explored how changing demographics could boost the economy.

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Thirty years from now, the U.S. will have no clear ethnic majority. Driving that change is a dramatic growth in minority communities, namely Hispanics and Asians. Researchers say Houston represents that trend more than any other city.

panel on diversity
Panelists discuss the impact of Houston's diverse population on the local economy.

At a panel on diversity hosted by National Journal, local business leaders explored how the changing demographics could boost the economy.

Sanjay Ramabhadran is president of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. He says the city is welcoming of immigrants, and that promotes economic growth.

"There's no better place to be than in Houston if you're a small business owner, or from minority communities that have chosen to come make Houston home," he said. "By virtue of that, you automatically tap into their network that then wants to invest in Houston."

Foreign-born residents make up 13 percent of the national population. In Houston, they account for 28 percent.

But not all minority groups fare the same economically. Juliet Stipeche is the president of the Houston Independent School District. She told the gathering that the wealth gap is a problem, and providing better educational opportunities is key to bridging differences.

"If we do not educate the children that we have here, what will we see [in] the future?" she said. "Families earning a lot less? Pockets of places that people don't want to go visit? That is not a Houston that I want to live in."

Stipeche says it's important to address educational gaps as early as pre-K before it's too difficult for students to catch up.

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