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December 2009/January 2010 – Web Exclusive

Brief Bytes

Texas Job Markets Dominate Nation

According to portfolio.com, four of the nation’s top five job markets can be found in the Lone Star State, with Austin leading the way and San Antonio nipping at its heels in second place.

Rounding out the top five are Houston (#4) and Dallas (#5). And El Paso is knocking at the top 10’s door, with the country’s 11th-ranked job market.

Texas markets posted a five-year employment growth rate of 10.8 percent, compared with a nation-wide drop of 0.7 percent.

(David Bloom)

Tourists remember the Alamo

Americans haven’t forgotten the Alamo, and they still love strolling along the Riverwalk. That’s the conclusion of a recent study authored by two Trinity University economics professors, which showed the economic impact of the River City’s hospitality sector grew to $11 billion in 2008.

Travel and tourism remains a vital cog in San Antonio’s economy, employing more than 106,000 workers and generating $285 million for the region’s local governments.

(David Bloom)

Fighting Flu from the inside out

Scientists from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin have won $1.5 million in stimulus funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the structure of influenza A virus, which includes the H1N1 and bird flu strains.

Under the four-year program, scientists will study the virus to help develop more effective antiviral drugs. Led by Rice University’s Jane Tao, biochemists will investigate the form and function of nucleoprotein, one of fewer than a dozen proteins encoded by the flu virus. All varieties of influenza A contain variants of eight genes encoded in RNA.

When flu particles join with healthy cells, they inject their genetic payload into the cell, hijacking the cell’s machinery to make copies of themselves. Based on previous research, including a 2006 report by Tao and UT scientist Robert Krug, scientists have learned the flu can replicate only when all eight genes are packaged in a particular way.

Tao and Krug’s teams will use several techniques to obtain the first three-dimensional structure of the nucleoprotein complex. They will try to decipher the order and arrangements that must be present for the flu to replicate, information that could lead to better flu-fighting drugs.

(Karen Hudgins)

Jane Tao
biochemist, Rice University

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Math, Science Academies Multiply

Under a proposal announced recently by Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas would greatly expand the T-STEM (Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academies initiative that has been preparing young Texans for careers in these critical fields since 2005.

The governor’s plans call for doubling the number of T-STEM academies to 92, which would create additional opportunities in the area of biomedicine and professional development to improve T-STEM education. In addition, the governor has recommended $100 million for scholarships that would help increase the numbers of graduates in the T-STEM disciplines.

(David Bloom)

Texas Manufacturing on the Upswing

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey for November 2009 signals new confidence in the state’s recovery.

The survey, compiled from the responses of 92 Texas business executives, includes a series of indexes that focus on various aspects of manufacturing. One key component, the production index, turned positive in November for the first time since July 2008. The general business activity and company outlook indexes also turned slightly positive, breaking a two-year negative streak.

(Bruce Wright)

DFW Sees Fewer Leases

Leasing activity in the Dallas-Fort Worth office market for the third quarter of 2009 was down 43 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. Overall office vacancy rates in Dallas-Fort Worth stood at 23.5 percent for the third quarter.

Cushman & Wakefield’s forecast for the DFW office market calls for leasing activity to continue to drop in 2010. While asking rents have decreased by only 2 cents per square foot since December 2008, landlords are expected to lower their asking rates in 2010 as vacancies increase. A lack of funding and demand for office space will also limit or eliminate speculative construction and development.

“Presently, landlords, developers, lenders and contractors are suffering,” says Bob Edge, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas. “However, current conditions benefit tenants by allowing them to lower their costs of occupancy by leveraging hungry landlords.”

Still, Cushman & Wakefield analysts project the DFW office market will rebound during the second half of 2010. The report notes positive signs of future growth, citing Texas Instruments’ recent announcement of a new analog chip plant in Richardson that could employ up to 1,000 people.

(Karen Hudgins)

Bob Edge
Vice Chairman
Cushman & Wakefield

Commercial
Real Estate Down in Houston

Houston-area sales of commercial properties slowed drastically during the year ending in September 2009, according to statistics prepared by LoopNet Inc. and Real Capital Analytics.

Their analysis, which considered properties worth more than $2.5 million, found that commercial real estate worth $1.75 billion was sold in the Houston area over the 12-month period, a total 84 percent lower than that of the previous year. Sales plunged by 77 percent for office buildings, while retail property sales dropped by more than 52 percent.

Sales activities for industrial properties were particularly low, falling by nearly 80 percent during the year ending in September. Sales for multifamily properties fell by nearly 72 percent, although the price realized per apartment rose by about 12 percent, to $55,142.

(Bruce Wright)

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