OUR LEGACY - International City
Since 1976, the number of foreign-owned companies located in Houston has more than doubled. Approximately one-third of the manufacturers in the Houston area have foreign dealings. English companies (105 of them) make up more than one-quarter of foreign-owned firms in Houston, while there are 80 Japanese, 48 German, and 40 French firms. It is estimated that foreign firms provide 20,000 jobs for Houstonians.
In addition to the firms, there are 14 foreign trade, investment and tourist offices in Houston. In April 1980, Rumania became the first Eastern Bloc nation to open a permanent trade office in Houston. Fifty foreign consulates reside in the city, including the first U.S. Consulate opened by the Peoples Republic of China in the fall of 1979.
So vitally important is Houston's technology and expertise is the search for energy that an important relationship has developed between the oil-rich Middle Eastern nations and Houston, earning the city the title "Middle Eastern capital of the U.S." In fact, Houston handles more than half of the $7 billion annual U.S. trade with the Middle East.
Energy is not the only attraction for foreign businesses. Major foreign steel companies and banks have branches operating out of Houston. There were 46 foreign bank offices in Houston in 1980. Foreign banks use their Houston offices to negotiate business transactions, although they are not allowed to conduct their usual banking activities.
International activity in Houston has had a significant influence on the entire community. There has been a large increase in Houston's foreign population, giving it a unique cosmopolitan flavor. A wide variety of foreign food restaurants, cultures and languages have been introduced to Houston, numerous foreign students attend the city's universities, retail stores draw thousands of shoppers from abroad and the Texas Medical Center is a Mecca for patients from around the world.
Foreigners in Houston have invested large sums in unimproved property and in residential, commercial and industrial developments. As Houston attracts such foreign capital, its contributions to the nations balance of payments grow even further.
Houston's international importance is recognized by foreign heads of state as well. The list of state visitors in Houston includes China's Vice Premier Deng Xiao Ping, Britain's Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth, France's President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Egypt's Presidents Anwar el-Sadat, Jordan's King Hussein, Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud Al-Faisal, New Zealand's Prime Minister Robert A. Muldoon and Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf among others.
Houston has seen a tremendous increase in air travel. As the Southwest's international air hub, with two major airports, Houston Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. These airports, which recorded over 12,000,000 domestic passenger arrivals and departures in 1979, had 1,006,286 international arrivals and departures in the same year. Air freight companies provide Houston with direct all-cargo services to Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, the Caribbean and South America. Growth has been so great in airport traffic that both airports are undergoing expansion, and the capacity of the Houston Intercontinental Airport will be more than double when present construction work is completed.
While foreign activity in Houston has been proliferating, Houstonians have also been increasingly active in foreign lands. There are 2,700 companies which maintain offices or facilities in 107 foreign countries throughout the world, with major exports being agricultural products, petroleum equipment and chemicals.
The important ingredient in Houston's international presence is its sophisticated Port facilities, which help the city play a dynamic role in international commerce.