| HOUSTON, June 23
HOUSTON, June 23 Bustling Houston, one of the
bright spots in the U.S. economy, is growing so fast that
business leaders fear running out of skilled labor as billions
are spent building new energy infrastructure on the Gulf Coast.
The Greater Houston Partnership, the business chamber for
the 10-county region, on Monday launched a training plan with
companies, junior colleges, high schools and social service
agencies to prepare people for thousands of new jobs being
created for welders, pipefitters and plumbers.
"Houston has had this incredible growth rate but the lack of
skilled workers could slow us down," said Patrick Jankowski of
the Greater Houston Partnership.
Of the top 20 metro areas, Houston's pace of job growth in
the 12-months through May was the second-fastest in the country
at 3.3 percent, behind only Dallas at 3.7 percent, according to
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Houston was the first major metro area to regain all the
153,000 jobs it lost in the Great Recession. Since January 2010,
it has added 407,300 - more than double what it lost, Jankowski
The Houston economy grew 5.3 percent in 2012, trailing only
San Francisco while outpacing the wider U.S. economy, according
to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Economic
Many of the jobs being added in metropolitan Houston, which
includes the refinery belt around Galveston Bay and part of the
Texas coast, are well-paying "middle-skill" positions at new
plants designed to process surging output of oil and natural gas
from the U.S. shale boom.
Tudor Pickering Holt, an investment bank, has tallied up $40
billion that companies from Dow Chemical to Exxon Mobil
have said they will invest in Gulf Coast petrochemical
projects over the next several years. The American Chemistry
Council says $113 billion is planned nationwide for new
manufacturing facilities in the next decade.
"Everybody is trying to do these expansions at the same
time," said John Poisson of the Accenture consultancy's
chemicals group. That means "acute near-term need when everybody
wants to access the construction skills, the supply-chain
skills, on the U.S. Gulf Coast."
Despite those concerns, some companies say they would still
choose the Gulf Coast over other markets because its workers
have deep experience in the oil and gas industry.
"At peak construction we will have about 3,000 jobs on site
and 200 full-time employees to operate the facility once it is
complete," said Farid Bogani, who leads Sempra's
liquefied natural gas export project in Louisiana, just across
the Texas border.
"There is a wide skill and craft source of labor in this
area because of all the offshore work, the pipelines and the
chemical plants and refineries," he said.
(Reporting By Terry Wade; Editing by Nick Zieminski)