Brian Sullivan Takes Road Trip to Houston

Annise Parker
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Annise Parker

CNBC anchor Brian Sullivan began his Texas-sized national road trip on "Street Signs"—"Opportunity USA: Three Cities in Three Days"—aptly making megalopolis Houston his first stop. (San Diego and Minneapolis will follow.)

When we think Houston, oil and gas spring to mind, but Mayor Annise Parker told CNBC on Tuesday that her hometown "just defies expectations." Companies such as FMC Technologies (up 29 percent YTD) and Atwood Oceanics, which service the oil and gas businesses, are also drumming up the billion-dollar tech boom around drilling.

Jobs are up, unemployment is down, GDP is 3.7 percent, and Houston is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. Can we say more? Yes, it boasts a $384 billion economy in a multicultural city in one of only seven states without an income tax.

(Watch: What Houston Has to Offer)

While sweltering summer days can be daunting, CNBC's Sullivan asked the mayor how she would persuade a CEO to move to Houston. Parker ticked off the reasons: "Great quality of life, low cost of living, easy regulatory environment […] aggressive entrepreneurial workforce, we have Southern hospitality, you have Western tolerance, international flair, all in one package."

Forbes also happened to rank Houston the "No.1 Coolest City to Live In," and Houston's job growth has been in the Top 10 since 2006.

Many financial experts and entrepreneurs second those sentiments.

Liz Lockwood, private wealth adviser at UBS Financial Services, and Scott Tiras, private wealth adviser at Ameriprise Financial, find many investment opportunities in Houston.

Lockwood said Houston is a diverse city with a broad client base, not just an "oil and gas" city. She cites the health sector and real estate.

Tiras added that oil and gas is the lifeblood of the city, and many of his clients focus on exploration and production.

"They have their concerns," Lockwood said about many of her successful clients. "Their biggest worries are outliving their money. They want an investment plan in place that will provide the best cash flow for the rest of their lives." They are not necessarily focusing on the macro, global economic issues, she said.

Lockwood explained that her financial group works for wealthy individuals and their families.

Non-oil company innovator Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, said he started his technology company in 2005 in Houston because it's where "I live, but there are huge advantages," citing plentiful office space, no state income tax or city tax.

FlightAware, the first company to offer free flight tracking services, provides flight tracking in 45 countries, according to the company. The cost of doing business would be two or three times the amount to do the same work in midtown Manhattan, he added.

"One challenge is facing competition from other start-ups" and established businesses, Baker said, including Facebook's and Google's powerhouse social media. FlightAware currently has 2 million users, according to the company.

— Follow Brian Sullivan on Twitter @SullyCNBC.