The Houston metro consists of 10 counties — San Jacinto, Austin, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers, Harris, Montgomery, Liberty and Waller — and has a population of 6.2 million. Houston is the largest city, with nearly 2.2 million people, followed by Pasadena and Pearland.
Houston is third among metros nationwide in the number of Fortune 500 headquarters, behind only New York City and Chicago. The Houston metro is the headquarters for 25 Fortune 500 companies in industries such as energy, transportation and technology. Corporations on the list include ConocoPhillips, Sysco and Marathon Oil. In addition, many other Fortune 500 companies maintain administrative headquarters in the area. Of the world's 100 largest non-U.S.-based corporations, nearly half have nonretail operations in Houston.
Houston is the center of the U.S. petroleum industry. The metro leads the nation in petrochemical manufacturing and refining and ranks highly in manufacturing agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. Houston is also the world’s primary producer of oil-field equipment. Other products manufactured in Houston include paper, electrical and electronic machinery, iron, and steel. Houston's economy is diversifying as industries such as biotechnology, distribution, logistics, and nanotechnology expand.
Healthcare is gaining prominence in the local economy. Specialized education and training institutions provide an extraordinary economic resource in the metro. World-renowned for its pioneering work in organ transplants, the Texas Medical Center is comprised of 15 hospitals and three medical schools. It has an economic impact of approximately $14 billion annually, employing more than 93,500 people.
The Port of Houston is one of the country’s busiest for exports and foreign trade and is in the process of upgrading its facilities to handle the larger supertankers that will come through the widened Panama Canal. Significant trading partners include Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China and Germany. The port directly supplies thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in business revenue.
The Houston MSA encompasses a 10-county region at the head of the Houston Ship Channel, which links the city to the Gulf of Mexico. The area’s terrain is level and drains into a number of bayous and canals. Growth has sprawled into nearby counties, primarily to the north and west, making Houston the fifth largest metro in the nation.