Houston is known globally for its key role in the energy, aerospace, and healthcare industries, and it’s a major global transportation hub. Over the last several years, the city has also experienced tremendous growth in other key areas, including the technology and innovation sector.
Aside from its economic power, Houston is one of the nation’s largest and most diverse cities, and it’s also a United hub that we’ve proudly served for more than 70 years, now through George Bush Intercontinental Airport. As the city’s largest employer, we want to make a difference in this community where we live, work, and fly, so last month we announced our partnership with Ion, Houston’s hub for innovation and transformation.
Located in Ion District, the Ion building is the centerpiece of Houston’s innovation corridor. The beautifully revived building—the former home of the iconic Sears showroom, which was itself a modern marvel when it debuted in 1939—is now a sunlit structure of steel and glass designed to bring Houston’s entrepreneurial, corporate, investor, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs.
As part of United’s focus on sustainability and becoming 100% green by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets, our United Airlines Ventures team is dedicated to finding new and emerging technologies in the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) space. For United, the connection with the Ion was clear: It is an ideal place not only to share our expertise but to listen and learn from others who are championing innovative and sustainable solutions for the future of flying.
“As a company that’s both deeply committed to innovation and to the city of Houston, we share Ion’s vision for this new district and are proud to collaborate with them,” says United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen. “We believe the Ion will be the epicenter for Houston’s rapidly growing innovation community—a one-stop shop to share ideas, foster start-ups, and develop relationships with Houston’s brightest companies and academia.”
United Airlines Ventures Managing Director Andrew Chang, a native Houstonian tasked with leading the recently announced Sustainable Flight Fund, adds that “Houston is at the forefront of the energy transition, industrial biology, and technology and manufacturing, with differentiated knowledge and networks across all three disciplines coming together at the Ion.”
This partnership follows several recent investments by United in Houston, including updates to the Terminal C lobby and our new Early Baggage System facility at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Our $32 million Inflight Training Center expansion project supports our plan to hire and train a total of 15,000 people in 2023, including 4,000 flight attendants. Furthermore, United is a Gigawatt Partner of Green- town Labs Houston, the largest climate tech incubator in the world, which is accelerating the clean-energy transition and is located within Ion District.
“The Ion is not just for entrepreneurs and investors,” says Jan Odegard, Executive Director of the Ion. “It is also for the curious mind.” Hundreds of events and programs are open to the public throughout the year, including NASA tech talks, workshops such as “How to Start a Startup,” and monthly block parties. To see everything the Ion has to offer, visit iondistrict.com.