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Houston is the most populous city in Texas, and the fourth most populous city in the United States. With a census-estimated 2014 population of 2.239 million people within a land area of 599.6 square miles (1,553 km2), it also is the largest city in the Southern United States, as well as the seat of Harris County. It is the principal of its metropolitan area Greater Houston, which is the fifth most populated metropolitan area in the United States.
Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou (now known as Allen’s Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city was named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had commanded and won at the Battle of San Jacinto 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established.
The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city’s population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world’s largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.
Houston’s economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. It is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled.
Nicknamed the Space City, Houston is a global city, with strengths in business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, sports, technology, education, medicine and research. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. Houston is considered to be the most diverse city in Texas and the United States.
It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.
The economy of Houston is primarily based on the energy industry (particularly oil); however, biomedical research and aerospace also constitute large sectors of the city’s economy. The Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land MSA’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 was $449 billion, the fourth-largest of any metropolitan area in the United States.
The Houston metropolitan area comprises the largest petrochemical manufacturing area in the world, including for synthetic rubber, insecticides, and fertilizers. The area is the world’s leading center for building oilfield equipment. The city is home to more than 3,000 energy-related establishments, including many of the top oil and gas exploration and production firms and petroleum pipeline operators. As of 2011, 23 companies on the Fortune 500 list have their headquarters in Houston or the surrounding metropolitan region.
The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area ranked 33rd among the nation’s 361 MSAs on per capita personal income at US$36,852, making the figure 11.5 percent higher than the national figure of US$33,050. In 2012, the city was ranked #1 for paycheck worth by Forbes, and, in late May 2013, Houston was identified as America’s top city for employment creation.