Houston the place to be as confidence returns

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It was nicknamed Space City and has developed a reputation the globe round for being the home of Nasa.

In 1967 Houston welcomed the Manned Spacecraft Centre and the city’s name officially became a code word used by astronauts when communicating from outer space.

But it’s what lies beneath the ground and not above it that has attracted thousands of Aberdonians to Texas for the last 50 years.

Founded in 1969, Houston’s annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) has helped label the city Oil and Gas Capital of the World.

And now, half a century later, businessmen and women from around the north-east continue to flock to the event which opens today.

But what is it about the conference which continues to draw the crowds from Scotland and in particular how do professional services benefit?

Employees from lawyers Burness Paull have been attending the event for more than 35 years.

Brian Archer, business development director at the firm, said the annual pilgrimage is now “critical” to ensure the company is well informed about what is going on in the sector. But, more importantly, he said it puts them in touch with key contacts which has led to business around the globe.

He said: “Attending OTC for us is about knowing what’s going on right now, it is critical for understanding that because it’s where the top people gather and answer the important questions like where are we right now and where is the industry going.

“It is certainly the number one oil and gas conference in the world. So a big part of it, from our point of view, is being part of the conversation where those important questions are being asked, decisions are being made and relationships are being formed. It is important to be a part of that.”

Mr Archer, who is attending the event for the third year in a row, said their “core objective” during the trip is to make connections for their clients who want to establish their business across the pond.

He added: “By attending the conference we have established the professional services connections but also the industry connections to give them (clients) a real head start but also critically get them to the advice that they need for that region.

“We don’t offer legal services in Houston but we offer to work with the best placed partner here in order to give them the local advice so essentially they get the same level of service they expect from us here.”

Mr Archer said the contacts the firm has made over the years has resulted in them securing more business from US-based oil and gas companies who may be interested in doing business in the UK.

He added: “Over a given period work with a Houston element can make up 15-20% of our Aberdeen team’s activity. I can say that we will probably constantly have someone in the office here doing a piece of work for one of our Houston-based clients. In several cases we can draw a straight line between relationships that were started or nurtured during OTC and work we have secured for the firm. Our intention in visiting is to support our clients, also why we partner with The Press and Journal on the breakfast to give that opportunity for our clients to network and hear the latest from industry live from OTC.”

From 2014-15 Aberdeen and Houston were stung by the oil and gas downturn. And according to OTC veterans this was noticeable in terms of mood at the conference and attendance from the north-east.

However as the sector turns a corner numbers are liable to rise with more than 60,000 delegates expected this week

Mr Archer added: “I think last year there was more optimism than in 2017 when I felt people were unsure about opportunities and they weren’t sure if they would see the return in investment. I think this year people are believing there are opportunities and that’s why there will be much more positivity and increased attendance from Aberdeen and OTC this year.”