My Five Worst Cities for Business Travel
5. Newark. This barely makes the list, for three reasons. One, it's proximity to New York is good. Two, it's transportation system is getting decent. And three, as a city, it's getting better. Kudos to Corey Booker. Still, the accommodation options are bad. The food is generally bad, except the Portuguese restaurants, which are authentic and great. It's dirty, although less so than it has been. It has a depressing feel to it, although less so than in the past. I had offices there with my last company. We moved. I would expect it to leave the list soon. Good luck on that.
4. Columbia, SC. I find Columbia to be a very strange place, although in fairness I stopped going there years ago. Perhaps it's changed. I thought the business climate was mediocre. No transportation system, although it's small. Not particularly pretty to me, although not ugly. Nothing about Columbia was overly bad or overly good.... except the culture. Perhaps this is just because my interaction was with government, but I have never seen so many people (who actually know each other) trying to impress each other about how important they are. It was like an ongoing Saturday Night Live skit. While I was doing business there, the FBI ran a sting operation into corruption in the state government. It was unbelievable. Like a place caught in time. The level of gaming and mistrust was enough to deter most people from wanting to spend much time there. Perhaps it's changed.
3. San Juan, PR. While it has a reputation as a vacation spot, even that is questionable in my mind. But for business, think again. It's dirty, hot, hard to get around, and people never make a decision. The first time I went there on business I thought it was going to be so cool. I got bitten by fleas in the taxi, met with people who were agonizing, via committee, about a deal too small to warrant the flight down, and meetings never, ever started on time.
2. Houston. I have a hard time not putting this first. My experience with Houston has been universally bad. I have had more exposure to unethical business dealings there than anywhere. (And in fairness to Houston, this happens everywhere, and I am not saying everyone in Houston is an unethical businessman, just that my own exposure has painted a horrible picture). It is also dirty, with heat and humidity that is tortuous. The city planning was non-existent. In my past (1990's) dealings there with employees, it had more sex-related HR violations that everywhere else I managed combined. The food can be good, and the accommodations can be good, but not good enough to make me want to go there. And last, some of the people I met that were originally from there and had moved "home" didn't even want to be there.
1. Mexico City. While I wanted to put Houston first, objectivity prevailed. One of the most populated places in the world, the poverty is everywhere. It is dirty, crime ridden, and extremely difficult to get around. When you do, you want to be sure you are using a trusted car service. I have had to commission audits on businesses that were cooking the books. I have flown four and a half hours to attend meetings that senior executives "forgot". Decisions that should take hours seem to take weeks. Projects that should take months take years. Crime was bad, and seems to be getting worse. All that said, there are some lovely parts of Mexico City. There are some truly wonderful people there. Really. But if you are looking for a place to do business, I would probably leave it off the list.