Houston: Model City

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Do cities have a future? Pessimists point to industrial-era holdovers like Detroit and Cleveland. Urban boosters point to dense, expensive cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Yet if you want to see successful 21st-century urbanism, hop on down to Houston and the Lone Star State.

You won’t be alone: Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the U.S. save the city’s similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past decade Houston’s population has grown by 24%–five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York. In that time it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the U.S., while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration.
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So Much for Europe’s Superiority

Appearing in:

The Daily Beast

For much of the last quarter century, European pundits, particularly in France, have been promoting the notion that the old continent sat on the verge of a grand resurgence. The events of the past month—culminating in a trillion dollar rescue of the Euro—should, at least, put that dodgy notion to rest.

Although the financial crisis may have originated on Wall Street, it’s been Europe and the Euro that now represent the big threat to drive world markets back into recession. The show stealers are India, China and Brazil. Still the big boy on the block, the American economy is growing, albeit not spectacularly.

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Growing America: Demographics and Destiny

Appearing in:
Governing

Over the next four decades, American governments will oversee a much larger and far more diverse population. As we gain upward of 100 million people, America will inevitably become a more complex, crowded and competitive place, but it will continue to remain highly dependent on its people’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

In 2050, the U.S. will look very different from the country in 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium. By mid-century, the U.S. will no longer be a “white country,” but rather a staggering amalgam of racial, ethnic and religious groups, all participants in the construction of a new civilization whose roots lie not in any one country or continent, but across the entirety of human cultures and racial types. No other advanced, populous country will enjoy such ethnic diversity. Read more

The Worst Cities For Jobs

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In this least good year in decades, someone has to sit at the bottom. For the most part, the denizens are made up of “usual suspects” from the long-devastated rust belt region around the Great Lakes. But as in last year’s survey, there’s also a fair-sized contingent of former hot spots that now seem to resemble something closer to black holes.

Two sectors have particularly suffered worst from the recession, according to a recent study by the New America Foundation: construction, where employment has dropped by nearly 25%, and manufacturing, which has suffered a 15% decline. The decline in construction jobs has hit the Sunbelt states hardest; the manufacturing rollback has pummeled industrial areas such as the Great Lakes as well as large swaths of the more recently industrialized parts of the Southeast.
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The Best Cities For Jobs

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

This year’s “best places for jobs” list is easily the most depressing since we began compiling our annual rankings almost a decade ago. In the past–even in bad years–there were always stalwart areas creating lots of new jobs. In 2007’s survey 283 out of 393 metros areas showed job growth, and those at the top were often growing employment by at least 5% to 6%. Last year the number dropped to 63. This year’s survey, measuring growth from January 2009 to January 2010, found only 13 metros with any growth.

Mike Shires at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, who develops the survey, calls it “an awful year.” Making it even worse, the source of new jobs in almost all areas were either government employment or highly tax payer-funded sectors like education and health. This year’s best-performing regions were those that suffered the smallest losses in the private economy while bulking up on government steroids.

So far the recovery has favored the government-dominated apparat and those places where public workers congregate.After all, besides Wall Street, public-financed workers have been the big beneficiaries of the stimulus, with state and local governments receiving more than one-third of all funds. Public employment grew by nearly 2% over the past three years, while private employment has dropped by 7%.

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Beyond the Census: America’s Demographic Advantage

Appearing in:

Newsweek

As the nonstop TV commercials have made clear, the U.S. Census Bureau really hopes you’ve sent back your questionnaire by now. But in reality, we don’t have to wait for the census results to get a basic picture of America’s demographic future. The operative word is “more”: by 2050, about 100 million more people will inhabit this vast country, bringing the total U.S. population to more than 400 million.

With a fertility rate 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany, or Japan, and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, and virtually all of Eastern Europe, the United States has become an outlier among its traditional competitors, all of whose populations are stagnant and seem destined to eventually decline. Thirty years ago, Russia constituted the core of a vast Soviet empire that was considerably more populous than the United States. Today, Russia’s low birthrate and high mortality rate suggest that its population will drop by 30 percent by 2050, to less than one third that of the United States. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of “the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation.” Read more

The Heartland Will Play a Major Role in America’s Future

Appearing in:

Omaha World Herald

One of the least anticipated developments in the nation’s 21st-century geography will be the resurgence of the American Heartland, often dismissed by coastal dwellers as “flyover country.”

Yet in the coming 40 years, as America’s population reaches 400 million, the American Heartland particularly the vast region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi will gain in importance.

To fully appreciate this opportunity, Americans need to see the Heartland as far more than a rural or an agricultural zone. Although food production will remain a crucial component of its economy, high-tech services, communications, energy production, manufacturing and warehouses will serve as the critical levers for new employment and wealth creation. Read more

Jobs Will Rule November

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Health care lays behind him, financial reform and climate change ahead, but for President Barack Obama–and his opponents–there is only one real issue: jobs. The recent employment reports signal some small gains, yet the widespread prognosis for a slow, near-jobless recovery threatens the president and his party more than any major domestic challenge.

Tea party activists and conservative ideologues often link the president’s dwindling popularity to an overreach on health care, but it all boils down to the old Clintonian adage: It’s the economy, stupid. Health care reform is simply too complex and its long-term effects too unknowable to be a winning issue for either side.

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Immigrants Key to Economy’s Revival

Appearing in:

Politico.com

In Washington on Sunday, the tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding immigration reform looked like the opening round of the last thing the country needs now: another big debate on a divisive issue.

Yet Congress seems ready to take on immigration, which has been dividing Americans since the republic was founded.

But identifying immigrants as a “them,” as both their advocates and nativists do, misses the point. Immigrants — and their children — are the people who will help define the future “us.” They are also critical to the revival of the U.S. economy.

This is particularly true on the entrepreneurial frontier. Read more

Welcome to Ecotopia

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle–largely approvingly–the emergence of a future green nation along the country’s northwest coast.

Aptly described by Callenbach as “an empire apart,” this region is, in real life, among the world’s most scenic and blessed by nature. Many in this part of America have long been more enthusiastic about their ties to Asia than those with the rest of the country. It is also home to many fervent ecological, cultural and political activists, who often feel at odds with the less enlightened country that lies beyond their soaring mountains.

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