Checking in On the Gulf of Mexico, America’s Third Coast

By: D. Dowd Muska
This article first appeared in Newsday

Despise the culture and public policies of the nation’s coasts? You’re overlooking something: the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2012, Joel Kotkin observed that the U.S. “economy, long dominated by the East and West coasts, is undergoing a dramatic geographic shift” toward “the urbanized, broadly coastal region spanning the Gulf from Brownsville, Texas, to greater Tampa.” Crowning it an “emerging … center of industry, innovation and economic growth,” the scholar speculated that “the Third Coast could become one of the major forces in 21st-century America.”

The trends Kotkin documented seven years ago haven’t stopped, or slowed.

Houston, which The Atlantic noted was “the first major city to regain all the jobs” it lost during the Great Recession, is the Gulf’s economic juggernaut. The urban area’s population ballooned by 17.7 percent between 2010 and 2018. Job creation is equally impressive — since Houston climbed its way back to its pre-Great Recession peak, employment has increased by more than 20 percent.

Who’s moving to Texas’ second-biggest burg? All kinds of people. In 2017, a Los Angeles Times profile found that “stunning growth and high-volume immigration” were turning Houston into “the most racially and ethnically diverse major metropolis in the country.” (“It’s really surprising to see a place like this in the South, where you consider it to be racist and xenophobic,” a high schooler from Ethiopia told reporter Brittny Mejia. “Stereotypes of Texas don’t apply here.”)

Read the rest of the piece at Newsday.