Texas Way of Urbanism

Texas cities may well be the cutting edge of American urban life. Here are two videos by Amanda Horvath that reflect the reporting done in the recent Texas Way of Urbanism report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

One of these videos deals with San Antonio, the other Austin.

You Can Grow Your Own Way

A confluence of potent forces is creating an era of localism and decentralization across the planet making local decision-making and action more important than ever before. This is particularly true in the economic realm, where cities and regions must take full advantage of their unique combination of resources, culture, infrastructure, core competencies in industry and agriculture and the skills of entrepreneurs and workers.   

There is no single formula for success for any place in the 21st century. Your economic strategy may need a shot in the arm (or a kick in the butt), a total remodel or perhaps it needs to be meaningfully modernized.

The NewGeography Economic Opportunity & Growth Forum is a one-day strategy event that helps leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs develop strategies for grappling with challenges and seizing opportunities that will propel local growth.

The one-day Forum addresses the basic fundamentals to propel growth including policies that stress essential physical infrastructure, investments in basic and skill-oriented education, and a favorable business environment that facilitates free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Joel Kotkin, an internationally recognized authority on economic and social trends and, a founder and Executive Editor of, begins each forum with a high-level look at consequential trends and circumstances that affect local and regional growth. This is followed by an economic assessment of the local and regional economy and subsequent panel discussions involving key local leaders in business, government, education and the civic sectors.

Each Forum culminates in afternoon strategy sessions that lead to the identification of priorities where enhanced collaboration is needed and action steps are identified for building support and mobilizing resources and talents to put your city or region on a solid growth trajectory.

NewGeography anticipates doing only two to three Forums in the remainder of 2017 so contact us at your earliest convenience to get the ball moving. Download this pdf for more information about how to bring the forum to your community. For e-mail inquiries contact Delore Zimmerman at

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Seattle's Minimum Wage Killing Jobs Per City Funded Study

A report by University of Washington economists has concluded that the most recent minimum wage increase in the city of Seattle is costing jobs. The Seattle Times reported:

“The team concluded that the second jump had a far greater impact, boosting pay in low-wage jobs by about 3 percent since 2014 but also resulting in a 9 percent reduction in hours worked in such jobs. That resulted in a 6 percent drop in what employers collectively pay — and what workers earn — for those low-wage jobs.”

According to the Times, this translates into a pay reduction of $125 per month for a low wage earner. This can be a lot of money, according to a study author, Mark Long, who noted that “It can be the difference between being able to pay your rent and not being able to pay your rent.”

The study also indicated that there were 5,000 fewer low-wage jobs in the city as a result of the minimum wage increase. This is more than one percent of the approximately 440,000 private sector jobs in the city of Seattle in 2015, according to the American Community Survey. It is likely that most of the job losses occurred in the private sector, as opposed to government.

The study was partially funded by the City of Seattle, which enacted the minimum wage increase.


What’s the Matter With Kansas – and Connecticut?

In 2012, the state of Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback passed a large tax cut. Despite this massive fiscal stimulus, the state’s economy actually underperformed the nation during much of the subsequent period and the cuts blew a gigantic $900 million hole in the state’s budget.

Finally the legislature cried uncle. It passed a $1.2 billion tax hike. Brownback vetoed it but the Republican dominated legislature overrode the veto.

Not only did the tax cuts fail to grow the economy, one of the state’s major metro regions, Kansas City, received a gigantic free broadband investment in the form of Google Fiber. Spanning Kansas and Missouri, this investment also failed to produce significant tech growth.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, the state twice raised taxes to address a budget deficit. Unfortunately, these tax hikes did not create long term revenue growth. What’s more, after the most recent rounds of tax hikes, the state experienced a corporate exodus highlighted by GE and Aetna. The state capital of Hartford is also flirting with bankruptcy. Gov. Dannel Malley now admits the state is tapped out on tax increases.

There are a lot of claims one can make out of these situations. I’m only going to point out that both Kansas and Connecticut are out of favor in the marketplace right now. For example, while the suburban office park may not be extinct, it’s certainly facing challenges in high tax settings like New Jersey and Connecticut. Companies like GE are in fact increasingly looking to global city centers for their highest level executives. Connecticut doesn’t have that product on offer and can’t create it. Regarding Kansas, it was likely a low tax state even before the cuts, which did not materially improve its competitive position or instrinsic attractiveness.

It’s simply very difficult to counter these macro forces. When cities were out of favor, even NYC was en route to oblivion. Trying to push on a string often only creates as many problems as solutions.

Grenfell External Fire Erupts After Flat Fire Extinguished?

The Daily Telegraph reported (June 20) that:

"Crews believed they had put out the fire at the London high-rise and were astonished to see flames rising up the side of the building, new reports have claimed."

"But, soon after, the 24-storey building was consumed by flames in one of Britain's biggest ever tower block fires that left at least 79 people dead."

The paper continued that: " Those reports will add weight to claims that it was the cladding on the exterior of Grenfell Tower that caused the fire to spread so rapidly."

The entire Telegraph article can be read at:

The fire's death toll is now at 79. covered the fire ("The Grenfell Fire: A Litany of Failures?").


The New American Heartland

How can Middle America tap into its potential to drive the nation’s economy?

At "The New American Heartland" forum, hosted by the City Club of Cleveland, J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, discussed the economic and cultural challenges facing Middle America. Decline in civic institution participation, drug addiction, and childhood trauma hit lower-income communities higher than anyone else. The key to lifting these communities up is to create economic opportunity because, as Vance explained, “…a good job isn’t just a paycheck, a good job is about having a community, a good job is about going to work and doing something that’s meaningful and dignified…” The source of that opportunity in our country comes from small, but high-growth start-ups, which are largely based on the coasts. However, industries based in the Heartland, such as transportation and energy, are prime for similar innovation which in turn would spur job growth.

Joel Kotkin and Michael Lind, authors of The New American Heartland: Renewing the Middle Class by Revitalizing Middle America report, define the “New American Heartland” as the region between the Appalachians and the Rockies, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. This region holds about half of the country’s population with the power to propel the whole nation’s economy forward. The Heartland’s lower cost of living, high-paying manufacturing employment, and productive power has the potential to foster the middle class and fuel economic growth across the United States.

It is time to change the narrative about Middle America.

Watch the City Club of Cleveland's video of the event here and read a recap, from Peter Krouse of, here.


California's Fading Promise: Millennial Prospects in the Golden State

Homeownership continues to be the most important part of the American dream for millennials, but California's rising house prices continue to force them out of the state.

This video is part of the larger report "California's Fading Promise: Millennial Prospects in the Golden State", conducted by Joel Kotkin and Chapman University researchers, in partnership with the California Association of Realtors.

Fading Promise: Millennial Prospects in the Golden State

This is the introduction to a new report published by the Chapman University Center for Demographics and Policy titled, “Fading Promise: Millennial Prospects in the Golden State.” Read the full report (pdf) here.

Along with the report, a new video from Chapman University and the California Association of Realtors talks about the housing crisis in California. Watch it here.

Throughout much of American history there was a common assumption that each generation would do better than the previous one. That assumption is now being undermined. The emerging millennial generation faces unprecedented economic challenges and, according to many predictions, diminished prospects.

These problems are magnified for California’s millennials. Their incomes are not higher than those in key competitive states, but the costs they must absorb, particularly for housing, are the highest in the country. Their prospects for homeownership are increasingly remote, given that the state’s housing prices have risen to 230 percent of the national average.

The long-term implications for California are profound. The lack of housing that can be afforded by middle-income households—particularly to buy—has driven substantial out-migration from the state. California has experienced a net loss in migrants for at least the last 15 years. This includes younger families—those in their late 30s and early 40s—which is the group most likely to leave the state. For every two home buyers who came to the state, five homeowners left, notes the research firm Core Logic.

Over the next decade, as the majority of millennials reach these ages, the long-term implications for employers and communities are profound. Rising house prices and rents are already impacting employers, including in Silicon Valley. High prices can also mean a rapidly aging population, something that is likely to sap the economic potential and innovation in our communities.

Many of California’s problems are self-inflicted, the result of misguided policies that have tended to inflate land prices and drive up the cost of all kinds of housing. Since housing is the largest household expenditure, this pushes up the cost of living.

California still has the landmass and the appeal to power opportunity for the next generation. It is up to us to reverse the course, and restore The California Dream for the next generation.

Read the full report here.

Ryerson University Research Cites Urban Containment Policy as Major Factor in Toronto House Price Escalation

A Globe and Mail article on April 25 cites Ryerson University research found that Ontario's urban containment based growth controls have "spurred soaring increases in house prices in the Toronto region by limiting construction of new low-rise family homes..." This effect was predicted by a number of analysts when the program was being formulated more than a decade ago and has been associated with huge price increases relative to incomes in such widely distributed metropolitan areas as Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Sydney, Auckland, Melbourne and others.

According to reporter Janet McFarland, the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development report identified “'a marked mismatch” between the types of units completed and the types demanded, according to the report from the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University in Toronto." The report concludes that "The public discussion on the fundamental causes behind the rise in prices of ground-related housing (singles, semis and townhouses) in the GTA over the past decade by ignoring or downplaying the role played by the shortfall of serviced sites available to build new homes misses the only viable solution to dealing with deteriorating longer-term affordability – significantly increasing the number of new ground-related housing units built."

Over the 13 years of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Toronto's housing affordability has substantially worsened, with median prices at 3.8 times median incomes in 2004 (before the growth controls were fully implemented) to 7.7 times in 2016. This measure, the "median multiple," had changed little between 1970 and 2004, when land use regulations were more liberal in the Toronto area.

Without liberalization of the housing market to permit supply that meets demand (not only in numbers but also in preferred type of housing), Toronto can expect its house prices to rise even more. Already, Vancouver and Sydney, for example are more than 50 percent higher (at median multiples of 11.8 and 12.2 respectively).


Former Hawaii Democratic Governor Urges Trump to Stop Funds for Honolulu Rail

A full page ad in today’s Washington Post (April 21, 2017) featured former Democratic Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano asking President Trump to stop further funding for the Honolulu rail project. The project has ballooned in cost from $5 billion to $10 billion, with most of the funding coming from local sources. There are serious concerns about the ability of Honolulu or Hawaii to afford completion of the project. Cayetano says that the line will be the most costly in the world. A proof of the ad is below and a pdf is available here.

Several articles have followed this issue:

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