Economics

The Successful, the Stable, and the Struggling Midwest Cities

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The Midwest has a deserved reputation as a place that has largely failed to adapt to the globalized world. For example, no Midwestern city would qualify as a boomtown but still there remain a diversity of outcomes in how the region’s cities have dealt with their shared heritage and challenges. Some places are faring surprisingly well, outpacing even the national average in many measures, while others bring up the bottom of the league tables in multiple civics measures.  read more »

Housing Downturn Update: We May Have Reached Bottom, But Not Everywhere

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It is well known that the largest percentage losses in house prices occurred early in the housing bubble in inland California, Sacramento and Riverside-San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Phoenix. These were the very southwestern areas that housing refugees fled to in search of less unaffordable housing in California’s coastal metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose).  read more »

Let's Snooker The TARP Babies

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Snook, Texas, a town of less than 600 souls, is best known for being the home of Sodalak's Country Inn, the originator of country fried bacon. It may seem an odd place to launch a return to financial health, but that's exactly what Dean Bass has in mind.

Bass, a veteran banking entrepreneur from Houston, in November bought the tiny First Bank of Snook as part of his plan to build a new financial powerhouse amid the worst economic downturn in a generation. The old bank, which also had a branch 15 miles away in College Station, home to Texas A&M, provided Bass with his charter, as well as access to a strong market on the far periphery of his home town.  read more »

Who will win the Car-wars?

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General Motors, the venerable American auto manufacturer is sitting on the cliff’s edge in North America with a recent 3-month loss of $6 billion. However, GM watched its sales in China skyrocket 50% for the month of April, 2009. Ironically, Toyota, the company many Americans now cheer for, has posted a $7.7 billion loss for the first quarter.

This now proves, without a doubt, that the auto industry – not just in the US – is going through a massive crisis. But it’s clear that American manufacturing has reached a critical, historical turning point.  read more »

Austin's Secrets For Economic Success

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Few places have received more accolades in recent years than Austin, the city that ranked first on our list of the best big cities for jobs. Understanding what makes this attractive, fast-growing city tick can tell us much about what urban growth will look like in the coming decades.

Austin's success is not surprising since, in many ways, it starts on third base. Two of its greatest assets result from the luck of the draw; it's both a state capital and home to a major research university.  read more »

Cap and Trade: Who Wins, Who Loses

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President Obama recently announced his plan for environmental protection and Congress took up the debate. Called “Cap and Trade” Obama explained it simply in several public appearances. The government puts a limit on the total amount of carbon emissions that are acceptable in the United States. Carbon emissions come, basically, from burning carbon-based fuels – natural gas, petroleum and coal – in the production and use of energy.  read more »

Lessons from Chrysler and the Nationalized Economy

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Economists and accountants could very likely have told us six months ago that Chrysler was doomed as a business and that the likely best course of action would be Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring. Doing this in a timely manner would have saved the taxpayers billions of dollars.

But the politics were not right to permit this to happen at that time. So instead we invested billions of tax dollars to save it, only to find ourselves right back were we started. Except now the clock is striking twelve and it is the right time to reorganize the automaker – politically speaking.  read more »

Credit Cards Flash At The White House

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Back in the 1980s, Citibank CEO John S. Reed looked at the bank’s earnings and said, more or less: This is really a credit card company with six other lines of business. That is, the card portfolio was making lots of dough, and carrying the rest. Commercial lending, real estate lending, clearing, foreign exchange, branch banking — all of them were flat or losing money, while the card business was cooking.  read more »

Here in the Real World They’re Shutting Detroit Down

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a city at the heart of the American continent, General Motors produced cars, like Pontiac’s “Little GTO,” celebrated in Beach Boys songs that captured the thrill of driving Detroit’s latest creations. Today, as GM struggles to appease the government’s auditors just to stay alive, Kris Kristofferson, with a little help from Mickey Rourke, curses the financial wizards from Wall Street that are “Shutting Detroit Down” while “livin’ it up in that New York town.”  read more »

The Worst Cities for Job Growth

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One of the saddest tasks in the annual survey of the best places to do business I conduct with Pepperdine University's Michael Shires is examining the cities at the bottom of the list. Yet even in these nether regions there exists considerable diversity: Some places are likely to come back soon, while others have little immediate hope of moving up. (Please also see "Best Cities For Job Growth" for further analysis.)

The study is based on job growth in 336 regions – called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data – across the U.S. Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)