Let's Snooker The TARP Babies


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?


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 »

New Towns and New Lives in the Country


Back in the 1950s when I was growing up, pundits worried a lot about automation and the problem of leisure in a post-industrial society. What were the American people going to do once machinery had relieved them of the daily burden of routine labor? Would they paint pictures and write poetry? Armchair intellectuals found it hard to imagine.

It was the age of Ozzie and Harriet, when ordinary working and middle-class families could aspire to a house in the suburbs and a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids. Today, of course, that popular version of the American dream is a thing of the past, especially the part about a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids.  read more »

Main Street Middle America: Don’t Get Mad, Get Ahead


Like many on Main Street Paul Goodpaster is angry. Paul is my banker friend in Morehead, a retail, medical and education hub on the edge of eastern Kentucky. He observed that his bank was doing quite well – albeit hurt now by rising unemployment and an economy starting to have an impact even on those unglamorous places that had minded their business well.  read more »

Where are the Best Cities for Job Growth?


Over the past five years, Michael Shires, associate professor in public policy at Pepperdine University, and I have been compiling a list of the best places to do business. The list, based on job growth in regions across the U.S. over the long, middle and short term, has changed over the years--but the employment landscape has never looked like this.

In past iterations, we saw many fast-growing economies--some adding jobs at annual rates of 3% to 5%. Meanwhile, some grew more slowly, and others actually lost jobs. This year, however, you can barely find a fast-growing economy anywhere in this vast, diverse country. In 2008, 2% growth made a city a veritable boom town, and anything approaching 1% growth is, oddly, better than merely respectable.  read more »

Borderline Reality


For years, economic and social observers have taken to redrawing our borders to better define our situation and to attempt to predict the future. Maybe you thought the global financial meltdown has raised anxiety levels in the United States quite enough. But a Russian professor’s decade old prediction of national disintegration suggests much worse on the way.  read more »

Kansas City and the Great Plains is a Zone of Sanity


Over the past year, coverage of the economy appears like a soap opera written by a manic-depressive. Yet once you get away from the coasts – where unemployment is skyrocketing and economies collapsing – you enter what may be best to call the zone of sanity.

The zone starts somewhere in Texas and goes through much of the Great Plains all the way to the Mexican border. It covers a vast region where unemployment is relatively low, foreclosures still rare and much of the economy centers on the production of basic goods like foodstuffs, specialized equipment and energy.  read more »

SPECIAL REPORT - Domestic Migration Bubble and Widening Dispersion: New Metropolitan Area Estimates


Returning to Normalcy

The Bureau of the Census has just released metropolitan and county population estimates for 2008, with estimates of the components of population change, including domestic migration. Consistent with the “mantra” of a perceived return to cities from the suburbs, some analysts have virtually declared the new data as indicating the trend that has been forecast for more than one-half a century. In fact, the new population and domestic migration data merely indicates the end of a domestic migration bubble, coinciding with the end of the housing bubble.  read more »

Why We Need A New Works Progress Administration


As the financial bailout fiasco worsens, President Obama may want to consider a do-over of his whole approach towards economic stimulus. Instead of lurching haphazardly in search of a "new" New Deal symphony, perhaps he should adapt parts of the original score.

Nothing makes more sense, for example, than reviving programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA), started in the 1935, as well as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), begun in 1933. These programs, focused on employing young people whose families were on relief, completed many important projects – many still in use today – while providing practical training to and instilling discipline in an entire generation.  read more »

Cash, Not Pretense: An Entrepreneur's Guide to the Credit Crisis.


Compared with most businessmen, 41-year-old Charlie Wilson has some reason to like the economic downturn. President of Salvex, a Houston-based salvage firm he founded in 2002, Wilson has seen huge growth in the bankruptcy business over the past year. It is keeping his 10-person staff, and his 55 agents around the world, busy.  read more »