Orlando

Report from Orlando: The Spirit Rocks On

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By Richard Reep

“In hard times, people turn to God or alcohol” jokes Bud Johnson of Constructwire, a database that tracks planning and construction projects nationwide. Johnson, 50, is an industry veteran and has never seen a recession like this in his career. “This is an exceptionally broad-based downturn,” he says, “and Orlando has been hit harder than most in the South, what with your only real industries being housing and tourism.” Both industries have been trapped like mammoths in a glacier as the credit market stays stubbornly frozen in a modern banking Ice Age.  read more »

The White City

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Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.  read more »

Live by the Specialty, Die by the Specialty

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By Richard Reep

Regions have a bad habit of getting into ruts. This is true of any place that focuses exclusively on one industry – with the possible exception of the federal government, which keeps expanding no matter what. This reality is most evident in places like Detroit, but it also applies to one like Orlando, whose tourist-based economy has been held up as a post-industrial model.  read more »

Confronting Street Art

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By Richard Reep

Street art has been around since ancient times, with the triple theme of craft, sabotage, and branding. Paris’ “Blec le rat” and New York’s Taki 183 were early pioneers in street art. Today, street art has spread into nearly every city with artists, media, and collectors. Skateboards, tattoos, stickers, and spray paint are but a few examples of the craft of the street. The adrenalin rush an artist feels in executing his work is augmented by the urban thrill of working at night, rushing to leave behind a signature before the police come. The chief aim of most street art is branding, as the artist’s main form of expression is to create a recognizable personal logotype.  read more »

Urban Backfill vs. Urban Infill

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By Richard Reep

Wendell Cox recently reported on the state of so-called “urban infill” efforts, and analyzed which cities are experiencing an increase in their density. This report shows some surprising trends. Cities such as Pittsburgh, which claim to be successful at “infilling”, are actually dropping in density, in part because of low birth rates and lack of in-migration.  read more »

Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs

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Media coverage of America's best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you're seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive "business and professional services" sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms.  read more »

Downtown Character and Street Performers

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By Richard Reep

Carmen Ruest, Director of Cirque de Soleil, recently revealed her start as a street performer, or busker, in Canada. The interviewer did not hesitate to contrast this with the current state of Downtown Orlando, which forbids street performers. Eliminating this ban will improve Orlando's urban consciousness, both downtown and elsewhere, and improve the city in general.  read more »

Life After Sunrail

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With their tails between their legs, Central Florida’s leaders returned from Tallahassee in early May without funding from the Florida Senate for Sunrail, the region’s proposed commuter rail system. This failure to convince the state Senate to fund Sunrail is a major political defeat for the 1.8 million people who were said to be served by this train.  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.)

Can Sacred Space Revive the American City?

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By Richard Reep

During most business downturns, nimble private business owners search for countercyclical industries to which they adapt. During this business downturn, the construction industry finds itself frantically looking for anything countercyclical. Private construction, almost completely driven by the credit market, has stopped, and public construction, driven by tax revenue, has also stalled. Religious institutions, however, seem to be continuing incremental growth and building programs, giving evidence to some people’s answers to spiritual questions being asked today.  read more »