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Booming Or Busting: Cities And Regions After The Recession

Who’s hot and who’s not among American cities and regions.  Who’s booming and why on this side of the Great Recession.

Houston's downtown skyline. (Flickr/D.L.)

Houston’s downtown skyline. (Flickr/D.L.)

In so many ways, our gradual national comeback from the Great Recession is unevenly spread.  One of those ways is geographic.  Some cities, towns, regions have bounced back like gangbusters.  Some have not.

If you’ve got a knowledge center, or an energy boom, or a cultural trump card, or some other secret sauce, you’ve got a big leg up.  If you don’t, you’ve got a challenging road.

Richard Florida has been tracking regional up and downs for decades.  Now he’s rolling out the post-bust map of the economic world.

This hour, On Point:  hot and not on the new map of the American economy.

- Tom Ashbrook


Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Management. Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities, and senior editor at The Atlantic. His new piece in the Atlantic is “The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy.”

Karl Dean, mayor of Nashville since 2007.

Closing Segment: Real Estate Check-In

Diana Olick, CNBC real estate correspondent, author of the Realty Check blog. (@diana_olick)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic (Richard Florida): The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy — “Five years after the crash, with the national economy just beginning to return to something resembling normalcy, we can begin to trace the outlines of America’s emerging economic map—and take inventory of the places that are thriving, those that are declining, and those that are trying, in novel ways, to come back.”

The Wall Street Journal: Hiring Spreads, but Only 14 Cities Top Prerecession Level – “Employers are hiring more readily across the U.S., though only 14 of the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas have more jobs now than they did before the 2008-09 recession. Six of them are in Texas, according to researchers at the Brookings Institution, who recently analyzed local economic conditions through the end of 2012. All of the 14 appear to have benefited in some way from a stable employment base, anchored by either universities, government agencies or high-tech hubs, helping residents avoid the worst of the job losses suffered by other areas.”


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  • 2Gary2

    Walker the college drop out has pretty much destroyed Wisconsin.

    • TFRX

      Hey, that’s an insult.

      To college dropouts–many of them have gone on to lead productive lives.

    • William

      It will take him a few more years to undo decades of destruction done by the public sector unions.

      • StilllHere

        Let’s hope he gets a chance to do it.

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    If ever increasing housing prices, on ever decreasing real wage and benefit values are your definition of a comeback, you can keep it ! If employment numbers are rising while illegal immigration is increasing you can keep that lie also. When I see employer after employer hanging, “begging for help “signs in front of their property, then I’ll be yelling; Hoorah !

    Hey, here is an idea; throw the bums out and educate the so called “experts”, on the meaning of true success.

    ( If you have to ask >> you don’t know.)

    • fun bobby

      if you know someone who needs a job let me know

      • Regular_Listener

        Sure, what do you need? Mow your lawn? Trim your hedges? Wash your car?

        • fun bobby

          do you live in New England?

  • Yar

    Does a racial or religious slur in the Mall of Americas connect us to bloodshed in the Westgate Mall in Kenya? The brain is the only organ in our body that can spread disease without exchanging DNA. We are connected to each other and the world through our thoughts. The definition of community has changed, it used to be connection to place, now it is shared ideas. We must return to place as the concept of community and with the idea that diversity is what makes places strong.

    • John Cedar

      Diversity is over rated.

      A slur? Are you sure it wasn’t a You Tube video that makes it our fault again?

      • StilllHere

        Blame YouTube

    • StilllHere


  • John Cedar

    Energy is key to prosperity
    and Texas has lots of energy they are willing to harvest.

    • StilllHere

      We’ve got a lot to learn from Texas!

  • Coastghost

    Tom & Co.: please don’t be coy today. Of all the many undergraduate and graduate students cycled annually through Boston, Inc., where do they wind up? Surely ALL of them don’t remain in the Commonwealth upon graduation. We know full well that many (most?) gravitate as far afield as NYC and DC to help the Northeast Corridor maintain its managerial vigor and sophisticated charm. (No sudden steep declines in enrollments to confess, surely?)

  • J__o__h__n

    Housing (especially rents) costs are increasing faster than wages. Companies that want to take advantage of the talent clustered in cities need to pay employees enough to live there.

  • twenty_niner

    The Scylla and Charybdis (Washington DC and New York) are doing just fine. Both towns are flush with freshly printed Fed bucks, with plenty of jobs spying on Americans and playing Craps at the NYSE.

    • thequietkid10

      Looks like Tom likes your work

  • pauly2468

    Texas is also a state with very high numbers of low-wage workers,uninsured people,underfunded public schools-a Conservative dream of inequality.
    It seems as if this has become a model for success.

    • William

      Too many illegals are killing Texas and the honest hard working citizens that live there. The illegals have flooded the schools and overwhelmed the teachers. The public health care system is swamped with illegals that refused to pay for any services received. The property taxes are actually pretty high but can barely cover the billions lost to illegals destruction of the public school and medical systems.

  • Coastghost

    Particularly in the tech sector, then (the realm of “telecommuting”, the domain of “distance learning”): regionalism continues to trump these heralded advances. If the internet is the engine for economic diffusion as so often claimed and asserted, why do industries supporting its growth and influence still gravitate into (predictable) geographic clusters?

  • Fran52

    Where should a 61-year-old, long-term unemployed architect migrate to, to start over?

    • J__o__h__n

      Sadly, probably Walmart. Businesses don’t want to train and don’t want to hire long-term unemployed.

    • jefe68

      I’m curious, with your abilities why did you not just start your own business?

    • fun bobby

      china. they are building things like gangbusters. they do have a habit of copying plans and building knock off buildings though. perhaps you could design custom doll houses for the children of billionaires? that’s a growing market.

    • StilllHere

      I would consider the public sector within states with growing populations. While public sectors always grow, they grow even more quickly in growing communities. Also, it may be counterintuitive but consider well-established municipalities. I live in one and we are building new libraries, police & fire stations, schools, and other muni buildings like crazy.

  • Kyerion Printup

    As a native Nashvillian that has relocated to Washington, D.C., this boom in Nashville has bee nearly 15 years in the making. It seems to me that it started once the Predators and Titans moved to town. The economy took off and weathered the reception. Mayor Dean has been such a benefit to Nashville as well, and the people are the landscape make it truly a great place. If only they could improve on the public transportation network there, I feel it would be even better. I do realize that it was a sprawl city for so many decades before dense development became the new trend.

  • creaker

    Why is now any different than before? Here in New England we have mill towns and manufacturing towns whose heydays ended decades and decades ago – and they’ve never come back to that.

    The only constant is change.

    • J__o__h__n

      First those jobs went to the low wage, low rights southern states and then even cheaper labor was found in Asia. It isn’t change, it is greed that is constant.

      • creaker

        There are businesses fleeing China because it’s becoming “too expensive” to do business there.

      • StilllHere

        Greedy buyers, always wanting to pay less.

    • jefe68

      Lawrence comes to mind. But on the other hand North Adams seems to have reinvented itself when Mass MoCa opened up.

    • StilllHere

      Bring back the mills.

  • govinda56

    Thank you for not mentioning Oregon!

  • creaker

    60 years ago, the fortunes of the wealthy were dependent on the US working class succeeding.

    They’ve gone global, and their success is no longer tied to ours – our success could even be detrimental to those invested in competing interests overseas, and it would be in their best interest to work against us (us being the US working class).

  • creaker

    We had a 100 year interruption due to socialism, the labor movement, the Depression and two World Wars. But the robber barons are back and pushing things back to where they were back then.

  • Coastghost

    Bloomberg and De Blasio are “angling towards the same thing”? Would either agree with this candid assessment?

  • J__o__h__n

    Foreign investors are paying cash in desirable cities for housing which drives up the prices.

  • creaker

    Keep in mind “the economy” coming back does not mean the US working class coming back with it. China has done double digit growth for years and years, huge increases in wealth and manufacturing, ready to hit the #1 spot in the world economy in a few years – but it hasn’t touched large portions of their population.

    • fun bobby

      it seems like the goal of the elites is to turn America into china. the only right the Chinese people do not have, on paper, is the right to bear arms

      • TomK_in_Boston

        In the never-ending need to translate from righty Newspeak to English, we can’t miss
        “being competitive” = “working for 3′rd world wages and benefits”

        YES! When Americans live in company dorms and get paid barely enough to buy food at the company store, we will be “competitive”. No need to offshore any more! Yea!

        • fun bobby

          both us and the Chinese are being replaced by machines. what do you think we should to stop the chinafication of America?

      • StilllHere

        It’d be easier to move to China, and the dim sum is better.

        • fun bobby

          there is much better Asian food on the west coast

          • StilllHere

            Hard to get good dog though.

          • fun bobby

            I bet our fearless leader knows a great little place

  • homebuilding

    Oklahoma City is a special case in a couple of additional ways:

    (yes, there is the on-going energy related boom)

    I. a special, local property/sales tax scheme is dedicated to enhancing public infrastructure and projects in the core area…..namely, “Bricktown.” It is going very well, and is fueling a gentrification housing boom, unknown, previously. Public art and recreation are a big part, along with entertainment and restaurants, and sports.

    II. the otherwise tax-averse policies has resulted in a 23% cut on public school funding (the largest cut in the nation).

    The latter is NOT without short term and long term consequences. Many of the higher income leaders are segregated in very few wealthy suburbs where the schools are far better than the state average.

    When looking at the general maldistribution of income and resources, here, it’s hard to imagine any movement toward greater equity.

    OK leads in gun ownership, is tops in the incarceration of women, and 4th in incarceration of men…….and the governor and many legislators want to abolish the state income tax so they can be ‘more like Texas!’


  • TomK_in_Boston

    So grateful to live in Boston!!!

    Incredibly exciting biotech and internet startups. Kendall area is amazing. Ultimately all thanks to Government supported research at MIT, Harvard, BU etc. I really hope the rightys in DC don’t kill the golden goose.

    Booming waterfront and new parks evolving on Greenway. It’s beautiful, and ultimately due to Government supported Big Dig that buried the central artery.

    Nice to know the world’s best hospitals are just a taxi or T ride away if you need them, too.

    • fun bobby

      do they still have all those giant rats running around?

      • TomK_in_Boston

        The rat invasion has eased off. I think a lot moved to the Heritage Foundation bldg in DC.

        • fun bobby

          perhaps they were the ones who came up with rombamnycare. I have on more than one occasion looked into the shadows in boston and been like “what is wrong with that cat?” and then realized it was not a cat but in fact an unbelievably large rat. all boston needs to be perfect is for the new police chief to actually follow the firearms licensing laws

    • William

      Did the government pay the family of the woman that got killed when the roof of the big dig fell down? Is it still leaking? Too bad it was so over budget….if they could have used non-union labor it would have been safer and more cost effective for the taxpayers.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        I hope your life gets better, but you probably have to ask for help first.

      • fun bobby

        it would have been more cost effective but we have a mob here that needs its cut, capiche?

  • Agnostic58

    I will believe it when the Fed is out of the bond buying business.

  • Regular_Listener

    So that is the future of the housing market – the 1% buying up all the available properties and holding them, renting them out (at a nice profit of course) to all those unable to purchase on their own. I hope something gets done about that!

    • fun bobby

      buffet was also investing a lot in trailer houses too. you may be able to afford a doublewide

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