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Trump Eyes Crackdown on Homelessness as Aides Visit California

Westlake Legal Group 10dc-homeless-facebookJumbo Trump Eyes Crackdown on Homelessness as Aides Visit California Urban Areas United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Los Angeles (Calif) Homeless Persons Executive Orders and Memorandums California Affordable Housing

WASHINGTON — President Trump is pushing aides to find ways to curtail the growing number of homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles, part of broader discussions his aides have held for weeks about urban problems in liberal locales, according to his personal lawyer and administration officials.

A team of administration officials is in California on what was described as a “fact-finding” mission as they weigh proposals to address the burgeoning crisis. But it is not clear what steps the administration could legally take on an issue that has traditionally been handled at the local level.

“Like many Americans, the president has taken notice of the homelessness crisis, particularly in cities and states where the liberal policies of overregulation, excessive taxation and poor public service delivery are combining to dramatically increase poverty and public health risks,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. He said that the president signed an executive order to ease affordable housing development in June, and that he had “directed his team to go further and develop a range of policy options for consideration to deal with this tragedy.”

The visit of the administration officials to California was first reported by The Washington Post. The intensified discussions took place as the president, who has frequently criticized how urban areas in Democratic states are managed, prepares for a swing through California next week.

California has the largest homeless population in the country, according to a 2018 report compiled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at an estimated 130,000 people.

And the nature of homelessness in California is markedly different than in other parts of the country; the state also has the highest percentage of homeless who are unsheltered, with nearly 70 percent of the homeless — or about 90,000 people — living on the street. That report estimated that nearly half of all people without shelter in the United States were in California in 2018. New York State had the second largest homeless population, nearly 92,000, according to the report. But of those, fewer than 5 percent lacked shelter.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York, who was known for his aggressive crackdowns on street-bound homelessness, said he had been discussing the issue with administration officials.

“I think they feel that there’s got to be something that creates an incentive, carrot and stick, for cities to do something about it,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that the discussions had been going on for two months.

Word of the efforts by the administration, which has repeatedly sought to cut housing assistance in its budget requests, alarmed advocates for the homeless and angered city leaders across California.

“Simply cracking down on homelessness without providing the housing that people need is not a real solution and will likely only make the situation worse,” said Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, whose city has been an object of the president’s scorn.

An estimated 59,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County, according to a count conducted this year by the county, about a 12 percent increase over 2018. Of those, an estimated 44,000, or 75 percent, were unsheltered. Within the city of Los Angeles, which is distinct from the county, there were 36,000 homeless, including 27,000 who were unsheltered, according to that same count.

Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric M. Garcetti, and other political leaders faced intense scrutiny this summer after the release of the results of the 2019 count, which also showed that the number of homeless had increased 16 percent in the city. The surge was especially shocking because the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2018 to address the problem.

Voters approved two high-profile initiatives in recent years to fund homeless services in the region, including a 2016 city bond that earmarked $1.2 billion to build housing for the homeless and a 2017 county quarter-cent sales tax increase to raise about $355 million annually for 10 years. The mayor’s defenders and city officials have pointed out that the city housed nearly 22,000 people in 2018, a record number for the government and an increase of 23 percent from 2017. But even amid those efforts, the high cost of housing in Los Angeles, one of the priciest rental markets in the country, has continued to push more individuals and families out of their homes.

While Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles has often been a focal point for national conversations about homelessness, the high rate of unsheltered people has become a source of friction across the state, in cities including Eureka, Oakland and San Francisco. With nowhere else to go, the homeless often set up encampments on sidewalks and beneath highway overpasses. Increasingly, encampments are nestling against wild lands, raising concerns amid increasingly intense and volatile wildfire seasons.

But while the displeasure of middle-class urban residents often receives attention, the homeless themselves — many of whom have full-time jobs but cannot afford California’s high rents — have the most to be frustrated about. Safety is a huge concern: An analysis published earlier this year by Kaiser Health News found that a record 918 homeless people died last year in Los Angeles County.

The administration has discussed refurbishing homeless facilities or building new ones, The Post reported. An administration official said that while those ideas have been discussed, nothing has been settled.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Nobel-Winning Economist Goes to Burning Man

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. — It was dusk on the opening night of Burning Man, and the makers and misfits were touching up their art projects and orgy dens. Subwoofers oontz-oontzed as topless cyclists draped in glowing LEDs pedaled through the desert. And Paul Romer, a reigning laureate of the Nobel Prize in economics, sat on a second-story porch at the center of it all, marveling at a subtlety of the street grid.

The roads narrowed as they approached small plazas around the impermanent city. How clever, he thought, this way of funneling pedestrians toward gathering places. And most Burners probably didn’t even notice — what with the art projects and orgy dens.

“It’s just like every other city,” Mr. Romer said. “Except in this other way, it’s like no city ever.” White-haired and 63, he was dressed in black gear he’d bought at R.E.I., figuring black was the thing to wear at Burning Man. It was the first time that Mr. Romer, the former chief economist of the World Bank, had attended the annual bacchanal.

A week earlier, there was hardly anything here, in the remote desert of northwest Nevada. Then tens of thousands of people had just shown up, many in the middle of the night. They had formed an instant city, with a road network, and a raucous street life, and a weird make-do architecture.

It was an alluring sight for an economist who has talked of building cities from nothing. And Burning Man has been more and more on Mr. Romer’s mind lately, as world politics have made him gloomier. He is ill at ease behaving like a traditional academic. He’s not particularly interested in publishing papers. He doesn’t want to give speeches cheerleading his field. But he believes winning the Nobel has expanded his possibilities. More people will listen to what he has to say, if he can just decide where he wants to direct our attention.

Maybe it’s here.

Mr. Romer came to the desert imagining himself as an objective outsider: de Tocqueville among the Burners. But Black Rock City started to rub off on him. One morning, a man who called himself Coyote, who was responsible for surveying the city’s streets, took Mr. Romer around. At the far edge of town, they found a roller coaster that looked likelier than most things at Burning Man to harm you. It was designed for one fool at a time, strapped into an oversized car seat that shot down one side of a 31-foot wooden U shape and up the other.

Mr. Romer, surprising himself, walked up to it.

“Should I do this?” he asked Coyote. “If you kill a Nobel Prize winner, it’s on you.”

Then he climbed the stairs to the top of a contraption that had been constructed just days before, in a city with no building codes. Heavy metal was blaring. Mr. Romer was trussed into place. A guy with “PEE HERE” painted on his back took his glasses. And then someone gave him a push.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158948373_942c3ebf-7a33-4791-84d8-264fb7707672-articleLarge A Nobel-Winning Economist Goes to Burning Man Urban Areas Romer, Paul M Economics (Theory and Philosophy) Burning Man Festival

Dawn in Black Rock Desert, Nev., last month, on the spot where Burning Man would soon be set up.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

Burning Man, to catch up the uninitiated, takes place for a week in the Nevada desert every August into early September. Thousands of avant-garde revelers come to bend their minds, shed their clothes and incinerate a large wooden effigy. The event is tamer than it used to be, with more Silicon Valley types and fewer anarchists, but it’s still wild territory for a staid academic.

Mr. Romer, who appreciates a bit of shock value, has been showing aerial images of the city in public talks about urban growth for several years. The world, he says, needs more “Burning Man urbanization.”

By 2050, developing-world cities are projected to gain 2.3 billion people. Many of those people will move to makeshift settlements on the edge of existing cities, tripling the urbanized land area in the developing world.

“To be a little grandiose about it, this is a really unique moment in human history,” Mr. Romer told me last year. “We’re likely to decide in this time frame what people are going to live with forever.”

Urbanization in the developed world has largely come to an end; nearly everyone who would move from farmland toward cities already has. This century, the same mass migration will run its course across the rest of the world. And if no one prepares for it — if we leave it to developers to claim one field at a time, or to migrants to make their way with no structure — it will be nearly impossible to superimpose some order later.

It will take vast expense, and sweeping acts of eminent domain, to create arterial roads, bus service, trash routes, public parks, basic connectivity.

That prospect agitates Mr. Romer, because the power of cities to lift people out of poverty dissipates when cities don’t work. To economists, cities are labor markets. And labor markets can’t function when there are no roads leading workers out of their favelas, or when would-be inventors never meet because they live in gridlock.

Mr. Romer’s answer is to do with this moment what Burning Man does every summer: Stake out the street grid; separate public from private space; and leave room for what’s to come. Then let the free market take over. No market mechanism can ever create the road network that connects everyone. The government must do that first.

The history of the Manhattan street grid, drawn in 1811 over all the land from Houston Street to 155th, offers similar lessons. But Mr. Romer fears that Manhattan sounds like a chauvinistically American example. And so when skeptics say that it will be too hard to plan for large new waves of urbanization, he says this instead: “Look at Burning Man! They grow to 70,000 people in one week.”

And then 70,000 people go home, and they do it all over again the next year. The planning requires no major expense, he argues. He’s not talking about laying sewer lines, or even paving the roads. Just draw the street grid on the open desert.

When he first proposed this to me — Burning Man as template for the next urban century — I asked if he had ever, well, been to Burning Man.

He had not. And so we made two trips there in August: first to see the city surveyed, then a few weeks later to camp in it. He would see firsthand if his provocative argument held up.

At Burning Man, order underlies the chaos. Streets are exactly 40 feet wide; plazas steer people into common spaces; the 430 fire extinguishers around town each have their own QR code.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

Mr. Romer’s logic is connected in a roundabout way to the work that won him the Nobel. Macroeconomists used to think about the world by tallying up quantifiable stuff: capital, labor, natural resources. They weren’t sure how to account for ideas. But Mr. Romer, in a seminal 1990 paper, showed that ideas were central to progress. His model of economic growth incorporating them enabled economists to ask entirely new questions about the modern “knowledge economy”: Where do ideas come from? How do they spread? Why are cities such hotbeds for creating them?

By the late aughts, Mr. Romer was sure that cities were the urgent subject of the 21st century. He had a new idea: “charter cities” that would be built in the developing world but governed by nations with more advanced economies and more rules protecting, say, property rights and independent judges. He was picturing British-era Hong Kong, replicated 50 times over.

Some developing-world politicians were intrigued. Critics cried neocolonialism. Libertarians largely misread Mr. Romer’s intentions: They saw new territory where capitalists could shrug off government rules. To Mr. Romer, the idea was about seeding the right government rules.

The proposal forced Mr. Romer to learn the mechanics of cities. He persuaded N.Y.U. to create a new institute devoted to them, and two planning experts gave him an education. Shlomo Angel taught him the foundation of good street grids. Alain Bertaud gave him a framework: Urban planners design too much, while economists cede too much to the market. The answer lies in between — in drawing the street grid on the desert.

“The beauty of the mind of Paul is that he sees patterns where we don’t see them, because he sees patterns across examples which have nothing to do with each other,” Mr. Bertaud said.

Mr. Romer looked at the Manhattan street grid, the imagined charter city, Black Rock City. He was doing this even in his short tenure at the World Bank, where he worked from 2016 to early 2018. He took the job quietly hoping to persuade the institution to back a new city. (It did not.)

In all of this, Mr. Romer has been creeping further from the economists toward the urban planners. By the time he got to Burning Man in August, he was thinking of himself as a University of Chicago-trained economist, once indoctrinated in the almighty free market, now in open revolt against his roots.

Burning Man is an even better model for Mr. Romer’s purposes than he knew. The event began in 1986 as a rejection of rules: There was no central authority, no prohibitions, no assigned camping spots.

In the early years on the Black Rock Desert, after the event outgrew Baker Beach in San Francisco, people brought fireworks and guns. They raced through the desert night with headlights off. They fired hunting rifles from moving vehicles at vacant cars.

“A lot of people — and I was one of them — thought that Burning Man was about this crazy feeling you could have, being with really creative people that are all anarchists, and there is no order, and it’s just amazing what can come out of that,” said Harley K. Dubois, who attended those early years. “And what came out of that was some people getting hurt.”

The 1996 plan for Black Rock City.CreditBurning Man Foundation This year’s plan.CreditBurning Man Foundation

In 1996, a man on a motorcycle playing chicken with a large vehicle was killed. Then a rave set up two miles north of the main camp got out of hand. Three people inside tents were run over and seriously injured.

The Bureau of Land Management kicked the event off public land. Longtime participants split over whether a more organized Burning Man could be Burning Man at all.

Today, the event’s six “founders” are the people who reconstituted Burning Man after 1996, including Ms. Dubois. The anarchists drifted away. And the founders created a street grid, an early version of what would become a semicircular city with all arterial roads converging on a giant, flammable male figure in the center.

They “invented a sense of superordinate civic order — so there would be rules, and structure, and streets, and orienting spaces, and situations where people would feel a common purpose together; where people could become real to one another,” Larry Harvey, one of the founders, recounted in an oral history before his death last year.

“It had gone beyond a bit of pranksterism in the desert,” he said. “We had made a city, and no one wanted to take responsibility for it.”

To Mr. Romer, this was a teachable moment. “Anarchy doesn’t scale!” he said.

Most of the structure that has been added since feels invisible to the people who come: the streets that are surveyed to be exactly 40 feet wide, the plazas that steer people together without crowding them, the 430 fire extinguishers around town, each tracked by its own QR code.

The goal now, one planner explained to Mr. Romer, is to make Black Rock City just safe enough that people can joke about dying without actually dying.

The office where all the signs are made for Black Rock City.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times A view outside the Burning Man staff quarters.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

“It’s a metaphor for my sense of economics,” Mr. Romer said. “I picture an economist showing up at Burning Man and saying: ‘Oh, look! This is the miracle of the invisible hand. All of this stuff happens by self-interest, and it just magically appears.’ And there’s this huge amount of planning that actually is what’s required beneath it to make the order emerge.”

On this point, the economist and the Burners kept converging: Freedom requires some structure, creativity some constraints. But it was becoming clear there was more to the structure and constraints at Burning Man than Mr. Romer imagined. As he learned that, he inched even further toward the urban planners.

After 1996, the founders also began putting up a fence around the city, a pentagon with perfectly straight sightlines. Nominally, it is a “trash fence,” catching debris before it blows into the desert. But it also defines the edge of the city, so that it is possible to stand at the boundary line and stare out into an open desert uncluttered by tents or plywood art. The fence is an urban growth boundary. It is as much about keeping out interlopers as keeping people in.

The Black Rock Desert is one of the flattest places on earth. The land demands that you drag race. It is the perfect setting to shoot off rockets. The desert then returns any mischief right back, playing tricks on people who come.

Three weeks before Burning Man began, Mr. Romer and I drove 100 miles north from Reno to the tiny nearby town of Gerlach, then 15 more miles north onto the parched mud of the playa, arriving, at last, at precisely the spot in the middle of nowhere where the man statue would stand.

Over the city’s center point, Coyote had set up a theodolite, a surveying instrument he used to locate 6,000 small red flags that marked the city’s street grid. The flags made their own mirage of disorder in every direction. But if you caught them at just the right angle, future streets came into view.

Paul Romer surveying the land that would become Black Rock City. At right: Coyote.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

It had taken a crew of about 20 people, sleeping under the stars, a week to survey the city. “I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m staring into the Milky Way, and I realize that it’s moved — oh wait, I’m the one who moved,” Coyote said. “Some people come out here just for the survey.”

When I had first explained this spring that I wanted to come out to the desert with a famous economist to see the parts of Burning Man people take for granted, no one was surprised. Two years ago, word of one of Mr. Romer’s talks at the World Bank mentioning Black Rock City had found its way to people here. They were equally curious about him.

Mr. Romer’s nerdy interest delighted everyone. He recited details of their city plan, photographed their traffic cones and accepted one of their wooden street pegs as if it were an honorary degree.

“I think they have some experience in doing this that’s maybe unique in the world,” he said the next day at dawn. He was watching a crew raise the trash fence, their pile drivers ringing like cowbells across the desert.

A fence crew working at dawn to set up the boundary for the city.

Mr. Romer was beginning to incorporate these characters into his thinking. What they do here is a model for any place with few resources but just enough volunteers to survey new neighborhoods on the urban periphery. But on a grander scale, if he ever persuades someone to build a new city, maybe the people to call are at Burning Man.

Before we left town on that first trip, we visited Will Roger and Crimson Rose, two other Burning Man founders who have a home in Gerlach. In their living room, Mr. Romer sat in a leather armchair opposite Mr. Roger. A lineup of small animal skulls looked over his shoulder from the shelf behind him.

Mr. Roger warned Mr. Romer that he had decided he didn’t like cities. At least, not those in what he called the “default world,” away from Burning Man.

“All the energy and the helter-skelter and lack of connection to the earth, the energy of all those humans compressed into one space implodes on my own spirit, on my own sense of who I am,” Mr. Roger said.

This is a funny thing to say to an economist. Helter-skelter is a decent description of the force from which economists believe ideas emerge. When people live close to one another, rather than close to the land, they hatch plans, they trade services, they discuss terrible ideas until they eventually arrive at good ones.

This is more or less what happens at Burning Man, too. But other cities have become symbols of greed and consumption, Mr. Roger said. And that greed is killing our Earth Mother.

“I think I have some of the same anxieties, but I’m coming to the view that it’s the market which is the danger, not the city,” Mr. Romer said.

“I’m afraid economists have really been serious contributors to this problem. This whole ideology of ‘government is bad, government is the problem’ has I think provided cover for rich people and rich firms to take advantage of things for their selfish benefit.”

He has been trying to figure out how to atone for that. As Mr. Romer’s conversation with Mr. Roger took on the air of a therapy session, I got the impression that he had also come to the desert to work through his angst with economics.

Mr. Roger, sympathetic, poured him his first taste of kombucha.

Survey flags marked a future road in Black Rock City.CreditAlex Welsh for The New York Times

Three weeks after the survey, Mr. Romer and I returned. The dusty streets were now clearly defined as the space between what people had invented: at one intersection, a “passport office” for Burners who wanted to record their adventures around Black Rock City. On another corner, a troupe of fire performers from Canada was camped, and on another a half-dozen drivable pieces of art were parked. There was also a row of 36 portable toilets, and behind that, “Brand-UR-Ass N More,” a camp where it was possible to get both a drink and a faux branding of the Burning Man logo.

While we were standing at the intersection, a man in a great beard and a blond wig approached with a hug. Levi, 35, was part of a camp running a 24-hour bar up the street, and we learned that he had lately been riding motorbikes across Africa but was about to apply to graduate school to study cognitive science.

Levi, who did not know whom he was talking to, mentioned to Mr. Romer that his hero was Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 winner of the Nobel in economic sciences.

“Well, I won the Nobel prize last year,” Mr. Romer said. “So Danny is a fellow laureate.”

Levi’s face lit up, and we then spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the neighborhood talking about economics and human behavior and scarcity. Nearly everything in Black Rock City is effectively free. But you’re supposed to respond with some type of gift to the people around you: a piece of advice, a turn in a hammock, a hot dog.

At Levi’s bar, we were given cups of something cold and orange and alcoholic. Mr. Romer, in a comparable act of generosity, then offered Levi his email address. He would happily write a recommendation for grad school, he said. Levi, floored, went in for another hug.

Theirs was exactly the kind of encounter that a city generates, over and over again, until someone gets into grad school, and someone else finds a job, and someone else begins to earn more than $2 a day.

Dust clouds swept across Black Rock City. Within another week, all of this would be gone.CreditEmily Badger/The New York Times

In Mr. Romer’s Nobel lecture, he implored people to think of cities, especially in the developing world, as places where people get the benefits of interacting with one another. A global economy built on ideas no longer has to be zero-sum, he argued. Everyone can use ideas at the same time. Someone living in America benefits if someone in India becomes better off and invents a vaccine.

But we have to make the cities viable first, in this moment when it’s still possible to draw what they might become.

“If we take a pass on this,” he warned, “the opportunity will be gone.”

He did not mention Burning Man. But that was before he saw the place in person.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Within sight of a couple of huge brick smokestacks, looming witnesses to a past built on tobacco and powered by coal, there is something weirdly out of place about Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

It is run by Dr. Anthony Atala, lured to town 15 years ago from his perch at Boston Children’s Hospital to oversee a group of scientists engineering lab-grown organs for human transplants. For the city, his institute represents an opportunity to leap from an industrial past into the future.

Dr. Atala comes up in conversation all the time: with the head of the Chamber of Commerce, with the mayor, with the executive director of the Venture Cafe, where entrepreneurs come to network. His institute was one of the early residents of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a research-focused district in the downtown cigarette factories that R.J. Reynolds abandoned long ago.

And yet like a spaceship parked in a pasture, Dr. Atala’s institute underscores how far Winston-Salem has yet to go from its manufacturing past — as a thriving center of the tobacco, textile and furniture industries — to become a biotech center.

Dr. Anthony Atala in his lab at Wake Forest University.CreditCaitlin Penna for The New York Times An investigation of how ultraviolet light affects human skin cells at the Bioprinting Bench at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.CreditCaitlin Penna for The New York Times

For all the wonders in Dr. Atala’s lab, Winston-Salem is not keeping up with the nation’s larger cities. Even after adjusting for its lower living costs and subdued inflation, income per person declined to 90.9 percent of the average for metropolitan areas in 2017, from 93.7 percent in 2008, government statistics show.

“Desperation may be too strong a word,” said Nathan Hatch, the president of Wake Forest University, a focal point of Winston-Salem for more than half a century. “But this is not a self-generating place. We have to be very aggressive and creative.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00convergence10-articleLarge Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities Winston-Salem (NC) Wake Forest University Wages and Salaries Urban Areas Labor and Jobs Income Inequality Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends

Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1944.CreditGabriel Benzur/The Life Images Collection, via Getty Images

Winston-Salem’s predicament reflects a larger social and economic challenge: the widening gap between a limited set of successful cities — which draw both highly educated workers seeking well-paid jobs and high-tech companies that want to employ them — and pretty much everywhere else.

This new pattern of economic development amounts to a fundamental break from the decades after World War II, when poorer and generally smaller cities were catching up with richer, bigger places. In recent years, this convergence stopped. Many midsize cities and small towns that found manufacturing-based prosperity in the 20th century have lost their footing in the tech-heavy economy of the 21st.

The End of Convergence

From 1960 through 1980 less-affluent counties experienced faster economic growth than their richer peers. This process of convergence has stopped.

Westlake Legal Group 0715-biz-web-CONVERGENCE-Artboard_2 Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities Winston-Salem (NC) Wake Forest University Wages and Salaries Urban Areas Labor and Jobs Income Inequality Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends

Over 2 million

CIRCLES SIZED

BY COUNTY

POPULATION:

1 to 2 million

500,000 to 1 million

Annual growth in median household income

from 1960 to 1980

20,000 to 500,000

Under 20,000

Poorer, smaller

counties grew faster

Richer, bigger counties

grew more slowly

Median household income in 1960 (in thousands)

Annual growth in median household income

from 1980 to 2016

In recent decades, the income gains of larger and smaller places

have shown little difference.

Median household income in 1980 (in thousands)

Westlake Legal Group 0715-biz-web-CONVERGENCE-Artboard_3 Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities Winston-Salem (NC) Wake Forest University Wages and Salaries Urban Areas Labor and Jobs Income Inequality Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends

Over 2 mil.

CIRCLES SIZED

BY COUNTY

POPULATION:

1 to 2 mil.

500,000 to 1 mil.

20,000 to 500,000

Under 20,000

Annual growth in median household income

from 1960 to 1980

Poorer, smaller

counties grew faster

Richer, bigger

counties grew

more slowly

Median household income in 1960 (in thousands)

Annual growth in median household income

from 1980 to 2016

In recent decades, the income gains

of larger and smaller places

have shown little difference.

Median household income in 1980 (in thousands)

By The New York Times | Source: The Hamilton Project

What happened? The cheaper labor that smaller metropolitan areas offered, attracting investment when factories ruled, no longer has much pull. The companies now leading the economy gravitate toward big cities where they can find clusters of highly educated workers and attract more. Amenities — bars, yoga studios, restaurants — follow. So does venture capital. Housing costs rise, making it tougher for workers in lower-paying jobs to stay.

The shifting economic geography is also altering domestic migration, which once helped to close the economic gap between rich and poor places. Rich urban enclaves like New York and Silicon Valley are bringing in affluent, highly educated young people but pushing out many residents who are older, less educated and less well-to-do. On the other end, the populations of many smaller cities, including Winston-Salem, are growing even as incomes fall behind.

Many other small and midsize areas that were once gaining ground economically are similarly falling behind, including Bangor, Me.; Monroe, Mich.; and Greensboro, N.C. Even the Lexington-Fayette region in Kentucky, home to the largest Toyota plant in the world, is losing ground.

Falling Behind

Many small and middling metropolitan areas are not keeping up with their larger peers.

Westlake Legal Group 0715-biz-web-CONVERGENCE-PART-TWO-Artboard_2 Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities Winston-Salem (NC) Wake Forest University Wages and Salaries Urban Areas Labor and Jobs Income Inequality Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends

Average annual personal income per capita,

in thousands

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

GREENSBORO, N.C.

LEXINGTON, KY.

U.S. metropolitan

area average

LOUISVILLE, KY.

MONROE, MI.

BANGOR, ME.

Westlake Legal Group 0715-biz-web-CONVERGENCE-PART-TWO-Artboard_3 Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities Winston-Salem (NC) Wake Forest University Wages and Salaries Urban Areas Labor and Jobs Income Inequality Factories and Manufacturing Economic Conditions and Trends

Average annual personal income per capita,

in thousands

Winston-Salem, N.C.

Greensboro, N.C.

U.S. metropolitan

area average

Louisville, Ky.

Lexington, Ky.

Monroe, Mi.

Bangor, Me.

Note: In current dollars

By The New York Times | Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Each place has its own story. Many of Bangor’s paper and lumber mills went out of business as Chinese imports surged and construction slowed. Monroe lost its Ford stamping plant and many of its auto suppliers. Greensboro, like Winston-Salem, declined along with employment in the tobacco industry.

The critical question is whether midsize cities are doomed to stagnation. Can Winston-Salem hitch its future to new engines of economic growth? With its Innovation Quarter and its Institute for Regenerative Medicine, it wants to say yes. But it doesn’t really know.

The metropolitan area’s population of 670,000 is growing. Some 45,000 jobs have been added since the trough of the Great Recession nine years ago. Zillow rates the housing market as pretty cheap, but “very hot.” At 3.8 percent, the unemployment rate is roughly in line with the national average.

The overall picture, however, suggests an uphill struggle. Private-sector employment is barely higher than it was in 1999. The median wage is $16.87 an hour, almost $2 below the national average. The poverty rate is higher.

Winston-Salem has been overshadowed within North Carolina by the Raleigh-Durham area, an early success in building a research-driven economy, and Charlotte, a financial hub. The last time that the Winston-Salem area had a higher income per person than Raleigh, 100 miles to the east, was in 1977. By 2017, Raleigh was ahead by 22 percent.

R.J. Reynolds, now a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, still has its headquarters in Winston-Salem, but automation has displaced most of the workers. The apparel giant HanesBrands sent most of its manufacturing work abroad long ago. The furniture industry has been hard hit by Chinese imports. All told, the metropolitan area has lost almost half its factory jobs since 1993.

A former R.J. Reynolds factory overlooks downtown Winston-Salem.CreditCaitlin Penna for The New York Times

High-profile efforts to bolster the city’s economy fell short. Dell, given a multimillion-dollar incentive package from state and local authorities, opened a plant in 2005 but closed it four years later, laying off more than 900 workers.

Then Caterpillar came, also lured by local incentives, but it has not met its original target of 510 full- and part-time jobs. Currently, it has around 160, down from a peak of more than 400. Bank headquarters have left: Wachovia in 2001, when it was bought by First Union; BB & T in 2019, when it merged with SunTrust. Krispy Kreme, the doughnut company, is moving corporate operations to Charlotte and food-production services to Concord.

The city made a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. But though Amazon will build a fulfillment center in nearby Kernersville, where FedEx runs a distribution hub, Winston-Salem didn’t make the short list for HQ2. “If you go down the Amazon checklist, it requires all the things that we don’t have,” said Koleman Strumpf, a professor of economics at Wake Forest. “We don’t have mass transit. No Amtrak. No good airports. It’s not a walkable city. It doesn’t have great amenities.”

If any middling city can make a transition to a technology-centered future, however, Winston-Salem should. It is home to five universities, including Wake Forest, an institution that enrolls four out of its five students from out of state. Transplanted to Winston-Salem in the mid-1950s under the Reynolds family’s patronage from its original site near Raleigh, the university has a leading medical school, which it hopes will anchor a biotech ecosystem.

“The top talent is going to go to the coasts, no doubt about that,” said Graydon Pleasants, head of real estate development for the Innovation Quarter. “But there are plenty of smart people who will come here.”

Winston-Salem State University and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts jointly support a Center for Design Innovation, which has an advanced motion-detection studio for animation and virtual-reality productions.

Forsyth Tech, the local community college, also tries to draw companies to the area, promising to provide the skills they need. To entice Caterpillar, for instance, Forsyth bought sophisticated machinery to create the simulated working environment the company wanted.

Students practice threading at Forsyth Tech Community College.CreditCaitlin Penna for The New York Times From left, Robi Lambert, 40, program coordinator and instructor, shows student Matt Tucker, 31, how an ultrasound works for welding at Forsyth Tech Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C.CreditCaitlin Penna for The New York Times

“It was a big investment for the college,” said Alan Murdock, Forsyth’s vice president for economic and work force development. Another offering is a cybersecurity training program. And Forsyth is setting up a center at a small local airport to train workers in aerospace technologies, potentially seeding a drone industry.

While Winston-Salem lacks many of the amenities Amazon was seeking, city leaders claim it has plenty of selling points: a low cost of living, a lively downtown and uncongested streets among them. The sources of venture capital are more limited than in California, but the investment goes further. And there is a greater opportunity to stand out.

At the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, researchers have created skin and cartilage, urethras and bladders. I saw an artificial heart valve, opening and closing, made from human cells. Dr. Atala hopes one day to build complex, solid organs like kidneys or livers.

“One concern I had was whether we would be able to recruit talent as well here as we could in Boston,” he said. “Truth is we can recruit better.” Twenty people joined Dr. Atala in his move to Winston-Salem. Now his institute employs some 450, heavy on Ph.D.s.

Other tech entrepreneurs have settled in Winston-Salem. David Mounts considered Atlanta and Dallas before deciding to put the headquarters for his tech services company, Inmar, in the Innovation Quarter, where 900 of its 4,500 employees work. “It is easier to create innovation consortia between businesses, academia and government in a small city that understands innovation as a team sport,” he told me. In big cities, he said, there are simply too many parties with divergent interests.

But Mr. Mounts also recognizes the challenge. Everybody has to pull together. As Mayor Allen Joines said, “We have no choice.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The ‘Texas Miracle’ Missed Most of Texas

LONGVIEW, Tex. — On the eastern plains of Texas, local leaders are trying to stop the bleeding of talent to the bright lights of Dallas and Austin. They are sprucing up downtown, completing 10 miles of walking trails, investing in parks and schools and making other improvements that they hope will entice young workers to stay and help this part of the state finally claim a share of the Texas Miracle.

Few parts of America have nurtured faster job growth than Texas in the years since the 2008 financial crisis, in what is now the longest sustained economic expansion in American history. But that growth has largely left cities like Longview in the dust. No state — not even California, long held up as the embodiment of America’s widening geographic inequality — has seen a larger post-recession divergence between its elite cities and everywhere else.

Nearly all of the net growth in jobs and new businesses in Texas over the last decade, Labor Department data show, has been concentrated in four large metropolitan areas — Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Those areas accounted for more than four out of every five jobs created in the state since the recession ended, their populations swelling with surges of young and talented workers. Collectively, the four saw double the rate of job growth as the rest of Texas.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156683412_6e030199-0b77-4f2c-a964-ab6b5965edea-articleLarge The ‘Texas Miracle’ Missed Most of Texas Urban Areas United States Economy Longview (Tex) Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Economic Innovation Group Economic Conditions and Trends Dallas (Tex) Brewers Assn Austin (Tex)

North Center Street in Longview. Few parts of America have nurtured faster job growth than Texas in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. But that growth has largely left cities like Longview behind.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

A similar geographic inequality is playing out in other places in America, alarming officials at the Federal Reserve. While the latest jobs report showed the economy’s continued strength after 10 years of expansion, the effects have been uneven, with the wealthiest parts of the country reaping a disproportionate share of the gains. The economy has evolved toward more technology and service jobs, favoring areas with highly educated workers and high-end professional service industries — and leaving smaller, traditionally blue-collar towns like Longview at a disadvantage.

While the richest neighborhoods in Texas’ most dynamic cities have grown much richer as the recovery wore on, the poorest parts of the state fell even further behind. The Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank, sorts ZIP codes across the country on a five-point scale, with “prosperous” at the top and “distressed” at the bottom. Research from the group found that from 2008 to 2016, the most prosperous ZIP codes in Texas — heavily concentrated in those star metro areas — accounted for more than two-thirds of the state’s net growth in jobs and business establishments.

More than two million Texans live in ZIP codes that fell from “at-risk,” which is the second-lowest group, to “distressed” over the same period. A majority of those ZIP codes are rural; many of them lie in areas that rely disproportionately on the volatile oil and gas industries and lack economic cushions when energy prices fall and drilling slows.

“In the last 10 years,” said Kelly Hall, the president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, “we saw young professionals like my son, they graduate from college and where do they go? Megacenters. Austin, Dallas, San Francisco.”CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

“It’s certainly not a rising-tide-lifting-everybody story,” said John Lettieri, the president of the Economic Innovation Group. “The gains are not being segregated in other states in the way that they are in Texas.” In the Texas economy, he added, “it’s superstar cities, and then it’s rural and everybody else.”

Longview falls squarely in “everybody else,” but its leaders are optimistic they can move up. The city of 81,000 people is the center of a metropolitan area of 220,000 near the Louisiana border. It gained jobs after the recession but lost all of them when oil prices fell through 2015 and 2016. Small businesses started to go under. The Chamber of Commerce lost 33 members in one year alone.

There were only 1,800 more jobs in the Longview area in April than there were 10 years ago, according to the Labor Department, an annual growth rate of less than 0.2 percent. Gregg County, which includes Longview, lost more businesses than it created from 2012 to 2016, the innovation group’s data show.

Longview’s leaders are sprucing up downtown, completing 10 miles of walking trails, investing in parks and schools and making other improvements that they hope will entice young workers to stay. CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Population in the Longview metro area grew by about 2 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to the Census Bureau. Austin’s grew by 26 percent. In a sort of proxy statistic for young urban professionals, Austin added 33 new breweries from 2013 to 2018, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group.

Longview added one.

“In the last 10 years,” said Kelly Hall, the president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, “we saw young professionals like my son, they graduate from college and where do they go? Megacenters. Austin, Dallas, San Francisco.”

Economic distress and the struggle to bring in young talent are linked, economists say. “You need to have so many things to be able to get to where you need to be to attract people and businesses,” said Pia M. Orrenius, a vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “One of the things you need is the work force. A place like Longview, it’s a little bit harder to compete.”

John Oglesbee, left, and Jack Buttram secured a lease in what had been a sleepy corner of Longview and opened Oil Horse Brewing — the city’s first and, to this point, only brewery — in May 2016.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Manufacturing, energy and health care jobs dominate in the Longview metro area. Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Longview is the largest employer in the city. Still, the median income and the share of adults with a college degree both fall well below the state average.

Longview’s leaders are trying to change that. Mayor Andy Mack, an oral surgeon, won election on a platform of wooing the city’s college-educated children back to town. He pushed for passage of a $104 million bond package that funded parks, schools and infrastructure, including the walking paths. He’s happy to tell you how affordable a starter home here is.

“We have everything you need in Longview,” Mr. Mack said recently, after a luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that focused on community health. “We have plentiful land. We have adequate water, which most places don’t have. We have everything you need. All we need is for people to realize that we’re here now.”

Silver Grizzly Espresso, a cavernous cafe that has opened up across the street from Oil Horse Brewing.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

A few years back, Jack Buttram and his wife, Sarah, realized Longview did not, in fact, have everything they wanted. The list of what was lacking started with good, local beer, Mr. Buttram, who was at the time an avid home-brewer, said in a recent interview. “It pretty much came down to, we’re either going to move to Colorado, where all the stuff we love already exists,” he said, “or we were going to stay here and make some stuff that we love happen.”

They stayed. Mr. Buttram teamed up with a friend, John Oglesbee, who ran a medical billing company but dreamed of something hoppier. They put together a business plan, lined up some financial backers and secured a lease in what had been a sleepy corner of a sagging downtown. They opened Oil Horse Brewing — the first and, to this point, only Longview brewery — in May 2016. Demand was so strong, the men said, they were constantly running out of beer. They have since increased their production.

Many of their customers had never consumed craft beer before, and come in asking for the closest thing to Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra. “People are just terrified of hop bitterness,” Mr. Buttram said.

Buildings along East Methvin Street. No state — not even California, long held up as the embodiment of America’s widening geographic inequality — has seen a larger post-recession divergence between its elite cities and everywhere else than Texas.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Mr. Oglesbee said “it’s going to be extremely difficult” to attract a wave of craft-loving young professionals to town. “Longview was, and probably will be for a long time, extremely blue-collar,” he said. “We are going to need to grow our industry that’s white collar. I don’t know if Longview is there.”

There is a worry among some business leaders in Longview that the white-collar workers now live in cities that don’t share their values. “Their whole culture is different,” said Vicki D. Jones, an entrepreneur here who runs a boutique for women undergoing cancer treatment. She returned to Longview after college in Las Vegas and also runs a store in Dallas. “Their economy is different, their beliefs are different.”

Ms. Jones’s and others’ hope is that Longview can sell a particular type of young worker on a mix of the values they grew up with, with just enough of the big-city amenities to make a smaller town attractive. At Oil Horse, they host monthly theological debates, over beer.

Josh Black grew up in Longview, went to college at Baylor, in Waco, and finished law school in 2009. He married a woman who grew up outside Dallas. But he had a job offer in Longview, and nine years ago, persuaded his wife to return to his hometown.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Sometimes the appeal succeeds. Josh Black was just the sort of young talent that Longview has grown accustomed to losing. He grew up here, went to college at Baylor, in Waco, and finished law school in 2009. He married a woman who grew up outside Dallas. His friends were all settling there, or in Austin or Houston. But he had a job offer in Longview, and nine years ago, he persuaded his wife, Libby, to return to the city of his childhood.

In Longview, he said in an interview here, in a cavernous espresso cafe that has opened up across the street from Oil Horse, “we could make a splash, do big things for the community.”

The biggest splash was buying his own business, a title company, from an older friend from church who had reached retirement age.

He and his wife still miss the restaurants of Dallas, and they would love to get something like a Whole Foods in town. But when they visit the big city, Mr. Black said, they’re always glad to come back home.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The ‘Texas Miracle’ Missed Most of Texas

LONGVIEW, Tex. — On the eastern plains of Texas, local leaders are trying to stop the bleeding of talent to the bright lights of Dallas and Austin. They are sprucing up downtown, completing 10 miles of walking trails, investing in parks and schools and making other improvements that they hope will entice young workers to stay and help this part of the state finally claim a share of the Texas Miracle.

Few parts of America have nurtured faster job growth than Texas in the years since the 2008 financial crisis, in what is now the longest sustained economic expansion in American history. But that growth has largely left cities like Longview in the dust. No state — not even California, long held up as the embodiment of America’s widening geographic inequality — has seen a larger post-recession divergence between its elite cities and everywhere else.

Nearly all of the net growth in jobs and new businesses in Texas over the last decade, Labor Department data show, has been concentrated in four large metropolitan areas — Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Those areas accounted for more than four out of every five jobs created in the state since the recession ended, their populations swelling with surges of young and talented workers. Collectively, the four saw double the rate of job growth as the rest of Texas.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156683412_6e030199-0b77-4f2c-a964-ab6b5965edea-articleLarge The ‘Texas Miracle’ Missed Most of Texas Urban Areas United States Economy Longview (Tex) Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Economic Innovation Group Economic Conditions and Trends Dallas (Tex) Brewers Assn Austin (Tex)

North Center Street in Longview. Few parts of America have nurtured faster job growth than Texas in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. But that growth has largely left cities like Longview behind.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

A similar geographic inequality is playing out in other places in America, alarming officials at the Federal Reserve. While the latest jobs report showed the economy’s continued strength after 10 years of expansion, the effects have been uneven, with the wealthiest parts of the country reaping a disproportionate share of the gains. The economy has evolved toward more technology and service jobs, favoring areas with highly educated workers and high-end professional service industries — and leaving smaller, traditionally blue-collar towns like Longview at a disadvantage.

While the richest neighborhoods in Texas’ most dynamic cities have grown much richer as the recovery wore on, the poorest parts of the state fell even further behind. The Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank, sorts ZIP codes across the country on a five-point scale, with “prosperous” at the top and “distressed” at the bottom. Research from the group found that from 2008 to 2016, the most prosperous ZIP codes in Texas — heavily concentrated in those star metro areas — accounted for more than two-thirds of the state’s net growth in jobs and business establishments.

More than two million Texans live in ZIP codes that fell from “at-risk,” which is the second-lowest group, to “distressed” over the same period. A majority of those ZIP codes are rural; many of them lie in areas that rely disproportionately on the volatile oil and gas industries and lack economic cushions when energy prices fall and drilling slows.

“In the last 10 years,” said Kelly Hall, the president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, “we saw young professionals like my son, they graduate from college and where do they go? Megacenters. Austin, Dallas, San Francisco.”CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

“It’s certainly not a rising-tide-lifting-everybody story,” said John Lettieri, the president of the Economic Innovation Group. “The gains are not being segregated in other states in the way that they are in Texas.” In the Texas economy, he added, “it’s superstar cities, and then it’s rural and everybody else.”

Longview falls squarely in “everybody else,” but its leaders are optimistic they can move up. The city of 81,000 people is the center of a metropolitan area of 220,000 near the Louisiana border. It gained jobs after the recession but lost all of them when oil prices fell through 2015 and 2016. Small businesses started to go under. The Chamber of Commerce lost 33 members in one year alone.

There were only 1,800 more jobs in the Longview area in April than there were 10 years ago, according to the Labor Department, an annual growth rate of less than 0.2 percent. Gregg County, which includes Longview, lost more businesses than it created from 2012 to 2016, the innovation group’s data show.

Longview’s leaders are sprucing up downtown, completing 10 miles of walking trails, investing in parks and schools and making other improvements that they hope will entice young workers to stay. CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Population in the Longview metro area grew by about 2 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to the Census Bureau. Austin’s grew by 26 percent. In a sort of proxy statistic for young urban professionals, Austin added 33 new breweries from 2013 to 2018, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group.

Longview added one.

“In the last 10 years,” said Kelly Hall, the president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, “we saw young professionals like my son, they graduate from college and where do they go? Megacenters. Austin, Dallas, San Francisco.”

Economic distress and the struggle to bring in young talent are linked, economists say. “You need to have so many things to be able to get to where you need to be to attract people and businesses,” said Pia M. Orrenius, a vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “One of the things you need is the work force. A place like Longview, it’s a little bit harder to compete.”

John Oglesbee, left, and Jack Buttram secured a lease in what had been a sleepy corner of Longview and opened Oil Horse Brewing — the city’s first and, to this point, only brewery — in May 2016.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Manufacturing, energy and health care jobs dominate in the Longview metro area. Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Longview is the largest employer in the city. Still, the median income and the share of adults with a college degree both fall well below the state average.

Longview’s leaders are trying to change that. Mayor Andy Mack, an oral surgeon, won election on a platform of wooing the city’s college-educated children back to town. He pushed for passage of a $104 million bond package that funded parks, schools and infrastructure, including the walking paths. He’s happy to tell you how affordable a starter home here is.

“We have everything you need in Longview,” Mr. Mack said recently, after a luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that focused on community health. “We have plentiful land. We have adequate water, which most places don’t have. We have everything you need. All we need is for people to realize that we’re here now.”

Silver Grizzly Espresso, a cavernous cafe that has opened up across the street from Oil Horse Brewing.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

A few years back, Jack Buttram and his wife, Sarah, realized Longview did not, in fact, have everything they wanted. The list of what was lacking started with good, local beer, Mr. Buttram, who was at the time an avid home-brewer, said in a recent interview. “It pretty much came down to, we’re either going to move to Colorado, where all the stuff we love already exists,” he said, “or we were going to stay here and make some stuff that we love happen.”

They stayed. Mr. Buttram teamed up with a friend, John Oglesbee, who ran a medical billing company but dreamed of something hoppier. They put together a business plan, lined up some financial backers and secured a lease in what had been a sleepy corner of a sagging downtown. They opened Oil Horse Brewing — the first and, to this point, only Longview brewery — in May 2016. Demand was so strong, the men said, they were constantly running out of beer. They have since increased their production.

Many of their customers had never consumed craft beer before, and come in asking for the closest thing to Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra. “People are just terrified of hop bitterness,” Mr. Buttram said.

Buildings along East Methvin Street. No state — not even California, long held up as the embodiment of America’s widening geographic inequality — has seen a larger post-recession divergence between its elite cities and everywhere else than Texas.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Mr. Oglesbee said “it’s going to be extremely difficult” to attract a wave of craft-loving young professionals to town. “Longview was, and probably will be for a long time, extremely blue-collar,” he said. “We are going to need to grow our industry that’s white collar. I don’t know if Longview is there.”

There is a worry among some business leaders in Longview that the white-collar workers now live in cities that don’t share their values. “Their whole culture is different,” said Vicki D. Jones, an entrepreneur here who runs a boutique for women undergoing cancer treatment. She returned to Longview after college in Las Vegas and also runs a store in Dallas. “Their economy is different, their beliefs are different.”

Ms. Jones’s and others’ hope is that Longview can sell a particular type of young worker on a mix of the values they grew up with, with just enough of the big-city amenities to make a smaller town attractive. At Oil Horse, they host monthly theological debates, over beer.

Josh Black grew up in Longview, went to college at Baylor, in Waco, and finished law school in 2009. He married a woman who grew up outside Dallas. But he had a job offer in Longview, and nine years ago, persuaded his wife to return to his hometown.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

Sometimes the appeal succeeds. Josh Black was just the sort of young talent that Longview has grown accustomed to losing. He grew up here, went to college at Baylor, in Waco, and finished law school in 2009. He married a woman who grew up outside Dallas. His friends were all settling there, or in Austin or Houston. But he had a job offer in Longview, and nine years ago, he persuaded his wife, Libby, to return to the city of his childhood.

In Longview, he said in an interview here, in a cavernous espresso cafe that has opened up across the street from Oil Horse, “we could make a splash, do big things for the community.”

The biggest splash was buying his own business, a title company, from an older friend from church who had reached retirement age.

He and his wife still miss the restaurants of Dallas, and they would love to get something like a Whole Foods in town. But when they visit the big city, Mr. Black said, they’re always glad to come back home.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Where the Good Jobs Are

Westlake Legal Group 02goodjobds1-facebookJumbo Where the Good Jobs Are Wages and Salaries Vocational Training Urban Areas United States Economy Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Nursing and Nurses Labor and Jobs Education

You dropped out of college, or decided straight out of high school that college was not your thing. Here’s some advice if you are looking for a job: Stay out of Washington. Don’t go to New York. Forget about San Francisco. If you want to make anything near a decent wage, head for Toledo, Des Moines or Birmingham.

Most of the 140 million Americans over 25 who lack a bachelor’s degree face pretty dim job prospects. The median wage for workers with some college education but no four-year degree is $835 per week, about 10 percent less than it was at the turn of the century, after inflation. Workers with a bachelor’s degree typically make one-third more.

Underneath the grim average, however, the truth is that there are better-paid jobs available to workers without the requisite college credential. The trick is finding them. They are not always in the most obvious places.

Keith Wardrip of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Kyle Fee and Lisa Nelson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland have put together a map. Its most resounding and confounding recommendation: Stay out of the superstar cities. Their booming tech, health and financial industries may offer great jobs for the college educated. But if you don’t have the degree, they have little for you.

Mr. Wardrip, Mr. Fee and Ms. Nelson define a “good job” in simple terms: It has to pay more than the national median wage, $37,690 in 2017, adjusted for the cost of living in the area. In Springfield, Mo., the cutoff is $33,100. In San Jose, Calif., it is $47,900. To figure out how many of these jobs are open to people without degrees, the economists scoured nearly 30 million local job ads across 121 metropolitan areas to determine their minimum educational requirements. They called them “opportunity jobs.”

Their findings offer a sliver of hope for the future of the American worker. About 22 million jobs — over one in five across the metro areas in the study — pay more than the median wage. They include some surprises. For all the talk that you need a bachelor’s degree these days to become a registered nurse, 66 percent of available registered-nursing jobs did not require one. Many make do with an associate degree. Neither did 46 percent of openings for executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants. Nor did 47 percent of the searches for computer-user support specialists. All the positions cleared the wage floor.

Some of these job categories are growing fast. The economy is expected to add nearly half a million jobs for registered nurses between 2016 and 2026. And Mr. Wardrip noted that as the job market had tightened over the last five years, employers had relaxed their educational requirements.

The most striking finding is how these jobs are distributed geographically. In Asheville, N.C., more than four in five job openings for computer-user support specialists do not require a bachelor’s degree. In San Francisco, only about a third are open to people without a degree. Fewer than half the nursing jobs in Raleigh, N.C., are open to people who haven’t graduated from a four-year college, compared with 85 percent in Huntsville, Ala.

Of course, bigger cities will have more opportunity jobs. They have more jobs over all. But they also have more workers without four-year college degrees competing for work. In St. Louis, there are 2.3 workers without a degree for each opportunity job. In the New York-Newark metropolitan area, there are 4.5.

A couple of patterns stand out. For one, prices can explain a lot about the regional distribution of good jobs. You need to earn more in expensive places to stay above the median wage. The metropolitan areas around Austin, Tex., and Cleveland have roughly the same total employment. But living in Cleveland is cheaper. So while only 18.5 percent of Austin’s jobs offer good wages to workers without college degrees, opportunity jobs account for 30 percent of Cleveland’s employment.

In the superstar cities, sky-high rents make this very difficult. The cost of living in the New York area is 37 percent higher than in Birmingham, Ala. So while the $34,700 annual wage of a typical bill-and-account collector in Birmingham clears the threshold to be considered a good job by more than $1,000, the $44,380 wage for the equivalent job in the New York area falls about $1,500 short. Hence there are 1,371 opportunity jobs in Birmingham collecting bills and accounts. In the New York area, there are none.

The industry mix of various urban areas also plays an important role. For instance, what remains of America’s manufacturing sector is also enhancing job opportunities for those who aren’t college educated. Former industrial hubs like Cleveland and St. Louis still offer some blue-collar jobs that pay a decent wage.

How to expand opportunities to workers without a four-year degree? Part of the answer involves training, for sure. Cities might also try to promote the expansion of the kinds of industries that offer most opportunity jobs. But the enormous variation in educational requirements for similar jobs across the United States also suggests that many employers seem to be asking for more education than the job requires.

There may be good reasons for hospitals in Raleigh to require registered nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. The positions might involve more complex care requiring a higher level of skill. But the large disparity in educational requirements suggests that many employers are demanding more education than needed just because they can be more selective when they have a larger pool of workers to choose from.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Treasury Issues Rules on Tax Breaks for Opportunity Zones

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration released regulations on Wednesday that could help venture capitalists, Native American tribes and entrepreneurs benefit from a new tax incentive meant to encourage investment in struggling communities.

Backers of that incentive, known as Opportunity Zones, had complained to the administration in recent weeks that its regulations could end up steering most of that money into real estate development, rather than start-up businesses that are more likely to create well-paying jobs.

The rules released on Wednesday appeared to ease many of those fears. But critics said the administration had not done enough to make sure that the program achieved its goals.

Under the 169-page proposed regulation, the second in a series of rules meant to clarify the 2017 tax law that created the zones, investors can take advantage of the tax breaks in several ways. The new methods are particularly important for investors who hope to fund new coffee shops, grocery stores or possibly, as administration officials conceded on Wednesday, marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug.

“This round of regulations removes some of the most significant impediments keeping capital on the sidelines, especially as it relates to operating businesses,” said John Lettieri, president of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington research organization that developed and championed the Opportunity Zone concept.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Republican who inserted the zones into the tax law, said in a news release that the proposed regulations “took some good steps forward” toward helping investors and business owners. Late last week, Mr. Scott said in an interview that he was “concerned right now” about the administration’s approach to the regulations.

The tax incentive promises investors the chance to defer, reduce or — when investments are held for more than a decade — eliminate taxes on certain capital gains, provided they invest in Opportunity Zones. Those areas were identified by states last year based on criteria that included poverty and income levels.

After two rounds of regulations, and sustained criticism from economists who suggested ways to make the program more accountable, the government will still have no system for tracking investments in the zones and whether they are helping communities as advertised. Treasury officials said Wednesday that they were seeking proposals for how the department should collect data on Opportunity Zones.

“This thing’s been in place for 17 months and now you’re going to ask for comments about data collection?” said Olugbenga Ajilore, a senior economist with the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington. “It’s frustrating. There needs to be some accountability to the community.”

Even before the administration has finished issuing its rules, the zones have become a boon for real estate developers and drawn criticism from people who say they will mostly enrich well-heeled investors and speed up the displacement of low-income residents in gentrifying areas.

Treasury officials have developed a series of tests, in the regulations they began releasing in October, for which investments should qualify for the tax breaks. One key test many local officials use to evaluate the zones is whether the tax breaks encourage job-creating businesses, not just condos, retail stores, hotels and other real estate projects that often don’t create many permanent jobs with opportunities for advancement.

Mr. Scott and others have urged officials to set rules that encourage investment in entrepreneurship, and to attract a wide variety of investors, including venture capitalists who could establish funds that would back multiple projects in various zones.

The rules released on Wednesday, ahead of a White House meeting on the program, seek to meet that request in several ways.

They include provisions that will allow investors to qualify for the breaks even if the businesses they fund focus on exported goods or services or the domestic market outside the zone. Long-vacant properties will immediately qualify for the tax breaks. Investors will be allowed to share their stakes in funds that invests in the zones, and to sell, say, a start-up in an Opportunity Zone as long as the money is reinvested in another qualifying business or asset. Real estate investors will be allowed to lease and refinance their properties.

Mr. Trump heralded the regulations and the program, calling the zones “really a crucial part of our new tax law to help low-income Americans.”

“As you know,” he said at the White House, “this vital provision gives businesses a massive incentive to invest and create jobs in our nation’s most underserved communities.”

Supporters of the zones said the regulations could still be improved to encourage even more business investment.

Some critics acknowledged that the new rules included important provisions to help more communities take advantage of the zones. Making leased properties eligible for the tax breaks could help Native American tribes, for example, because they often lease their lands to businesses.

The proposal also allows Treasury officials to revoke a tax break for any Opportunity Zone project “if a significant purpose of a transaction is to achieve a tax result that is inconsistent with the purposes” of the program.

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