The Gulf Coast is a bad luck area. Hurricanes, floods, oil leaks -- one of its cities is still recovering from Katrina, the Gulf fisheries are depressed and toxic, and businesses are fleeing the region.
The Gulf is growing. From Joel Kotkin's New Geography:
The American economy, long dominated by the East and West Coasts, is undergoing a dramatic geographic shift toward this area. The country’s next great megacity, Houston, is here; so is a resurgent New Orleans, as well as other growing port cities that serve as gateways to Latin America and beyond. While the other two coasts struggle with economic stagnation and dysfunctional politics, the Third Coast—the urbanized, broadly coastal region spanning the Gulf from Brownsville, Texas, to greater Tampa—is emerging as a center of industry, innovation, and economic growth.
Why? You know why, of course: a good business climate.
In the wilds of Louisiana’s St. James Parish, amid the alligators and sugar plantations, Lester Hart is building the $750 million steel plant of his dreams. Over the past decade, Hart has constructed plants for steel producer Nucor everywhere from Trinidad to North Carolina. Today, he says, Nucor sees its big opportunities here, along the banks of the Mississippi River, roughly an hour west of New Orleans by car.
“The political climate here is conducive to growth,” Hart explains as he steers his truck up to the edge of a steep levee. “We are here because so much is going on in this state and this region. With the growth of the petrochemical and industrial sectors, this is the place to be.” Already, some 500 people are working on the project. When completed in 2013, the plant—which is expected to process more than 3.75 million tons of iron ore a year—will create about 150 permanent jobs immediately. Another 150 are expected after a second development phase.
Governor Bobby Jindal is probably cutting his first presidential primary campaign commercial right now, using that sound bite.
Yankees, Californians, and snobs in general -- beware! The Gulf is where the smart people are:
Over the past decade, Texas and Florida have ranked first and second among the states in net domestic immigration, combining for a gain of roughly 2 million people. Together, Houston and Tampa have gained more than 1.5 million people over the course of the decade; in fact, in 2008 and 2009, net domestic migration to Houston was the highest of any major metropolitan area. An examination of migration flows to Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa by Praxis Strategy Group, where I work as a senior consultant, shows that many of their new citizens are coming from the East and West Coasts, especially New York and California. Also over the past decade, Houston has attracted as many foreign immigrants, relative to its population, as New York has—a considerably higher rate than in such historical immigration hubs as Chicago, Seattle, and Boston, though still lower than in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami.
What’s more, the Third Coast is winning the battle of the brains. Over the past decade, according to the Census Bureau, 300,000 people with bachelor’s degrees have relocated to Houston. Between 2007 and 2009, as demographer Wendell Cox has chronicled, New Orleans—which had hemorrhaged educated people for the previous few decades—enjoyed the largest-percentage gain of educated people of any metropolitan area with a population of over 1 million. The New York Times reported in 2010 that Tulane University, the city’s premier higher-education establishment, had received nearly 44,000 applications, more than any other private school in the country. The largest group of applicants came not from Louisiana but from California, with New York and Texas not far behind.
This is good news for America because it's bad news for New York and California. They need to learn the lesson that economic growth isn't automatic. You can eat well and live well all over the country, not just in the enclaves on the coast.