by, Holly Ratcliff
The following is an interview between Melissa Jewett, Publisher of San Marcos Corridor News and Joel Kotkin, author of the weekly “New Geographer” column for Forbes.com, and has written for Inc.com. His newest book, THE HUMAN CITY: Urbanism for the Rest of Us, was published last April. Kotkin was the Keynote Speaker at the most recent Greater San Marcos Partnership’s yearly Economic Outlook, and he took some time before his presentation to discuss economic trends across the United States as well as the Corridor.
Q: How much longer do you foresee the Texas economic growth staying steady?
A: Really depends. Houston is probably going to go through two, three fairly rough years, because they had tremendous growth and now one of the key industries is going through a restructuring. The other Texas cities do not show a lot of signs of going in some sort of decline that I can see. Obviously, if the national economy slows, it would slow things down. Relatively speaking, Texas is doing much better than the rest of the country and has been for a long time.
Q: Do you see a main industry at all for Texas going forward?
A: I think it’s going to depend on each region. Clearly, Austin is going to have a very strong sort of tech, high-end lifestyle. San Antonio would be very attractive to manufacturing and some financial services, just tied to the military.
Dallas is replacing Chicago as the business center of the middle of the country. If you need to higher middle managers, Dallas is about as good a place as you are going to find. It’s affordable. It’s in the middle of the country. They can travel easily.
Q: Dallas is currently a fashion hub. Some have suggested Austin could become a larger hub than what Dallas has become. Do you know anything about this?
A: No, but I’d be interested to hear it. This would be a very opportune time, because the $15 minimum wage is just going to gut the LA manufacturing industry. New York really has already lost most of its production and now LA will start to see it. The question is, can you create what the LA industry has, this energy lifestyle, synergy, entertainment? Things that draw the designers. One of the great advantages is inevitable, fast fashion. When a designer comes up with something and produces it a week later, you don’t go through this pipeline of going to China or Indonesia and having a contract or contractor. That doesn’t work nearly as well.
Q: What do you see for the rest of the country?
A: My sense is, at least right now, that we’re in a period of relatively slow growth. I think there’s a lot of redeployment of human assets.
The interesting change is that since 2010, the 25-34 college educated are starting to move to these kinds of places. They’re moving to suburbs, and they’re moving to cheaper cities. And then, [there’s] the question of which one do you choose? An area like this is very attractive. Whether it’s Austin, San Antonio, or San Marcos, that whole corridor is an attractive place.
I think there are going to be two big drivers, demographically: young families that feel they can’t afford to live in the Bay Area or New York, that phenomenon. Then, the Aging Boomers, what I call the Young Old. The people who are 55, 65, 75, but they’re active. They ride bikes. They hike. They drive. You’ve got this huge population redeploying, and they are looking for places like this.
Q: What do you think about the Corridor at this point in time?
A: I think it’s the future big growth area of the country. The question is, how do you do it in a way so it doesn’t undermine the way people came here in the first place? You want to preserve the natural environment as much as you can.