Tuesday, July 19, 2011

America at 400 Million: Economic Development

This is one in a series of columns about what's needed to get ready for a 400 million U.S. population. The concept is much in line with the concepts in the book by Joel Kotkin, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.

I was just over a year old when the U.S. population hit 200 million. It was a big deal. President Johnson was on hand when the Census proclaimed the 200th million American milestone was hit on November 21, 1967.

I was 40, in 2006, when the nation hit 300 million population.

It's widely accepted that the U.S. population will likely hit 400 million people in another 40 years, some time around 2040 to 2050. Thus, I'll be somewhere around 80 years old, God willing, when that time comes.

The concept has me thinking about a lot of things.  Economic development is one of the behind-the-scenes issues that needs to come more to the forefront.


Focus back on manufacturing.  We need a national manufacturing policy to restore our nation's focus back on manufacturing.  Too much of the past 10-20 years has been spent putting forth the idea that we could have an economy without making things and too often the phrase, "Manufacturing is dead," was allowed to be on the tongues and minds of our policy makers.  The truth is manufacturing is very much alive, but we need policymakers to get their game on to take full advantage of the possibilities.

End the urban vs. suburban policy battle.  As Joel Kotkin and writers at NewGeography.com have pointed out, the majority of the next hundred million people will choose suburban living.  However, even if only 20% of them choose urban life, our urban centers would have to empty out to handle the growth. 

It's time to end the pointless battle between suburban and urban policy thinkers.  It's time to recognize that its not a zero sum game.  The way for the urban areas to get a bigger piece of the pie is to grow the pie, not spend time and effort trying to shut out their suburban counterparts.

Prepare more rail-served, industrial sites for the future. Rail-served sites are a hedge for manufacturers against increased freight costs caused by over-capacity highways. Rail-served sites are not easy to come by. Even in a county the size of Licking (second-largest county in Ohio by acreage), there are less than a handful of industrial parks with rail-served sites and not enough sites being preserved in land banks to ensure the next generations will have them. We, as a nation, need to focus on preserving the ability to provide rail-served, industrial sites.

Truly reduce regulation.  Economic development occurs in the places where permitting and regulation is easiest.  The federal government needs to figure that out too or become irrelevant in economic development.   The policy and procedures put in place in the past 30+ years on highway planning and construction, alone, has made the process unbearable and horribly costly.  It can't continue.

Every administration has claimed or promised to reduce regulation.  None has truly done it.  It's time.

The bottom line: Other countries do a better job than we do at getting on the same page, as a nation, about economic development and what it takes to realize the growth potential of our country.  We can do better, and need to do better, for the next hundred million.

No comments:

Post a Comment