ON-Lion Letter

"Houston’s economic success over the past 20 years -- and, more remarkably, since the Great Recession and the weak national recovery -- rivals the performance of any large metropolitan region in the United States," according to Joel Kotkin and Tory Gattis in an article in the Summer 2014 issue of City Journal.  "For nearly a decade and a half, the city has been adding jobs at a furious pace -- more than 600,000 since early 2000, and 263,000 since early 2008.  The greater New York City area, by contrast, has added just 103,000 jobs since 2008, and Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Philadelphia remain well below their 2008 levels in total jobs.  In fact, Los Angeles and Chicago, like Detroit, have fewer jobs today than they did at the turn of the millennium."

Kotkin is a contributing editor of City Journal, which is published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York City; the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.; and executive editor of the New Geography website.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Manhattan Institute.  Gattis writes the "Houston Strategies" blog.

"[T]he Houston model of development might be described as 'opportunity urbanism,'" Kotkin and Gattis write in "America's Opportunity City."

"[M]uch of the job growth" in Greater Houston, they continue, "is tied to energy -- particularly, to the technological revolution now reshaping that industry," but it has also embraced "well-paying blue-collar industrial positions. ...  Trade is robust," and it's home "to the largest concentration of hospitals and research institutions in the world.

"Houston is neither the libertarian paradise imagined by many conservatives nor the antigovernment Wild West town conjured by liberals," they note.  "The city is better understood as relentlessly pragmatic and pro-growth.

"Low taxes are part of that idea," according to Kotkin and Gattis.  "An even bigger component of Houston’s growth, however, may be its planning regime, which allows development to follow the market instead of top-down government directives. ...  By allowing and encouraging development in the inner ring and on the fringe, the city increases its attractiveness to younger people, who want to live close to the urban core, while also providing affordable suburban housing.

"Immigration is driving growth but also creating new challenges" in Houston, they observe, and it has "an impressively vibrant cultural landscape."

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