By Mike Thomas.
The American economy is not always something best understood as a singular organism. In fact, there is a certain irony that as the world gets more connected, America becomes more splintered. In order to understand the future and where our economy is headed, it’s more useful to think of the country as a collection of loosely defined regions that are in competition with one another for economic success.
If things continue on the track they seem to be, it’s unlikely that the next decade or the one after that will show a marked difference in this dynamic. Rather, it should see an entrenching of that dynamic as we continue barreling along the same path. Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill at Forbes laid out their idea of what the future of 2025 might look like, and it’s entirely possible that things might advance in much the same way into 2035. Let’s take a look and extrapolate further from Kotkin and Shill’s predictions.
The Inland West
This region starts at not-quite the Pacific coast, and extends eastward toward the Rockies. This has been, for the past decade, the region with the largest amount of population growth in the country, with an increase of 21%, and is set to continue to outpace the nation, especially with having the highest population under 20 at the moment. It has also boasted a nearly 8% job growth, the highest in the US between 2003 and 2013, much of it in STEM fields. This area has the chance to be incredibly important as the nation continues to grow.
The Left Coast
There are a whole lot of prospects that make this seem like an attractive area for the future, with having the highest percentage of its population working in STEM fields, more than 50% above the national average, but it faces what will likely be a population problem. Already, the Left Coast has fewer children under 5 than any place else in the country except for the Great Lakes or Northeast regions. Couple that with high housing prices that are likely to increase significantly, and you have a recipe for an aging population with nobody to bring new blood to their endeavors.
This city really represents all of southern California in the Kotkin and Schill piece, but their predictions of a slow decline are a little thin and perhaps premature. As they point out, the largest port in the US still resides there, as do the bulk of the entertainment industry and a thriving garment industry. If it can find a way to throw off the stigma of overreaching and passing the cost on to customers, then there is a chance that they could still be a solid area by 2035, though it’s unlikely they will grow.
The Great Plains
The Great Plains has many of the advantages that are enjoyed by the Inland West, with one of the highest employment increases in the past decade, quite a bit of population growth, and the prospect that that will continue due to a large number of children under 5 currently living in the major agricultural center of the country.
The problem is that it is looking to become a much more urbanized region, and one that is constantly suffering from water shortages. This means that the agricultural dominance of the area is threatened and, if they don’t strike a balance, they could end up hurting for resources and relevance by 2035.
The Third Coast
The areas along the Gulf of Mexico really are primed for growth in the future. Its job growth is expected to increase 18% in the next decade, and probably continue exponentially into the decade after. Houston is set up to be a major hub for global business and travel, like Tokyo of the 80s or New York, which is no longer the nation’s largest exporter thanks to that city. Other than Houston, Mobile, New Orleans, and Tampa are all looking to become major trading centers.
The Great Lakes
This region has always relied on its manufacturing center and that took a big hit in recent years. That being said, it’s looking to very slowly be climbing back from the brink, and by 2035 could be back in its prime again as more jobs continue to trickle into the region, mostly from companies taking advantage of the numerous high quality public universities and ample fresh water.
While still considered the academic center of the United States, the northeast has very little else going for it. It is not really growing economically or by population, and by 2035 it could be nothing more than a collection of university towns with memories of what it was like to be powerful.
New York has come back from disaster again and again. It’s what it’s known for. But the economic predictors don’t look very good for its future; with high housing prices, low technical skills, and a rapidly aging population. It will always be a great city, but the question becomes if it will be able to command as much influence as it currently has well into tomorrow. Not unless they find a new way to start growing again.
Besides the Great Lakes, the Southeast is becoming the largest manufacturing area in the country. They continue to flourish in many industries, and they’ve managed to attract quite a bit of international investment attention. Their population continues to grow thanks to low housing prices and cost of living, not to mention the opening of new factories. With a more diverse population, it’s looking to also become a more urban, more cosmopolitan region as time goes on.
Mike Thomas is a writer for Homewarrantydeals.com. He is a contractor who dabbles in finance and politics.