Apr 30, 2009

Where are the Best Cities for Job Growth? Hint, a Whole Bunch Are Right Here In Texas


Over the past five years, Michael Shires, associate professor in public policy at Pepperdine University, and I have been compiling a list of the best places to do business. The list, based on job growth in regions across the US over the long, middle and short term, has changed over the years--but the employment landscape has never looked like this.

In past iterations, we saw many fast-growing economies--some adding jobs at annual rates of 3% to 5%. Meanwhile, some grew more slowly, and others actually lost jobs. This year, however, you can barely find a fast-growing economy anywhere in this vast, diverse country. In 2008, 2% growth made a city a veritable boom town, and anything approaching 1% growth is, oddly, better than merely respectable.

So this year perhaps we should call the rankings not the "best" places for jobs, but the "least worst." But the least worst economies in America today largely mirror those that topped the list last year, even if these regions have recently experienced less growth than in prior years. Our No.1-ranked big city, Austin, for example, enjoyed growth of 1% in 2008--less than a third of its average since 2003.

The study is based on job growth in 333 regions--called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data--across the US.  Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

The top of the complete ranking--which, for ease, we have broken down into the two smaller lists, of the best big and small cities for jobs--is dominated by one state: Texas. The Lone Star State may have lost a powerful advocate in Washington, but it's home to a remarkable eight of the top 20 cities on our list--including No. 1-ranked Odessa, a small city in the state's northwestern region. Further, the top five large metropolitan areas for job growth--Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Dallas--are all in Texas' "urban triangle."

The reasons for the state's relative success are varied. A healthy energy industry is certainly one cause. Many Texas high-fliers, including Odessa, Longview, Dallas and Houston, are home to energy companies that employ hordes of people--and usually at fairly high salaries for both blue- and white-collar workers. In some places, these spurts represent a huge reversal from the late 1990s. Take Odessa's remarkable 5.5% job growth in 2008, which followed a period of growth well under 1% from 1998 to 2002.

Of course, not all the nation's energy jobs are located in Texas, even if the state does play host to most of our major oil companies. The surge in energy prices in 2007 also boosted the performance of several other top-ranked locales such as Grand Junction, Colorado., Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodoux, La., Tulsa, Oklahoma., Lafayette, La.

Looking at the energy sector's hotbeds, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Another major factor behind a city's job offerings is how severely it experienced the housing crisis. There's a "zone of sanity" across the middle of the country, including Kansas City, Mo., that largely avoided the real estate bubble and the subsequent foreclosure crisis.

Still other factors correlating with job growth--as evidenced by Shires' and my current and past studies--are lower costs and taxes. For example, the area around Kennewick, Wash., is far less expensive than coastal communities in that same state, and residents and businesses there also enjoy cheap hydroelectric power. Compared with high-tech centers in California and the Northeast, such as San José and Boston, places like Austin offer both tax and housing-cost bargains, as do Fargo, N.D. and Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

College towns also did well on our list, particularly those in states that are both less expensive and outside the Great Lakes. Although universities--and their endowments--are feeling the recession's pinch, they continue to attract students. In fact, colleges saw a bumper crop of applicants this year, as members of the huge millennial generation, encompassing those born after 1983, reach that stage of life. More recently, college towns have emerged as incubators for new companies and as attractive places for retirees.

Specifically, the college town winners include not only well-known places like Austin and Chapel Hill, but also less-hyped places like Athens, Ga., home of the University of Georgia; College Station, Texas, where 48,000-student Texas A&M University is located; Morgantown, W.Va., site of the University of West Virginia; and Fargo, the hub of North Dakota State University.

Democratic states are glaringly absent from the top of the list. You don't get to a traditionally blue state--in a departure from past years, Obama won North Carolina--until you get to Olympia, Wash., and Seattle, which ranked No. 6 among the large cities.

But political changes afoot could affect the trajectory of many of our fast-growing communities--and not always in positive ways. It's possible that the Obama administration's new energy policies, which may discourage domestic fossil fuel production,could put a considerable damper on the still-robust parts of Texas and elsewhere where coal, oil and natural gas industries are still cornerstones of economic success.

By contrast, the wind- and solar-power industries seem to be, as of now, relatively small job generators, and with energy prices low, endeavors in these areas are sustainable only with massive subsidies from Washington. But still, if these sectors grow in size and profitability, other locales that have not typically been seen as energy hubs over the past few decades may benefit--notably parts of California, although Texas and the Great Plains also seem positioned to profit from these developments.

Another critical concern for some communities is the potential for major cutbacks on big-ticket defense spending. This would be of particular interest to communities in places like Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia where new aircraft are currently assembled. Over the years, blue states like California have seen their defense industry shrivel as the once-potent Texas Congressional delegation and the two Bushes tilted toward Lone Star State contractors.

These days it's big-city mayors and big blue-state governors who are looking for financial support from Obama. Northeast boosters are convinced more money on mass transit, inter-city rail lines and scientific research will rev up their economies. Boston--No. 16 on the list of large cities and a leading medical and scientific research center--could be a beneficiary of the new federal spending.

The most obvious winner from the recent power shift should be Washington, D.C. The Obama-led stimulus, including the massive Treasury bailout, has transformed the town from merely the political capital into the de facto center of regular capital as well. Watch for D.C. and its environs to move up our list over the next year or two. Already the area boasts one of the few strong apartment markets among the big metropolitan areas in the country, which will only improve as job-seekers flock to the new Rome.

Yet Washington is an anomaly, because most of the places that stand to benefit from this unforgiving economy are ones that are affordable and therefore friendly to business, reinforcing a key trend of the last decade. It also helps regions to have ties to core industries like energy and agriculture, a sector that has remained relatively strong and will strengthen again when global demand for food increases.

Some areas have attracted new residents readily and continue to do so, albeit at a somewhat slower pace. Over time this migration could be good news for a handful of metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City, which ranks seventh among the big cities for job growth, and Raleigh-Cary, N.C., which was No. 1 among large cities last year and No. 8 this year. Over the last few years, these places have consistently appeared at the top of our rankings and are emerging as preferred sites for cutting-edge technology and manufacturing firms.

Below these winners are a cluster of other promising places that have already managed to withstand the current downturn in decent shape and seem certain to rebound along with the overall economy. These include the largely suburban area around Kansas City, Kan., perennial high-flyer Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Greeley, Colo.--in part due to their ability to attract workers and businesses from bigger metropolitan centers nearby--as well as Huntsville, Ala., which has a strong concentration of workers in the government and high-tech sectors.

In the end, most of the cities at the top of the lists--whether they are small, medium or large--have shown they have what it takes to survive in tough times. Less-stressed local governments will be able to construct needed infrastructure and attract new investors so that job growth can rise to the levels of past years. If better days are in the offing, these areas seem best positioned to be the next drivers of the economic expansion this nation sorely needs.

by Joel Kotkin 04/13/2009

Apr 24, 2009

National Association of Home Builders Applauds Approval of National Green Building Standard


The National Green Building Standard for all residential construction work including single-family homes, apartments and condos, land development and remodeling and renovation was approved recently by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The approval signals a new era for the nation’s builders, remodelers and developers and also provides an extra measure of reassurance for home buyers, said Joe Robson, a home builder in Tulsa, Oklahoma., Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“The National Green Building Standard is now the first and only green building rating system approved by ANSI, making it the benchmark for green homes,” said Ron Jones, who chaired the consensus committee charged with developing the standard.

“The standard provides home builders and remodelers with a much more expansive third-party rating system that they can use to achieve green certification under NAHB Green and the National Green Building Certification Program,” said Mike Luzier, CEO of the NAHB Research Center.

The Research Center provides certification for NAHB Green projects, which until now have only included single-family homes. “Consumers are looking for authentic, verifiable green building practices, and now they’ll find them with a true industry consensus standard for residential green building,” Luzier said.

The standard defines what green practices can be incorporated into residential development and construction and how home owners can operate and maintain their green homes.

But the National Green Building Standard also provides for flexibility – allowing home builders and home buyers to make green choices based on climate and geography as well as style preferences and budget.

As part of the stringent process required by ANSI, NAHB and the International Code Council gathered a fully inclusive and representative consensus committee composed of a broad spectrum of builders, architects, product manufacturers, regulators and environmental experts. The work of the consensus committee was administered by the NAHB Research Center, an ANSI Accredited Standards Developer.

The consensus committee deliberated the content of the standard for more than a year, held four public hearings and evaluated more than 2,000 public comments in the development of the standard.

Dallas homebuilder Lexington Luxury Builders, one of the few 100% Green Builders in North Texas supports this standard.  Scott Schaefer, Lexington CEO, was in the first graduating class of Green Building Professionals to receive training from , the award-winning local branch of NAHB Green.

First graduating class of Certified Green Building Professionals in Dallas

Apr 22, 2009

Lexington Luxury Builders Lists New Homes at Lexington Park in Plano with Tom Rhodes and Ebby Halliday

Preeminent Dallas homebuilder, Lexington Luxury Builders, announced today it has listed its new Plano homes at its Lexington Park at Rice Field project, Lexington's new urban, eco-friendly neighborhood in Downtown Plano, with Neil Broussard and Dallas Super-Realtor Tom Rhodes of Rhodes Real Estate and the Dave Perry-Miller Group. Rhodes Real Estate and DPM are part of Ebby Halliday Realtors, a Dallas area real estate institution.

In a recent newsworthy move, Rhodes Real Estate joined the Dave Perry-Miller Group, creating one of the top producing residential real estate teams in the country. The Dallas Morning News reported today that Ebby Halliday has moved into the Top 10 Residential Real Estate firms in the US. All of Lexington's listings are available for viewing on both the Lexington Website and the Ebby Halliday site.

List prices for Phase One - the Heritage Townhomes - at Lexington Park, which are presently benefiting from a substantial price incentive package from Lexington, range from $249,000 to $309,000. Construction of Phase Two, the Park Residences at Lexington Park, is expected to commence by early summer with availability in Spring 2010. Prices for Phase Two, which are all Park Side Residences, while not yet set, are expected to range from $350,000 to $425,000.

Lexington Park is part of the Downtown Plano Transit Village and is located two blocks from the DART light rail station in Downtown Plano - see Location Map.

"I've done business and been friends with Tom Rhodes for fifteen years," said Lexington CEO, Scott Schaefer, "and I've never met a more honorable, more disciplined guy; in any field. Rhodes Real Estate, Dave Perry-Miller and Ebby Halliday are all first-class outfits and I always try to hire the best."

When Rhodes decided to hang his shingle with DPM, it was a noteworthy event. Dallas Dirt chimed in quickly, upon hearing the news with this article. Breaking Real estate Agent News: Rhodes Joins DPM Hot hot hot: super broker Tom Rhodes has joined forces with Dave Perry-Miller, an Ebby Halliday Company, in DPM’s Highland Park office. Tom is a mega- mega producer and this move means Ebby can start clocking more zeroes behind those Highland Park sales figures. More developing.

In that our relationship with Rhodes has such deep roots, we couldn't possibly have named another realtor in DFW. Rhodes, a fixture in Dallas and Park Cities real estate, has been doing business locally for 32 years and has a very strong resume. In addition to Rhodes, Project Manager on the deal team for the Lexington Luxury Builders listings is Neil Broussard also a highly successful realtor who has been named one of D-Magazines Up-And-Comer Realtors.

Lexington has also listed a very special Dallas landmark residence with the Rhodes Team, and is also offering a $350,000 price discount for a quick sale for the Dallas home at 6371 Mercedes Avenue. This extraordinary Lakewood home was built in 1938 on the site of the old McCommas Homestead and was meticulously remodeled by Lexington Luxury Builders in 2005. The home, with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, 3 living areas, 2 dining areas, a 2 car garage plus parking for 8 additional autos in its motorcourt, a custom heated pool and an oversized 88x167 corner lot is being offered for sale at $749,000.

Apr 21, 2009

DFW Ranks as 2nd Best Place to Live in US

Dallas is tearing up the charts again. The Dallas Business Journal reports in an April 21 article that the Dallas-Fort Worth market ranks second in a new survey of “America’s Top 100 Places to Live for 2009.”

The annual listing is developed by RelocateAmerica.com, a Web site that offers relocating Americans information on local communities.

Dallas-Fort Worth ranks second behind only Tulsa, Okla., which secured the top spot. The Top Ten is rounded out by Pittsburgh; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Houston; Albuquerque, N.M.; Lexington, Ky..; Little Rock, Ark.; and Oklahoma City.

RelocateAmerica.com determines the winners by evaluating nominations and interviewing local leaders and residents on topics such as the region’s economic environment, educational opportunities, crime, employment and housing data.

“With the increasing concern on our nation’s economy and recovering housing market, we approached this year’s list with a different lens than in previous years. We concentrated on the outlook for future growth and ability to rebound in the communities that we selected,” said Steve Nickerson, president and CEO.

“We looked at the local government and the business leadership in each community as we considered this year’s winners. We selected communities with visionary leaders, improving or thriving economies including housing and realization of 'green' initiatives.”

RelocateAmerica is operated by trueV New Media, which is based in Brighton, Michigan.

Dallas Business Journal - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Apr 16, 2009

Lexington Luxury Builders Awarded A+ Rating by Better Business Bureau

A recent review by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Dallas and Northeast Texas of Lexington Luxury Builders, a Dallas homebuilder and real estate developer, has resulted in a coveted A+ rating for the company, according to a BBB on-line report. Lexington Luxury Builders, founded in 1997 by Dallas homebuilder Scott Schaefer, has been a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau since 2001 and has had an exemplary record ever since, resulting in the A+ rating.

Lexington has recently become a 100% Energy Star Partner with the US EPA and company CEO, Scott Schaefer, has been certified by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) as a Certified Green Building Professional (CGBP).

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