NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 24, 2010

Politicians in big cities talk about jobs, but by keeping taxes, fees and regulatory barriers high they discourage the creation of jobs, at least in the private sector.   A business in San Francisco or Los Angeles never knows what bizarre new cost will be imposed by city hall.  In New York or Boston you can thrive as a nonprofit executive, high-end consultant or financier, but if you are the owner of a business that wants to grow, you're out of luck, says Joel Kotkin, the Chapman University presidential fellow in urban futures. 

Houston, however, has kept the cost of government low while investing in ports, airports, roads, transit and schools.  A person or business moving there gets an immediate raise through lower taxes and cheaper real estate.  Houston is just better at nurturing jobs, says Kotkin. 

For example: 

  • Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the United States save the city's similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth.
  • Over the past decade, Houston's population has grown by 24 percent -- five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York.
  • In that time, it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the United States, while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration.
  • It is even catching up on foreign immigration, enjoying a rate comparable with New York's and roughly 50 percent higher than that of Boston or Chicago.
  • Between 2000 and 2009, Houston's employment grew by 260,000; greater New York City -- with nearly three times the population of Houston -- has added only 96,000 jobs.
  • In contrast, the Chicago area has lost 258,000 jobs, San Francisco 217,000, Los Angeles 168,000 and Boston 100,004. 

Houston, perhaps more than any city in the advanced industrial world, epitomizes the René Descartes ideal -- applied to the 17th century entrepreneurial hotbed of Amsterdam -- of a great city offering "an inventory of the possible" to longtime residents and newcomers alike.  This, more than anything, promises to give Houstonites the future, says Kotkin. 

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Houston: Model City," Forbes Magazine, May 20, 2010. 

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