Our Views: New growth along Gulf

05 04, 2012 by The Advocate

As California desperately tries to balance its state budget and retain its status as America’s land of promise, at least one prominent expert and longtime Californian argues that there are new and different “growth corridors” for America aside from the West Coast.

Demographer Joel Kotkin listed the Gulf Coast as one of the four growth areas, the others being in the mountain West and the southeastern states along the Atlantic seaboard. No surprise in those two, although Kotkin is also high on the prospects of the states of the Great Plains, where costs of living are low. We might also note that a worldwide rise in “primary commodities” such as grain and other foods could also fuel a surprising growth in the Plains states.

The huge economic impact of Texas, with relatively low taxes and a strong work ethic, drives growth there, although tech growth is centered in Austin. That city long ago eclipsed Baton Rouge, which many would argue had better prospects in 1970 than its neighboring state capital.

Still, some of the economic drivers of Texas are also present in Louisiana and its Mississippi Delta neighbors, including oil and natural gas.

Kotkin also put his finger on a nonresource industry: “New Orleans is supposedly going to pass New York as the second-largest film center. They have great incentives, and New Orleans is the best bargain for urban living in the United States.”

“It’s got great food, great music, and it’s inexpensive,” Kotkin said.

Compared to California, dirt cheap, really.

His praise of the Crescent City in the Journal is good news for Louisiana’s efforts to promote a still-difficult comeback from the 2005 hurricane years of Katrina and Rita. And while Baton Rouge and Lafayette were the bigger growth drivers before the storms of 2005, the comeback of New Orleans — as well as film and other diversified industries in Shreveport — is good news for the entire state.