Marketplace Scratch Pad

Location, location

Scott Jagow Mar 31, 2009

The place to be right now, it seems, is good old Heartland, USA. Urban planning expert Joel Kotkin calls the middle of the country a “zone of sanity” in an article on newgeography. I found it by way of NPR’s Planet Money blog.

Kotkin says:

People and companies in the zone feel the recession, but they are not, to date, in anything like the tailspin seen in places like the upper Great Lakes auto-manufacturing zone, the Sunbelt boom towns or, increasingly, the finance-dependent Northeast…

Unless there is a massive shift in conditions, the zone should see a return to prosperity earlier than places bogged down with excess foreclosures, shuttering industries, soaring taxes and ever-tightening regulation.

Kotkin focuses on the likely center of this sanity zone — Kansas City. He points out that home prices and employment have fallen at much saner rates than on the coasts and in the boom towns. Slow and steady, she goes.

Still, Kotkin notes that Kansas City has some big dreams, like a light rail line and a huge entertainment complex, despite being budget-strapped like everybody else. Kotkin says KC would do well not to emulate the mistakes of boom cities with their “forced,” largely unsuccessful developments.

Instead, KC should keep in mind why it’s been gaining population while other cities have been losing it. It’s just a nice, calm place to live. I was just there last month, and I have to say, the thought of moving there did cross my mind.

Redbud posted this comment to my blog entry on economic media coverage last week:

It’s nice in Kansas! Winter wheat fields are bright green, the oil patch is busy, gas and food are inexpensive, and hard work and saving for bad weather remain in style. Our banks and housing are wonderful, compared to the stories we hear from the east coast. Around here, we pick on the media for not reporting enough local school sports.

Sounds like a zone of sanity to me.

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