The Rise Of The Third Coast: The Gulf Region’s Ascendancy In U.S.
In Forbes’ rankings of the fastest-growing job markets in the country, six Gulf cities made the top 50: Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, in Texas; New Orleans; and Gulfport-Biloxi and Pascagoula, in Mississippi. In contrast, just one Pacific port, Anchorage, Alaska, and one small Atlantic port, Portsmouth, N.H., made the cut.
This reflects a long-term shift of money, power and jobs away from both the North Atlantic and the Pacific to the cities of the Gulf. The Port of Houston, for example, enjoyed a 28.1% jump in foreign trade this year, and trade at Louisiana’s main ports also reached records levels.
The energy-related economy produces high-wage jobs that range from geology and engineering to the muscle work on the oil rigs, which provide well above average wages for blue collar workers. Such growth is particularly critical to regions such as New Orleans, long dependent on generally lower-wage industries like hospitality and personal services. The energy business also will help accelerate the expansion of business services such as law, accounting, architecture and advertising.
The shift to the Gulf includes some rapid industrial expansion, particularly for energy intensive industries. Huge natural gas supplies are creating enormous opportunities for expanding petrochemical industries. The German firm Thyssen Krupp opened a new $5 billion steel mill last year, and Nucor Steel announced a large new facility to be built just outside New Orleans. Like energy production, these facilities tend to pay above-average wages for blue collar workers, which will likely raise living standards for a region that has lagged historically.
At the same time, demographic trends suggest these areas will continue to become more attractive to international commerce. Despite a legacy of hurricanes and floods, Houston, with over 5 million people, has emerged as among the fastest-growing large metropolitan regions in the country. The region’s population is expected to double in the next 20 years. Most of the economies its port serves — Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin — also have experienced rapid growth. Recoveries are in place in many other hurricane-devastated areas, including greater New Orleans.
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