Monday, February 18, 2008

Fort Worth: Dodging the Downturn Bullet?

The late House Speaker "Tip" O'Neill said that all politics is local, a statement with layers of meaning, but the simplest one is that both the source and the consequences of action in Washington, DC are in small communities.

The same could be said of wealth, or more accurately, wealth distribution and accumulation. It too has its source and its effects locally. A visible example in our state is the wealth that Dell Computer has brought to the relatively small city of Austin. A company started by a Michael Dell while he was a student at the University of Texas. International reach, local source and a large local effect.

The Star Telegram had a comprehensive article in the February 17 online edition about how we in North Texas and especially Tarrant County may be able to bypass the full effect of the sluggish economy and housing crisis because of a strong local economy. Why? Primarily, Barnett Shale production, but also the old and reliable: ground and air transportation, rail carriers, military equipment, inexpensive property values, banking, tourism, retail corporate headquarters, etc.

So far, the standard economic statistics show us faring better than the national averages in just about everything including, job growth, housing starts, foreclosures, even the aptly named Booze Barometer, which measures bar and restaurant alcohol sales, up 7% year-over-year for January.

The fact that wealth is primarily locally generated is not to say that a failing national or world economy doesn't effect us, it does, the value of the dollar, interest rates, tax rates, wars, etc. are influences on our economy, but as long as people are needing natural gas North Texas may be able to duck what looks like a bullet that will hit a target.

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