What economic slowdown? Some spots still boom
Some states and many cities expect growth because they have the right industries or resources at the right time.
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North Dakota is one of only three states to gain manufacturing jobs, he says. Behind that gain is a push to export – up 34 percent in 2007 over 2006, the fastest rate of growth of any state in the United States. The state has also seen a big rise in energy investments in coal, oil, natural gas, and renewables. On top of that, North Dakota merchants are profiting from Canadian tourists, who are crossing the border to shop with their strong currency.Skip to next paragraph
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"We don't see any sign of recession in our economy," says Shane Goettle, commissioner of North Dakota's Department of Commerce.
Some areas that used to be hard-hit by economic downturns are now shrugging them off. That's the case for Chattanooga, Tenn., which took a nose dive in prior recessions. "We were categorized as Rust Belt," says Mayor Ron Littlefield. "I don't think we avoided the 2001 recession, but we recovered rather well."
This time, Chattanooga has a much more diverse economic mix. "We are more tourism, more white-collar employment, and more high-tech type of industry," says Mayor Littlefield. In addition, major employers in the city are expanding, not contracting, he says. For example, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is building a $299 million corporate campus, the largest construction project in the city's history.
Some cities are attracting foreign investors who want to build in the US, in part because of the weak dollar. Take the giant German steel manufacturer ThyssenKrupp, which decided to build a $3.7 billion steel mill in Mobile, Ala.
"No doubt the cheap dollar helps," says Stephen Nodine, Mobile's county commissioner. "But I think the leading factor was a location close to a deep-water port and rail lines."
In addition, if Congress does not impede a recent Air Force decision to award a major contract to EADS and Northrop Grumman, parts of a new refueling tanker will be built in Mobile.
"With a 3.2 percent unemployment rate, we've been running ads saying, 'Come home to Mobile,' " says Mr. Nodine. "Six years ago, we were hurting with jobs lost to NAFTA. Now, we're in a position to be selective in what we pursue, and our main goal is increasing household income."
Some communities credit their growth with a more aggressive approach in recruiting businesses. For example, Baton Rouge, La., set a goal of wooing motion-picture studios to make films there. "Not including the actual money for the movie, it has a $75 million impact on the city in the way of hotel rooms, restaurants, equipment companies, and the hiring of people," says Mayor-President Kip Holden. "We were not a major player, and now we are."
Inspired by movie success, the city has also delved into film animation. It hosts the biggest animation festival in the US.
As a result of its more aggressive push, Baton Rouge now finds itself moving up in US rankings for best cities for jobs. "Baton Rouge is a boomtown," says Mayor-President Holden.