Buffalo, Steady As She Goes

6 Jan

The Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution publishes a quarterly document titled The MetroMonitor.

The MetroMonitor is a quarterly, interactive barometer of the health of America’s 100 largest metropolitan economies. It examines trends in metropolitan-level employment, output, and housing conditions to look “beneath the hood” of national economic statistics to portray the diverse metropolitan trajectories of recession and recovery across the country.

Essentially, this report serves as a planning resource and a measurement tool for metropolitan progress.  While the Brookings Institution is the home of the dreaded “third way Democrats”, their data collection and research on metropolitan areas is valuable in innumerable ways.

Surprisingly, the upstate cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse fair pretty well in all measures.  The data can be interpreted to demonstrate that since the cities of Upstate New York did not participate in the “boom” of the last twenty years, we didn’t really have a bubble to burst.  Or it can be interpreted to show that other cities have fallen so far that we now have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from Southern boomtowns and initiate a slow growth cycle.

You can read the full report here and you can read a more focused report on the Great Lakes region here.

Here are some infographics built from the data in the report:

This first graphic demonstrates data based on four factors: “employment change from peak; unemployment rate change from one year ago; gross metropolitan product change from peak; and housing price index change from one year ago.”

This graphic explains change in unemployment rates:

And this one demonstrates straight up current unemployment rates:

This final chart shows the change in Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP)–the total value of goods and services produced from each metro area’s peak GMP quarter to the most recent quarter, measuring the extent to which output has recovered from the recession’s full impact.

As to the last chart, this is where one sees how the data are interpreted as “no boom = no bust” as our historic metro GMP has been at the low end of the spectrum for over two decades.

I think the trend lines in this document are telling and can serve as a precursor to a larger discussion about our regional strategic priorities and how we can best position Buffalo for the coming new economy.  We see that the bust is hitting Florida, California, and the entire Southeast and Southwest especially hard.  We see that many areas around the Great Lakes and Midwest are relatively stable.  Is our predictability an asset?

If we had a big picture Mayor or County Executive, we might be chewing on the data and building a strategy focused on how to best position ourselves for growth.  Unfortunately, we’re (as usual) mired in petty political battles and barking at who gets to eat the last crumbs on the table.  If we had a proactive business community or regional development authority, we might be putting together a list of priorities to capitalize on weakness in other regions of the country rather than simply seeking public funding for pet projects.

Since none of the above is likely to happen due to our habit of (generally) electing mouthbreathers and half-wits to public office, how do we make sure that we begin a period of slow growth rather than continue our decades long decline which has slowly morphed into a weird stasis of FAIL?

If I were Mayor, I would start by identifying our differentiators from the regions glowing in red and marketing ourselves to the people and businesses of those regions.  I’d start to align our public policy, planning documents and zoning code to capitalize on the opportunities presenting themselves and assemble a team of tacticians who can best build a better future for Buffalo.  I’d lean on the local University talent to help build a blueprint for success with measurable goals over five years.

Does this data tell you anything interesting?  How do you see it as presented?

5 Responses to “Buffalo, Steady As She Goes”

  1. Alan Bedenko January 6, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    If I was mayor, I’d be convening with Steve Casey to determine whom next to fuck with.

    Oh, wait…

  2. mark January 6, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    predictability really is one of the most important factors in business it seems…this bodes well for buffalo. in fact, data like this truly suggests that if we had progressive and proactive politicians, we would be going more down the path that pittsburgh is going rather than…whatever stupid path we’ve been going on since the 50’s.

    thanks for sharing the data! really interesting stuff

  3. Mark Poloncarz January 6, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Unfortunately, the discussions going on behind the scenes among many of the political and business policy makers have much more in common with Alan’s response than what Geek proposes. I could tell more, but it too depressing.

  4. Gabe January 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    A government run by technical experts instead of lawyers and salesmen is becoming more and more attractive each day.


  1. The Dry Rot Belt | WNYmedia.net - February 1, 2010

    […] people are leaving New York (maybe we won’t lose two Congressional seats after all), and Buffalo is ranked above average economically and leading the nation in housing indicators, there is plenty of evidence the Southwest is […]

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