Tag Archives: highways

Prospectus Day, Texas Style

29 Mar

Many business and real estate watchers in Buffalo, including our own Mark Byrnes, eagerly look forward to the Buffalo New’s Prospectus Day, where the sunniest of forecasts shine an upbeat light on Buffalo’s economic future. It was with great excitement, therefore, that this morning, after getting my free coffee in the hotel lobby, I opened the Killeen Daily Herald to find the 2010 Progress Report for Central Texas.

Killeen is a miserable town populated with miserable people. Located north of Austin and south of Waco and the Dallas – Ft Worth monstrosity, Killeen exists because Fort Hood exists. If Americans have now heard of Fort Hood, it is probably because of the terrorist shooting that took place there in November by the radicalized Muslim shrink Nidal Hasan. But Fort Hood is more than that – it is also the largest military post in the world, headquarters of III Corps, the 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, and major elements of the 4th Infantry Division. There are more soldiers stationed at Fort Hood (over 70,000) than in most nation’s entire standing armies, including Canada, Argentina and Australia. Killeen exists to feed, house and satisfy those soldiers and their families, in a community of nearly 400,000, organized as a twenty five mile long stripmall along the main highway.

Buffalonians will recognize most of the business points of pride from today’s Progress Report. Strong banks that stayed local and didn’t get hurt by the real estate bubble. $25 million in new construction of senior assisted living complexes. New restaurants and shops in a “revitalized” downtown. $4.6 million in public money to renovate a historic church, and convert it into government offices and a non-profit incubator. Federal highway stimulus dollars that kept construction companies busy repaving streets. A modest rise in the unemployment rate, and real estate prices that have stayed level, despite the national trends. A new focus on specialty manufacturing, including recruiting Osh Kosh and Raytheon, and back office professional services and call centers, for Sallie Mae and Convergys.  Record enplanements at a new airport, $100 million expansion at the major hospital, and new initiatives to recruit doctors to new specialty clinics. Sound sickeningly familiar yet?

There is one major point, however, where the stories diverge: population. Buffalo’s is going down, and Killeen, the third fastest growing metro in Texas, can’t keep up with its rise. The north east is taking a beating in the population race, and it is losing more match ups than just Buffalo vs. Charlotte or Pittsburgh vs. Houston. The real drubbing occurs with Syracuse vs. Killeen, where every “little town” in Texas is swelling to the point of bursting.

Killeen is proof that good planning, “authenticity,” great architecture, history, and regional pride are not required to be an economic powerhouse – it is telling that you can’t find a single picture of the town anywhere on the Chamber of Commerce website. $500 million a year in military construction on Fort Hood sure helps, as d0 100,000 local federal jobs. But you know what doesn’t stand in the way? Ugliness, or having US 190 as your main street:

Yes, that is an eight lane highway, and three medians, running through the center of town. Every Walmart, TGIF, and Holiday Inn is along this highway, as is half of the Killeen population, stuck in traffic, at any particular moment. Because Texas traffic engineers love one way frontage roads, with a complicated U-turn system, most trips in Killeen involve driving two miles east to get a half mile west.

What’s the point? That Buffalo’s perceived strengths have become universal, if even Killeen boats the same advantages in its yearly business pep rally rag. That government jobs are a main source of economic growth in other markets too. And that lousy infrastructure seems easily overcome when other economic forces are in the driver’s seat (pun intended).

Root Causes

9 Mar
Picture of Buffalo's downtown region taken fro...
Image via Wikipedia

Someday, people will take a hard look at the problems that hold Buffalo and WNY back economically, politically, and socially.

When that day comes, discussions about revitalizing cities or neighborhoods through the removal or downgrading of highways will become moot. The Kensington didn’t ruin the East Side, and its removal won’t revive it. The elevated 190 didn’t leave the waterfront stagnant, and its removal won’t suddenly revive it.

We pay disproportionately high taxes for really bad government. Maybe we should spend billions to repair that problem.

Point/Counterpoint – Borough-ing To A Bigger Buffalo

28 Nov

I think this short audio file sums up the debate so far on regionalizing Buffalo…

[audio:http://wnymedia.net/podcasts/bouroughingintheburbs.mp3%5D

Point provided by Elmwood Trey

Counterpoint Provided by Lancaster Stan

lancaster stan