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BBA Digest: Escape from New York


Escape from New York

We're watching this trend closely, if indeed it truly is a trend. More and more people appear to be leaving major cities, at least some major cities, for places with more space, fewer people and greater affordability.

Both San Francisco and New York saw 80 percent more people leave than move in during the months of March and June, according to a report from HireAHelper, an online marketplace for moving services.

Signed contracts for sales of condos and co-ops in Manhattan plunged nearly 60 percent in July, while contracts for single-family homes in areas outside of New York City skyrocketed, according to a recent report from brokerage firm Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.

Similar shifts seem to be playing out in suburban areas around other major cities. Norfolk County, outside of Boston, saw a 38 percent increase in new contracts for single-family homes in July over last year, according to Compass.

Collin County, Texas, outside of Dallas where I live, saw a 58 percent increase. San Bernardino County, outside of Los Angeles, saw a 62 percent jump and Marin County, outside of San Francisco, saw a 77 percent increase over last year.

Fortune ’s research shows a large number of Americans -- 8 percent of those surveyed -- may consider moving as a result of the pandemic. If they follow through on that intention, that would be a massive migration. But this isn’t the first time big cities have been declared dead, so I wouldn’t write them off. It is not easy to quantify putting lots of creative people in close proximity, but I do believe there is something to it.

Leading by Serving

Over the years I have learned that consulting is a two-way street -- I've learned as much from my clients as they have from me. In the course of my consulting work for economic development organizations, I've come to know some of the very best practioners in this country. Nearly all of them subscribe in one form or the other to the belief of "servant leadership,” the notion that leaders are there to serve their customers, teammates and communities. They understand that if their organization is to succeed, indeed if they are to succeed, that they must a one team mentality, uniting people in a belief in the EDO's mission, so as to meet challenges and withstand adversity. These economic developers also know not to rest on their laurels. There is always so much more to do, always room for improvement. Developing a system of continuous process (Nick Saban calls it "the process.") is absolutely paramount. (We help with that by the way.) It means doubling down time and time again in pursuit of excellence, always a fleeting concept.

Feeding Our Vulnerable

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 37 million Americans are food insecure.

Even before the pandemic, food insecurity was entangled with unaffordable housing, health care costs, unreliable transportation.

Food insecurity in America no longer looks like a skinny children with rickets. It looks like fast food at the end of the month when SNAP -- the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps -- runs out. It is the rural “food deserts,” where few food banks reach. Its legacy is diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Feeding America, which oversees the country’s largest network of food banks and pantries, has projected that up to 54 million Americans could be food insecure before the end of the year, a 46 percent increase since the pandemic began.

The group has reported a 60 percent increase in the number of people it serves, and said that four in 10 people are first-time recipients of food aid. During the pandemic, Feeding America’s volunteers have surveyed recipients, sending dispatches back to headquarters that read like raw intelligence reports from a nation in need.

The FEED Act was introduced in May and would help put restaurant kitchens to work feeding vulnerable Americans, including children who can’t return to school. It counts celebrity chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés among its champions — but it’s stalled along with the rest of a potential next stimulus package.

I'll Know When I Get There

The big vacation is out. America is going camping (and boating and hiking and fishing) instead.

That's my camping rig pictured above, when I was attending the Appalachian String Band Festival, aka "Clifftop," in West Virginia a few years ago. The Wall Street Journal reports that on a national level, consumers have cut travel spending to just half what they spent last summer, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Yet, in July, more people visited Fort Sumter National Park, in South Carolina, and Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks on the Michigan shore of Lake Michigan than any month since the National Park Service began tracking in 1979. Visits to Valley Forge, in Pennsylvania, and Maryland’s Assateague Island hit multidecade highs last month. State parks have reported similar surges. When the weather cools down a bit, I intend to take a week or two solo for some much needed down time. Add food, beer, banjo and guitar and I'll be singing home sweet home from my camp every night. Not sure where I'll be going but I'll know it when I get there.

The Consultants

Were I to be wrongly accused of some some vile, heinous act -- such as aiding and abetting in economic development -- I would hire a criminal defense lawyer who was a former prosecutor. This person would have seen it on both sides of the table.

Likewise, if I were a company executive charged with finding a location for a new facility, I would want to hire a site consultant who was a former economic developer. (By the way, I would qualify in that respect.) Law is a profession and I also view the field of economic development as a profession. But how about consulting?

Both law and economic development have schools of instruction so as to learn to become better at their stock and trade. Lawyers have law school. Economic develpers have the International Economic Development Council and state associations dedicated to schooling them on becoming better economic developers.

But there are no corresponding schools of instruction for consultants. Anyone can dub themselves a site consultant, which, not surprisingly leads to a mixed bag.

Some of these self-described experts seem to be quite competent at what they do. Others, are unworthy of the name. More often than not, the better ones, in my opinion, are former economic developers. They've seen it on both sides of the table.

Whether they are competent or not and whether they even realize it or not, site consultants are charged with essentially performing multiple SWOT analyses on the fly, judging communities and real estate per parameters established by their clients. It's about risk and putting the client's interest first and foremost. Or at least it should be. One has to wonder when some base their fees in full or in part on incentives that are awarded and/or accessed, an inherent conflict of interest. To say that site consultants have a daunting task before them is an understatement. The simplest denominator, which is not necessarily the best, is establishing the costs of operation at competing locations. And even that is no simple task because of the many variables. But for many companies, overall costs have taken a backseat to the availability of talent. Talent, particularly digital talent, is where it's at.

Finding Fried Jesus

Come to think of it, I could really use a life-shortening deep-fried Oreo about now.

State fairs around the country have been canceled because of the coronavirus (36 so far), but food vendors and their devoted fans are going to great lengths to keep the corn dogs and chicken-on-a-stick flowing.

Across the country, concessionaires are going to great lengths, from organizing drive-throughs to buying delivery trucks, to keep the fair-food pipeline intact as state fairs continue to be called off, many for the first time since World War II.

Here in Dallas, where I live, the State Fair of Texas will be open as a drive-thru on weekends during the dates of the fair. But I need not wait until Sept. 25, the official opening date, to get my fried on.

Sometimes called “Fried Jesus,” Abel Gonzalez Jr. has accumulated more Big Tex Choice Awards wins at the fair than anyone else. His restaurant, Cocina Italiano, is currently serving fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fried cookie dough and fried jambalaya on its “Anything Goes Saturday” menu.

Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs started selling corn dogs at the fair in 1942, and for decades, you could only get them at the fair. But now you can get the iconic Texas fair food at pop-up events all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area from their mobile food trailers.

What We're Reading and Watching

America’s College Towns Are Facing an Economic Reckoning CityLab

Is the American Dream over? Here's what the data says WEForum

Jerry Falwell's Wet, Hot, Evangelical Summer Keeps Getting Worse Vice

Most Dangerous Waters in the World Are in the Mediterranean Bloomberg

The Epic Campaign to Win Elon Musk's Tesla Factory with Memes Verge

The Horsenecks, Wave the Ocean, Wave the Sea Youtube

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