Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are Educational Attainment Trends in The Southeast Unique?

My new blog post at the FRB Atlanta’s Partners Update explores this question. Overall, cities have higher relative performance than their suburbs, compared to large metros across the country, but lower levels of overall attainment. 

The post includes an interactive map and graphs! Check it out, link is below. 

https://www.frbatlanta.org/commdev/publications/partnersupdate/2015/03/workforce-development/city-suburban-educational-attainment-trends-in-southeast-united-states

Follow Up on Living Wage and Inequality – Neal Peirce in @citiwire

Neal Peirce discusses the challenges of poverty wage jobs at major chains – linking severe inequality with these jobs.  Given the recent debate in DC over its living wage job and recent reporting on inequality, the article is apropos.

Peirce notes that Los Angeles hotel workers near Los Angeles International Airport (with support from service unions) got a living wage law passed and are now paid $12 an hour.  Further efforts in LA are underway to expand the law.

Peirce also highlights the negative social and psychological effect on children of low wage workers who feel helpless, which may be one of the most lasting and damaging side effects of inequality.

There is hope – Bill de Blasio, now the frontrunner in the NYC Mayoral race, has taken low wage work up as a campaign platform.  Peirce quotes de Blasio’s exasperation over a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.  He has been surging in the polls – maybe the economic populism has something to do with it.

Adding One To Ezra Klein’s 5 Worst Things About The Jobs Market

Ezra Klein from the Washington Post has a great analysis of today’s somewhat disappointing jobs report.

I’d like to add one point.  We need to create even more jobs to keep up with population growth.  Klein gets at this in his third point about weak job creation, but we need to remember that we aren’t just aiming at getting back to pre-recession job levels.  America is a growing country and getting back to pre-recession jobs levels in 2023 will mean that the country will still have high unemployment and numerous people out of the job market – we have to do better and create jobs faster.

Could a City ETF, like the #NashvilleETF (NYSE:NASH), Invest in Local Businesses Too?

A few weeks ago, with some fanfare, the Nashville exchange traded fund (ETF) began being traded on the New York Stock Exchange.  Exchange traded funds are kind of like mutual funds in that they invest in lots of companies instead of just one, but they trade on the public stock market instead of through a financial company.

What sets the Nashville ETF apart from other ETFs is that it solely invests in companies that are headquartered in the Nashville metro area – and gives investors who want to support the regional economy a way to do so.  Nashville is a growing, creative place that is attractive to live and work.  It makes sense that people would be bullish on the area.  The Nashville ETF doesn’t necessarily capitalize on the attractiveness of the place though – it is about the (big, public) companies in the area.  Here are a few details about the holdings of the NASH ETF.

It invests in 24 companies only – all are headquartered in the greater Nashville area.  All companies have a market capitalization of at least $100 million dollars (not huge businesses, but certainly not small startups either – they are all public and the general investing community thinks that the business is worth $100 million).

Each individual company stock must also have at least 50,000 shares change hands daily (as measured by average volume of exchange).  For a list of specific holdings in the fund, see this link from the ETF managers.  The fund managers change the amount of money they invest in each company, but with 24 companies each is an average of 4.17% of the entire fund.  (For reference the entire fund is just under $4.9 million dollars). Each holding averages $204,000.

So the fund invests in larger businesses that are headquartered in the Nashville area, but many of which derive their income outside of the region and employ workers outside of the region.  These are also companies that likely do not face the smaller financing and lending hurdles that new small businesses face.

Obviously there are restrictions and regulations since the ETF is a publicly available stock offering, but it seems that there is a way that at least one of the $200,000 shares could be an entity that made small rotating loans to credit worth small businesses.  I am not the person to explain or understand the intricacies of public trading law, but if I was a local economic development professional in Nashville, I would be pursuing efforts to have a $200,000 share go into a fund like the NASH fund that would be specifically for investing in small start up companies in the area that had the potential to grow significantly.  I’d potentially look to have that $200,000 managed by an already existing public company in the finance industry that could devote the entire investment amount to an EFT.  In Nashville, this might be able to happen with Pinnacle Financial Partners (a bank) that is already traded as a part of the ETF.

Obviously something like that is speculative and someone could get into the details on financial laws about what can be a part of an ETF, but when I think about investing in a place it would be nice if just a small portion of it went to the types of businesses that make a place run.  Economic developers should look to capitalize on the ease of investing that ETFs bring to help regular investors be able to put money into a basket of local businesses.

Buying a stock or an ETF can happen at one’s computer these days and ETFs are an ideal way to invest in a place because it provides diversification across lots of entities.  In a local ETF, you would be able to split your investment money into the selected parts of the local economy, not just the new local coffee shop.  Local investors would be safer because of diversification and the coffee shop could still have access to a new funding source.  If an ETF could be crafted where even one of the smaller 4% shares went into new local small businesses (and the remaining 96% stayed in bigger and less volatile public companies), then investors could really put money into their local economy and share in the financial benefits and risks of revitalizing and growing urban economies.

Bravo to the Nashville ETF for starting a fund that lays the foundation for this, now economic developers and financial professionals need to find a way to get small businesses eligible!

A Country of Cities

Vishaan Chakrabarti recently published A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America.  (The link is to an excerpt from the book).  Chakrabarti is an accomplished urban planner, architect and real estate development professional who is now the Director of Columbia University’s Center for Urban Real Estate.

I am particularly interested because in 2010 Chakrabarti was a visiting professor at the University of Virginia where I participated in a studio on hyperdensity that he led.  It was a challenge to develop beautiful and viable and (most importantly) livable places at high densities – but it is possible and important!

I will post more in the future once I have had the chance to read the entire book.  Check it out – it is sure to challenge some common assumptions in planning.  It should also provide some reasonable and attainable steps forward to densify cities.  And it is beautifully illustrated.