The Milken Institute Statistics of the Best Performing Cities, for the past year, came out last week and I have looked over them. The numbers show that the Hickory metro has once again fallen to one of the 5 worst performing metropolitan areas in the United States. We are now ranked #197 out of the top 200 U.S. metros compared to #185 last year and #191 in 2008. The job growth trend increased some over the last year, but the 1 and 5 year wage trends are still abysmal, ranking at or near the bottom 5% in both categories. Sadly, High-Tech GDP output did not sustain the growth of the previous year, falling from #2 in the rankings to #196.
Here are the rankings and trends since 2003:
Below is a presentation of Hickory's 2010 Milken rankings versus the rest of North Carolina:
What one sees is that the rest of North Carolina's Metro areas are seeing a negative trend, except for areas such as Raleigh-Durham and Fayetteville heavily associated with government and public industry. But, only Greensboro has begun to rival the numbers and trends associated with Hickory. I believe much of that is due directly to the loss of manufacturing capacity related to furniture in association with the real estate bust. People tend to fill new houses with furniture. This has been exacerbated by the offshoring of these jobs to 3rd world markets. Asheville and Winston-Salem have fallen into the bottom half, but they are barely in the bottom half and both decreases in rankings correspond heavily with North Carolina's general slide.
One could also assume that Wilmington and Asheville have seen negative trends in overall statistics, because the deep recession is having a negative impact on tourism, which is a major component of those area's economy.
The national trends show that 9 of the top 20 metros in the nation are in Texas. International trade with Mexico has had a major impact on the Texas economy, due to strategic location and the weakening dollar. On the negative side, out of the bottom 20 metro areas, 11 are in the Michigan-Indiana-Ohio corridor. That is a continuing trend that I have previously addressed, because Hickory is amongst these city's that are at the bottom of the statistics. In every year since 2003, Hickory has ranked in the bottom 15 of these rankings and in all but two of those years Hickory ranked in the bottom ten.
To get a good grasp on these statistics, please take a look at the article Hickory - Time to put the Puzzle together that I put together from statistics from the year before last. We can pretty much see that we are in the same position as we were last year and the year before and the year before and the year before. There have been some steps taken to sow seeds for the future and I have personally seen some attitudes change about the direction of the area, but it is more than obvious that it has not been enough. The Powers that Be are scared to do anything that might be considered too risky and therein lies a BIG problem. That risk aversion is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
I constantly hear the same old mantra about Conservative Ideas and Values espoused, but that is not enough. Of course, the people at the the top of the food chain want to keep property taxes low, because they own all of the property. What about investing in your community? And why push a yahoo simpleton agenda?
First of all, they are going to have to raise the property tax rate. They can say that it is revenue neutral and that is fine, but there are going to be challenges to assessed property values and if necessary there are going to be lawsuits, because I don't care what the appraisers say, the properties are not realistically worth what they are being appraised at. The population of this area is set to implode, because of the trends we see above.
No jobs + No living wage = Moving somewhere else to survive. That means reduced demand for housing. That means an increase in the amount of available housing on the market. That means a further implosion in Home values, unless the banks want to continue to prop up market prices by holding on to abandoned houses after the people walk away from the outstanding mortgages. And will city officials tolerate the blight associated with these properties not being properly maintained? Believe me, all of this can happen and will happen if we don't do something soon.