2.2.13

HUMAN CAPITAL, RAILROADS, AND AIR CONDITIONING.

Joel Kotkin contemplates the possibilities for what he calls the Third Coast, or what ferroequinologists would understand as the further development of the Chemical Coast.
Perhaps more troubling are social problems, some the legacy of centuries of underdevelopment. Despite the influx of skilled and college-educated workers, Third Coast states continue to lag in college graduation rates and the percentage of their adult populations with college degrees. Of the 18 metropolitan areas across the Third Coast, only two—Tallahassee and Houston—have a higher percentage of college grads than the national average of 30 percent. When you rank states by their students' proficiency in math and science, only one Third Coast state—Texas—sits near the middle of the list. Efforts to reform public education—notably, Louisiana's new statewide voucher program and aggressive expansion of charter schools—offer some hope of addressing these weaknesses. In a new report, government efficiency expert David Osborne describes New Orleans's reforms as a "breakthrough." The results, he says, are "spectacular: test scores, graduation rates, college-going rates, and public approval have more than doubled in five years." He adds, "I believe this is the single most important experiment in American education today."

And the obstacles facing the Third Coast today aren't so different from those that once confronted other American economic dynamos. In the nineteenth century, New York was seen as a hopelessly corrupt sewer. In the early twentieth century, Los Angeles was dismissed as superficial and equally corrupt, with only one industry: fantasy. Few would make those claims today.

It is much the same with the Third Coast. Weather, education, and, in some places, a legacy of corruption still present considerable challenges to its ascendancy. But if the region can surmount these challenges—and it appears to be succeeding at this—the Third Coast could become one of the major forces in twenty-first-century America.
There is already a critical mass of the right kinds of human capital for energy, steel recycling, and chemical processing to be self-sufficient in embedded knowledge.

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