Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Transportation progress, millionaires, and wi-fi

A few quick pass-alongs tonight.
  • If you want the brief but comprehensive update on major transportation projects around Houston, be sure to check out the new 2005 Transporation Progress brochure from HGAC. Lots of maps and pictures. The sum total is pretty darn impressive.
  • CNN Money reports that Harris County has the sixth-most millionaires in the nation at nearly 100,000 households, an incredible 1 in 12 or 8% (!) of our 1.2m households totalling 3.5m people. If somebody had asked me to estimate the percent of millionaire households in Harris County, I would have guessed a far smaller number. I think the low cost of living combined with relatively high salaries in the energy industry lead to easier wealth accumulation than most parts of the country. Amazingly, Manhattan is not on the list, probably because they exclude the primary residence in calculating net worth, but it still seems odd. (Thanks to Christof for the tip)
  • A couple Information Week articles on the risks of trying to implement citywide wi-fi wireless internet access (one and two), with some specific mention of Houston:
"Signal strength is one issue. Hot-spot-happy Wi-Fi doesn't reach everywhere, and some cities are compromising. In a draft request for municipal Wi-Fi proposals issued Feb. 18, Houston said coverage need only reach into perimeter rooms and up to the second floors of buildings. Excluding those in high-rise buildings is hardly citywide access. Cities that want to go vertical may have to wait for WiMax, a technology that's still in development."


"But in places that aren't Podunk small like Chaska or tortilla flat like Tempe, the potential for radio interference and signal degradation can't be ignored. As my colleague J. Nicholas Hoover reported, Houston's planners are ratcheting back their expectations for technical reasons ("City Wi-Fi Sounds Great, If It Can Really Connect," Feb. 27; 1078/wifi.htm). In their recent request for Wi-Fi proposals, they state that coverage need reach only perimeter rooms and up to the second floors of buildings--hardly the ubiquitous access promised by the technology's promoters."


At 8:31 AM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt cost of living has much to do with the number of millionaires in this or any other city. The list is a "per county" ranking, so New York is divided into 5 counties, as opposed to one city or metro. Phoenix, on the other hand, has a 10,000 square mile county, so even it's exurbs are included.

The type of person, combined with his/her area of expertise likely has far more to do with things. Prior to 2004, Houston probably had far fewer millionaires. A 100% increase in oil prices likely helped make a lot of new ones. Likewise, investors versus consumers will see their net worth increase rapidly. A well paid spender will just look good paying his bills, while a mechanic who saves and invests will have more to show for it. Further, given American's reputation as the ultimate consumers, a quick runup in in value in a particular area, such as oil now, or internet stocks in the 90s, helps certain people make money faster than they can spend it.

Finally, a million bucks just aint what it used to be. A lot of regular people who took advantage of 401k matching become millionaires, but don't feel like one.

At 9:02 AM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Energy stocks are a good point: big runup, lots of local ownership.

I think Phoenix represents a lot of retirees cashing out of their pricey CA house and moving there, esp. Scottsdale.

I'm still surprise Manhattan is not on the list. With it's population of 1.5m out of 8m in NYC, you'd think they could muster 68,000 millionaire households to make the top 10 list. Maybe they're hit by the primary residence exclusion.

At 9:13 AM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, that's something I agree is a big deal. When you are counting millionaires, but you don't count the residence in an area where the average residence is over half a million dollars, it's going to skew the numbers. Especially when you consider many of Phoenix's millionaires became one when they cashed out their residences in California.

Given that the study was performed to locate potential financial services customers, I understand why residences were not included. It still skews the numbers a bit.

At 12:09 PM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Harris County ranks 6th in number of millionaires yet 3rd in overall population of US counties, does that suggest that we're potentially underperforming?

At 1:54 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Maybe just a little bit, although 3,4, and 5 are very close to us (range from 96 to 113K), and LA and Cook counties are almost a perfect proportional match to us - so we seem about par for a large, immigrant-drawing metro.

At 3:00 PM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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