Monday, November 08, 2010

Joel Kotkin speaking Wed on Houston's past and future

For its 10th anniversary, the Center for Houston's future has snagged one of the highest profile thinkers, writers, and speakers in the country on the topic of cities: Joel Kotkin. I worked with Joel on the Opportunity Urbanism study a few years back, and he really knows how to get past all of the hype and fads around cities to get to what's really going on, including what's working and what's not. If you haven't heard him speak, you should, and your next chance is this Wednesday evening at The Grove on Discovery Green.

There are two purposes to this post:
  1. If you're interested in attending, there are a (very) few seats left, so register ASAP. You can find more info here and register here.
  2. To spark some civic conversations around Joel's ideas, Houston, and the Center for Houston's Future, starting in the comments here. There are links below to some of his writing to get you started.
Here's some of the official material for the event:

At the Nov. 10 dinner, we’ve asked Joel to ponder on Houston’s last 10 years, how it’s shaped up, and considering that, what the next 10 years might be like.

Food for Thought: Dinner & Conversation with Joel Kotkin

Wed 11.10.10 - Dinner with Author Joel Kotkin

The Center for Houston’s Future is throwing a birthday party on November 10th – a dinner party with some food for thought,and we hope you can join the celebration!

When: 11.10.10 06:00 PM

Where: The Grove Restaurant (1611 Lamar, Houston, 77010)

We’re on the cusp of rolling out our most ambitious effort yet: our Scenarios 2040 Project - a game-changer for the Center and for the greater Houston region. To celebrate that – and our 10th birthday – we’ve invited author and urbanist Joel Kotkin to help us have a lively and thoughtful conversation about Houston’s last ten years and the decades to come.

Joel’s ties to the Center date back to our beginning, and his latest book is The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, so we think he’s uniquely qualified to reflect on Houston’s progress in the last decade and what’s ahead for the region. We’ve also enlisted the help of our Scenario 2040 Chair, and retired Shell CEO, John Hofmeister, to interview Joel and ask him your questions.

The festive dinner will be at The Grove, overlooking downtown’s Discovery Green, and, in order to keep it conversation-sized, we’ve limited it to 110 seats. There’ll be choices of sitting at the head table with Joel, at the three “front row” tables, or at the half-dozen tables that will complete the discussion group.

Joel is a renowned author and internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends. His most recent book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 creates an optimistic forecast of the U.S. at midcentury, and he's known to be a champion of Houston as a model city for the future. Read his recent article featured on Forbes here.

Here are links to some of his recent articles:

Joel Kotkin’s website:

New America Foundation: short bio and links to other Kotkin articles

Link to pdf of the Opportunity Urbanism report

Houston, Model City. Forbes.

America in 2050: Urban, Suburban, or Both? Fastcompany.

National Center for Policy Analysis

TX Property Rights Blog

(An older 2008 article by Kotkin ) Lone Star Rising. The American.

Forbes Magazine declares Houston a Model City; can our nonprofits take credit? The

Kotkin Spoke: Too Bad Houston Didn’t Listen Lone Star Times

Low Wages and the Metropolitan Middle Class The Huffington Post.

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At 10:54 AM, November 09, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you may ask Kotkin about his recent statement in Newsweek (article, "Greetings From Recoveryland: Where can you go to escape the recession? Try any of these 10 places.") I, for one, disagree, as Houston DOES compete right now. Here's the specific statement:

"Of course, none of the cities in NEWSWEEK’s Top 10 list competes right now with New York, Chicago, or L.A. in terms of art, culture, and urban amenities, which tend to get noticed by journalists and casual travelers. But once upon a time, all those great cities were also seen as cultural backwaters. And in the coming decades, as more people move in and open restaurants, museums, and sports arenas, who’s to say Oklahoma City can’t be Oz?"

At 9:08 PM, November 09, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The comment about OKC is pretty dumb - OKC is basically a resource extraction operation. It's not a 21st century New York; it's a 21st century Butte, Montana.

Houston is of course something else. If OKC is like a mining boomtown, then Houston is like Los Angeles or San Francisco - a city that began its life as a resource city but moved on to stabler economic output.

At 9:12 PM, November 09, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I should add that while the comment on OKC is dumb, the general gist of things about Houston is completely correct. Everything Californians say about it today New Yorkers said about Los Angeles in 1955 and Londoners said about New York in 1900.

At 10:01 AM, November 10, 2010, Anonymous Martin said...

I personally think Los Angeles is still pretty worthless. Having the beach is nice and the weather is pleasant if you're on the Westside but most of LA, at least to me, is pretty unappealing. The infrastructure is substandard for a city of that size and poor planning 50 years ago and sprawl turned the place into a mess.

I would take San Francisco (or Portland or Seattle) over Los Angeles any day.

At 10:08 AM, November 10, 2010, Blogger Michael said...

>>The comment about OKC is pretty dumb - OKC is basically a resource extraction operation. It's not a 21st century New York; it's a 21st century Butte, Montana.

There's nothing to prevent OKC from being a good second-tier city like a 21st century Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, etc. It has a lot of the same advantages going for it that Texas cities have. It is also in the Sunbelt which I still think is a big advantage for any city - unlike Butte Montana. But don't ask me - just ask the NBA why they put a team in OKC.

>>Of course, none of the cities in NEWSWEEK’s Top 10 list competes right now with New York, Chicago, or L.A. in terms of art, culture, and urban amenities

Yeah - I think he could have mentioned that Houston and Dallas already offer almost anything you could want, and the other 8 could one day as well. Still - his phrasing doesn't particularly upset me. I'm fine with Houston being a hidden gem for as long as possible.

At 9:09 PM, November 10, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

OKC doesn't have much of an economy apart from oil. Once the oil moves elsewhere, people will stop calling Oklahoma Sunbelt and start calling it Tornadobelt.

At 9:37 PM, November 10, 2010, Blogger Michael said...

>>OKC doesn't have much of an economy apart from oil

I don't know too much about OKC, but people say the same thing about Houston - and they are wrong. OKC is the capital, close to OU, and seems about as low cost as Texas, and seems to have a decent military presence. Nobody is claiming it is going to be the next NYC. But I would bet that it will continue to grow quicker than the US average through the next few decades. Seems like a Charlotte or a Nashville type of city to me - lots of potential.

At 11:13 PM, November 10, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

Charlotte's real per capita income is stagnating. So is that of many capitals with strong universities and hospitals, like Austin; Austin's per capita income in 2008 was lower than in 1998. See any inflation calculator, plus BEA data. OKC actually did much better, thanks to the oil boom; so did other rising resource regions in the US, especially Wyoming.


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