Clean Green Metro Florida by Brookings Institution

Amy Liu spoke about globalization last week in Orlando, Leaders will seize the clean economy about clean industries leading economic growth. Even though she was talking linear growth, her Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution has some interesting points that mesh with the exponential growth like compound interest Georgia can get on with in solar and wind power.

The Florida Economic Development Council 2013 FEDC Conference 26-28 June 2013 was the venue for Amy Liu’s A Globally Competitive Florida: Regional Opportunities in the Next Economy. To summarize her slides (which are in a format not easily linkable, she bashes Congress to motivate cities leading. In particular, Florida’s 20 metro ares have 61.75 of land area, 94.1% of population, and 95.9% of output. Nothing surprising there: cities are densely populated. Two of the biggest in Florida are in our Floridan Aquifer: Orlando and Jacksonville. (She didn’t mention the aquifer; I did.)

The national economic recovery is slow, the middle class has been hard-hit, and Florida is recovering faster, except on unemployment. The U.S. population is rapidly getting older and by 2050 53.7% will be minorities, each of which have very different educational achievements, and much of this is happening in metro areas.

Her solution is global competition. She notes none of top 20 global metros by “economic performance” are in the U.S. (except 1 in Puerto Rico, with 13 in China, 2 Saudi Arabia, 1 India, 1 Australia, 1 Indonesia, 1 Macau, which is also China). Tampa is #141, Orlando #171, Miami #227, Jacksonville #258. Looking over here at News Release: GDP by Metropolitan Area, Advance 2011, and Revised 2001–2010 by U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis 22 February 2013, we find that Valdosta MSA was still shrinking economically in 2011, at about the same rate as Orlando or Tallahassee, while Jacksonville was shrinking less.

Amy Liu thinks the opportunity for prosperity is innovation, low carbon, and exports. She goes into that in some detail (employment in “advanced industries”, STEM jobs, and patents). Leaders will seize the clean economy, “a Growing Global Market”, she says, but I think her slide misses half the point. It’s not straight line growth we’re seeing in clean jobs: it’s like compound interest, averaging 65% per year 2005-2010. It’s exponential growth like computers or smartphones.

On slide 42 she finally mentions a federal government role in all this:

“Open new markets through free trade agreements”
She doesn’t mention that that’s one of the big reasons for the collapse of the U.S. middle class. Ross Perot was right: that giant sucking sound you hear is NAFTA and other free trade agreements siphoning away U.S. jobs.

Curiously, she never mentioned solar or wind power in her presentation. Solar power and wind power off the coast can produce more electricity than Georgia needs, especially during the day, and can be exported through the grid to other states. That is already creating clean jobs for Georgians. If we get a move on and do this, the expertise acquired in a smart grid (I’m looking at you, Southern Company, with your vaunted biggest private R&D operation in the country), in solar installation and distribution, and in wind technology, can also all be exported. Exported without substantial disadvantage to our own production, because we have more sun than more northerly states, and if we can make wind turbines work in hurricanes, we can produce power when it’s cloudy inland.

Plus, much of this solar production can be both on rooftops in cities and towns and on farm workshops and in solar farms outside the cities. That goes beyond Brookings’ city-driven approach.

She also didn’t mention agriculture. Local and organic agriculture can be combined with solar power for a resilient local economy, which is in my mind more important than further global interdependance. There are some interesting statistics and ideas in Brooking’s Metropolitan Policy Program, if you can view them without drinking the global free trade fizzy soft drink.

Meanwhile, solar and wind compound annual growth will beat everything else in about a decade. If Brookings wants to help metro (or rural) areas lead, it might want to mention the fastest growing industry in the world, solar power, which will change the world faster than anything she did mention.