TIP Strategies is a privately held Austin-based economic development consulting firm committed to providing quality solutions for public and private‑sector clients.
This blog is dedicated to exploring new data and trends in economic development.
By: Mike Maciag
Click for interactive map with data for each county.
Not many people live in rural Renville County, Minn., home to a scattering of farming communities along the Minnesota River. Far removed from any sprawling metropolis, its population has gradually dwindled for decades.
County Commissioner Bob Fox, like other officials in rural areas, is accustomed to seeing young adults move away. As families continue to leave for growing metropolitan areas, and as rural towns age, he wants to ensure the county still thrives. “We hope to provide opportunities for people that like this way of life,” he says.
Most U.S. counties are rural, and recent Census estimates indicate the majority of them are losing population as Americans migrate to cities and suburbs. Two-thirds of counties that the Census considers majority-rural based on population density lost residents last year. By contrast, only 31 percent of more urban counties registered population declines.
This divide is most apparent across the Great Plains and rural Appalachia, which experienced some of the largest rural population losses in recent years, along with Michigan and pockets of the upper Midwest. The Census Bureau estimates Renville County’s population dropped 2 percent since 2010 to about 15,400.
Part of this stems from Americans flocking to urban centers. But much of rural America’s shrinking population has to do with natural decreases, says Ken Johnson, a senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Rural counties are home to older white residents whose fertility rates are lower than other demographic groups. Many counties reached a tipping point in 2012 when annual deaths surpassed births. In all, 1,135 counties recorded a natural decrease — the most in U.S. history. “With the coming of the recession, the tipping point was accelerated because birth rates dropped,” Johnson says. And now that natural decreases started, they’ll likely continue in these areas for years.
But it’s not all bad news for rural America. While many areas took their hits during the Great Recession, agriculture largely sustained rural communities and newer industries, such as organic foods, cropped up. “When you look at the economic output of these counties, they’re actually growing,” says Matt Chase, the National Association of Counties’ executive director.
However, there just aren’t as many jobs as before in many farming communities. The mechanization of commodity agriculture — a major driver of rural economies — pushed down the number of available jobs. Accordingly, most rural counties will find it difficult to reverse years of population declines, but this doesn’t mean they can’t improve their quality of life.
Chase says broadband and access to airports are top priorities for rural counties. Well maintained roads and bridges are also essential for businesses wanting to curb transportation costs. But these investments often prove difficult for rural local governments, Chase says, with their aging populations and declining tax bases.
In Minnesota, Fox is working on a project to lay the foundation for a fiber network linking residents to high-speed Internet. Renville County also plans to expand a freight rail line and build a solid waste transfer center, further boosting the region’s economy. For each project, officials are working with other jurisdictions or private companies to achieve results that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. “It’s using taxpayers’ money wisely and producing better results by partnering with your neighbors,” Fox says.
This type of collaboration is needed if rural communities are to grow, says Chuck Fluharty, president of the Rural Policy Research Institute. Instead of thinking about two- or three-county areas, governments must set policies encompassing much larger regions — rural areas must better align themselves with nearby urban hubs and vice versa. “We need to rethink how we govern,” Fluharty says. “The old feudal silos have to go away.” Whether it’s economic clusters, distributed food and water systems, or tax sharing, there are ample opportunities for regional partnerships.
Although rare, some rural counties have seen their population climb. Loudoun County, Va., for example, experienced rapid population gains with its proximity to Washington, D.C., expanding from about 57,000 residents in 1980 to more than 300,000 today. In recent years, some of the fastest growing rural areas can be found in communities wedged between Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C. Neighboring Johnston and Harnett counties added the most residents of any majority-rural county in the U.S. since 2010, according to Census estimates.
Some rural counties boasting recreational opportunities, such as ski resorts in the West, have also fared well. Other regions benefited from a natural gas boom or recent manufacturing growth.
It’s for these reasons that rural counties can’t all be treated the same — both their demographics and economies vary greatly, says Fluharty. “There are amazing dynamics going on from central cities to remote rural areas.”
By: Steve Hargreaves
Via: CNN Money
A new map tallies up the number of solar-energy workers in each state.
There are more solar energy workers in Texas than there are ranchers. In California, they outnumber actors, and nationwide, America has more solar workers than coal miners.
Those stats come from solar research group The Solar Foundation, which rolled out a map last week showing which states have the most solar jobs. Unsurprisingly, sunny states like California and Arizona are near the top of the list. But some Northern states like New Jersey and Michigan — not known for their splendid weather — also show a high number of solar jobs.
What those states lack in climate they make up for in high electricity prices and favorable tax and regulatory policies, which attracts solar developers, said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation.
Solar supporters are going on the offensive about their field’s jobs angle. The industry receives considerable government support, and talking about its employment advantages broadens the conversation beyond global warming.
In addition to tallying up solar jobs by state, The Solar Foundation’s map contains information like how many solar companies are headquartered in each state and what their local workers are doing.
Nationwide, nearly half of all solar works are employed installing solar panels. That job pays about $18 an hour, or nearly $38,000 a year — a bit more than the median national wage of $34,750, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (BLS was the source the Solar Foundation used for its numbers on coal miners, actors and ranchers. The agency confirmed the numbers, though it said its own survey could miss workers in those industries who are self-employed or mis-categorized.)
About a quarter of the nation’s solar workers are employed in solar panel manufacturing, while most of the rest do development, sales and marketing.
Wyoming has the fewest solar workers, at 50. Utah is billed as the biggest underachiever, employing just 290 workers despite being the 7th sunniest state in the country.
Nationwide, the solar industry says it employs 119,000 people, up 13% from the year before — one of the fastest growth rates for any industry.
It’s a stat that the industry’s supporters like to tout.
Like many energy sources, solar receives support from the federal government. In 2010, more than $1 billion in federal money went to the solar industry, according to the Energy Information Administration. The funds cover a variety of initiatives, including job training programs, tax breaks amounting to 30% of a project’s cost, and federal loan guarantees.
“There’s been so much controversy around investment in green jobs,” Luecke said. “People want to see the results.”
By: Stan Alcorn
Via: Fast Company
Using a site that tracks dollar bills, a theoretical physicist noticed that our state boundaries are rather arbitrary, but that money tends to stay within new, more realistic boundaries.
To theoretical physicist Dirk Brockmann, the borders of the United States are out of date.
“Some are kind of arbitrary like New Mexico, Arizona: They’re just kind of drawn on the map,” says Brockmann. “Often, they no longer correlate with our behavior.”
Specifically, they no longer correlate with how we move.
Brockmann was doing research on human mobility in 2005, and struggling to find useful sources of data, when on the way back from a conference in Canada, he stopped by the home of his old friend Dennis Derryberry in the green mountains of Vermont. Over a beer on the porch, he told Derryberry about his research. Derryberry asked: “Do you know about WheresGeorge.com?”
You can think of WheresGeorge.com as a primitive FourSquare for $1 bills. “Georgers”–as users call themselves–”check in” their bills by entering the zip codes and serial numbers, then write or stamp “wheresgeorge.com” on the bill. If someone finds the bill and enters it again, they get a “hit.” The top Georger–an ammunition dealer who goes by the handle Wattsburg Gary–has entered more than 2 million bills and has nearly half a million hits.
This was, according to Brockmann’s account, the beginning of “Where’s George?” research: “Forming a mental image of millions of these dollar bill journeys in my head, I was convinced that analyzing this data would reveal essential properties of human mobility, the driving force behind the dispersal of bank notes.”
Brockmann has, in fact, used the dollar bill data to reveal certain “essential properties” (specifically, that our travels follow a Power Law), and also to model the Swine Flu epidemic. But one of his coolest research projects is his work on “effective boundaries.”
Brockmann took data for how the dollar bills traveled, and used network theory to draw lines where dollar bills are less likely to cross. In places they follow state borders, but not always; Missouri is divided into East and West, as is Pennsylvania. The “Chicago catchment area” includes a big chunk of both Indiana and Wisconsin.
The resulting map shows how “effective communities” don’t necessarily follow state lines. “I don’t know so much about the culture of the U.S.,” says Brockmann, who grew up in Germany. “But when I give talks on this, normally someone in the audience says, ‘Oh, this makes perfect sense.”
By: Nathan Yau
Via: Flowing Data
Upon discovering hundreds of thousands open embedded devices on the Internet, an anonymous researcher conducted a Census of the Internet, mapping 460 million IP addresses around the world.
“While playing around with the Nmap Scripting Engine (NSE) we discovered an amazing number of open embedded devices on the Internet. Many of them are based on Linux and allow login to standard BusyBox with empty or default credentials. We used these devices to build a distributed port scanner to scan all IPv4 addresses. These scans include service probes for the most common ports, ICMP ping, reverse DNS and SYN scans. We analyzed some of the data to get an estimation of the IP address usage.”
It’s a pretty thorough analysis, but the conclusion interested me most:
“The why is also simple: I did not want to ask myself for the rest of my life how much fun it could have been or if the infrastructure I imagined in my head would have worked as expected. I saw the chance to really work on an Internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole Internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the Internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time.“
It makes me feel…uneasy. [Thanks, Roger]
Via: The New York Times
Source: International Energy Agency