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New Energy Boomtowns

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Economists and businesses around the nation are rightly worried about the impact of high energy prices. But there may be an upside for places who are positioned to take advantage of an emerging energy boom.

As I travel around the US and the world, I will try to continue to give you more examples of the winners and losers of the new energy paradigm. Some of the clearest winners, of course, will be outside the country, places like Dubai, UAE, Calgary, Alberta and Perth in Western Australia.

But there's also some big winners shaping up already inside the United States. This shift can be seen already in the energy-producing areas like Wyoming which sat at the bottom of income growth in 1990s but now are getting richer faster than any part of the country. One clear example which emerged in this years Best Cities list was #11 ranked Casper, where energy related jobs have jumped almost 70% since 2002.

But perhaps the biggest long-term winner could be Texas, where job growth had languished under the Presidency of its former Governor. Until recently , West Texas oil exploration firms , notes Midland oilman Mike Bradford, held back because they feared that high prices would not last.

Now they are convinced the energy market has broken free of OPEC control and prices will remain inflated. "People held back and held back," suggests Bradford , who also sits on the Midland County Commission. "But now we think the high prices are for real and now we're going nuts".

Bradford points out that there barely 100 houses on the market in the city, down from 500 just a year or two ago ; unemployment, once well above the national average, is virtually non-existent. Office vacancy rates, hovering at near 50% just a few years back, has dropped to roughly 10%.

Texas--- including big energy cities like Houston and Dallas -- seems certain to begin benefiting, asit did in the 1970s, from a looming energy crisis. The rest of us can find lots of people to blame for this -- our own wastrel selves, the Bush Administration's disdain for conservation and alternative fuels as well as the largely Democratic opposition to domestic energy development.

But whatever the cause, I'd look closely at opportunities down there in the coming years. Energy, plus low taxes and housing prices, could prove a powerful economic elixir. The Bush sun may be setting, but the Lone Star may only now be ready to shine.

Last updated: Jun 8, 2006




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