September 6, 2005

ADAM SMITH, MEET THE GRAY LADY:

Houston Finds Business Boon After Katrina (SIMON ROMERO, 9/06/05, NY Times)

Perhaps no city in the United States is in a better spot than Houston to turn Katrina's tragedy into opportunity. And businesses here are already scrambling to profit in the hurricane's aftermath.

Oil services companies based here are racing to carry out repairs to damaged offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico; the promise of plenty of work to do sent shares in two large companies, Halliburton and Baker Hughes, soaring to 52-week highs last week. The Port of Houston is preparing for an increase in traffic as shippers divert cargoes away from the damaged ports of Pascagoula, Miss., and New Orleans.

Owners of office space here are witnessing a surge in leasing as New Orleans companies, including that city's oldest bank, scramble to set up new headquarters in Houston, helping to shore up its sagging property market. With brio that might make an ambulance-chaser proud, one company, National Realty Investments, is offering special financing deals "for hurricane survivors only," with no down payments and discounted closing costs.

All this, of course, is capitalism at work, moving quickly to get resources to where they are needed most.


No better way to make destruction creative than through the system that relies on creative destruction.

MORE:
Some of the Dispossessed Say They Won't Return (Solomon Moore, September 6, 2005, LA Times)

Before the storm, most Americans knew New Orleans as a blend of old Southern elegance and Bourbon Street decadence. The aftermath, however, has highlighted a primarily black city in which one-third of the African American population — more than 100,000 people — lives below the poverty line. Many of those hardest hit by the storm are not sure whether they want to go back.

"I didn't have no money for gas," said Thomas Lallande, a 60-year-old black man, as he rubbed his raw feet after finally evacuating.

Lallande said he wanted to leave before the storm but couldn't afford to. As the flood rose chest high last week, he waded from his submerged apartment in the 9th Ward to the Superdome, where he and thousands of people — nearly all of them black — waited for days without food, water or security.

Lallande escaped New Orleans — he was recuperating at a Baton Rouge shelter Monday — and, for now, he has no plans of going back: "What for? I don't have nothing back there."

And where some saw grim images and shattered futures, the city's most destitute saw rare opportunity.

"Actually, some people were a little better off after the storm," said a 26-year-old man who spoke on condition of anonymity as he took groceries out of a store last week. "I had gotten to the end of my rope. Now, I got a little something."

But even middle-class African Americans are reconsidering their futures in New Orleans. Herman and Christy Taitt, devotees of the city's music and culture, said they already had calls out to several different cities.

Herman, 44, is the head maintenance manager at Dillard University, and Christy, 37, is an accounting supervisor at a pharmaceutical firm. They had a house and three cars — including a Corvette — but they always thought they might have done better outside New Orleans.

Last week, at a Kinko's computer in Baton Rouge, they found aerial photos of their New Orleans home on the Internet. Water had inundated their neighborhood.

"Family kept us here," Herman Taitt said. "And I love the history of this place. The culture. It's the birthplace of jazz. The food. The parties. You can have a good time here. So we stayed. We allowed ourselves to have a second-class status to Southern white folks."

But now, Herman Taitt said, his elderly father is missing — and a crucial bond to the city has been broken.

"We're looking at Houston," he said. "We're looking at L.A."

New Orleans teacher Karen Francois, 53, said her apartment in the 9th Ward was destroyed. Though she would like to return to her job in January, she's thinking about Arizona after that.

"I'll be sad because I don't think there are people like us anywhere else outside of New Orleans," she said. "But you can't get any money there. There's no real opportunities in New Orleans — not for us."

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2005 9:26 AM
Comments

Well if that works, maybe what we should do to get rid of the spare nuclear weapons in the former USSR and detonate them in major American cities, to get the economy really humming. We could refer to the resulting prosperity as the Orrin Judd Nuclear Boom.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 6, 2005 9:59 AM

Don't get him started.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 6, 2005 10:07 AM

AOG:

We certainly should have been more ready to use nukes in the Cold War and it's undeniable that Japan and Germany benefited from our destroying them.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 10:10 AM

3 cars including a 'Vette and they're 2nd class to Southern white folk?


Posted by: Sandy P at September 6, 2005 10:26 AM

joe;

I couldn't resist. It's one of his lefty tropes which is justified by looking only at benefits and never at costs, the standard mechanisms for justifying almost all progressive schemes. One wonders why he doesn't support doing the same sort of thing to our social infrastructure (destroying part of it so it comes backs stronger), although in that case he's willing to consider the costs.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 6, 2005 10:51 AM

AOG:

Technology doesn't make social arrangements obsolete, it does technology. The broken window gets replaced by a thermal pane that saves money on heating and cooling costs. Nothing replaces a father.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 11:02 AM

So what are we going to call this new theory that natural disaters stimulate economic growth - Hurrikeynesian economics?

Posted by: Brandon at September 6, 2005 12:06 PM

Brandon:

It's not new. Ever read The Mouse that Roared?

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 1:36 PM

OJ,

No, but I've watched the movie.

Posted by: Brandon at September 6, 2005 3:20 PM

The premise is that it's good to have us rebuild your economic infrastructure for you.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 3:27 PM

Some of the Dispossessed Say They Won't Return. Some will be many. The result will be two Republican senators and a Republican governor in LA.

Posted by: tgn at September 6, 2005 6:48 PM

Well yes, it's obviously good to have your infrastructure rebuilt with someone else's money. In your scenario here, who exactly is the someone else if we're discussing the national economy? You're almost there, reach just a bit more...

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 6, 2005 6:48 PM

We have more money than we know what to do with--anything that makes companies spend it to upgrade infrastructure is good.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 7:02 PM

Particularly if the you in question is a lawyer. If even half the money that gets thrown at this gets spent actually rebuilding something you'll be very lucky. And no, we don't have more money than we know what to do with. We have more money than you know what to do with.

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 6, 2005 7:07 PM

Corporations are holding too much cash--better use it to upgrade than them sit on it. The dollar spent today that saves you money isn't even a cost in the long run.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2005 7:22 PM

I read this and all I could think of was "and the alternative to all this spending and job creation is???????" These people seem to think that it is the Houstonians who are out there trying to take advantage of the poor refugees. They are out there trying to rebuild the infrastructure that got us a lot of our refineries and our oil supplies. That is investment, not taking advantage. They are the closest city that is in good shape and capable of doing the job. More power to them!!

Posted by: dick at September 6, 2005 7:28 PM

I think the more important thought is that the silver lining to this pitch black cloud is that its storm has pushed a lot of folks who were in deep and unproductive ruts on to new paths, that will be better for them and for the rest of the country.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 6, 2005 8:21 PM

Who'd a thunk it: The city too fat and ugly for company (Houston) is now Louisiana's land of plenty.

Frankly, NOLA and the feds can take all the time they need rebuilding.

Posted by: Brad S at September 6, 2005 10:19 PM

I've no opinion on Orrin's intriguing urban renewal theories, but it is interesting how the MSM is already bouncing back and forth between how humiliated they are that the States' "underbelly" of crime, squalour and poverty has been revealed to the world and wistful nostalgia for the destruction of the creative soul of America. Obviously the fevered rage that NO wasn't evacuated is co-existing in the same minds with the outrage of being evacuated.

Face it, guys, President Bush caused the hurricane.

Posted by: Peter B at September 7, 2005 9:07 AM
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