Since the initial downturn in 2008, the economy has shown slow but steady growth. Leading this charge are front-runner industries such as the utilities, building, and technology sectors. In the past, growth has been seen primarily in and around the major urban areas. During this recovery period, however, that is not the case. This article explores some of the factors for the unexpected exurban growth, which are benefiting both the economy and America’s workforce as well.
In school, we’ve all learned about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many may not realize that the economic downturn of 2008 was even more impactful in terms of job losses. Nationwide, however, the revitalization began immediately but this time, unlike previous fluctuations, job growth radiated from the exurban regions, not the major cities as was the historical precedent.
Recession of 2008’s Impact
There are many reasons for this. To begin, the world of the 1930s is non-existent today. Commuter systems including rail lines, interstates, have all vastly improved in the past 85 years. More adults are in the workforce, including women, and most at highly-skilled and/or professional levels. With two breadwinners in a family, home ownership, multiple cars, and an improved quality of life quickly became the norm.
Soon it was no longer necessary to live and work in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, to find and hold down a well-paying job. Many businesses moved their headquarters to the more affordable suburbs as the local workforce and commuter lines provided access to quality personnel within close proximity. Over time, technology played an additional role in lowering the cost of doing business by offering some workers the option of working from home, at least part-time. Today, at a growing number of businesses and industries, all home-based workers require is a tablet, a chair, a desk, and internet connectivity.
Previously, high-powered executives were married to their corporations. Eighty and 100-hour work weeks were standard. Many did not have time to spend with their families. The sacrifice most fathers made was to be either an excellent provider or to be a blue collar family man. For one, their salary afforded a luxurious lifestyle, for the other, a life where job status and a paycheck were secondary to time spent with relatives and friends. As with most paradigms, it is not one occurence that creates a tipping point, but a series leading up to that event.
Among the factors that have contributed to the ex-urban exodus we are seeing today is the resurgence of the stay-at-home mom (or dad). Beginning in the 1970s, more well-educated women began to enter the workforce at the professional levels. Now the head-of-household responsibilities were shared. Avoiding latch key kid syndrome spawned new business and employment sectors. While two major salaries allowed certain privileges, they also changed certain family protocols and created service industry opportunities in child care and after school activities.
Today’s workplaces are far less formal than ever before. In fact, many businesses tout themselves as being ‘family oriented’. Some allow staffers to work/collaborate remotely, either part or full-time and business-casual dress on Fridays has become the normal policy. In business, today’s rising stars want it all: family, nice home, and a comfortable lifestyle. In major cities with an exceptionally high cost of living, where else but outside a major urban area is this possible?
Soaring Suburban Property Values
Some of the regions that have experienced the most exponential growth over the past decades have been the greater San Jose area, and the so-called “Tech Triangle” that incorporates Raleigh, Durham, and Winston-Salem in North Carolina. Here, and in similar regions throughout the U.S., property values have soared over the last ten years. These factors have provided a welcome boost to the sagging real estate market as well as the national economy.
Hot real estate markets notwithstanding, perhaps the greatest reason driving the nationwide economic uptick is the need for more affordable ways to live, work, and to ‘do business’. Exurban areas tick all the boxes, providing lifestyle, increased family time and employment options, and is clearly behind the slow but steady return to the nation’s economic well-being.