Chicago Has Stiff Competition: Houston-Dallas and Atlanta Are Competing for Chicagos Turf
At one time, Chicago was the undisputed capital of the mid-continent. There were no Southern cities that could come even close in scope, and all cities further West, except eventually Los Angeles, were in Chicago's hinterland. Chicago's domination to the West is well-noted and obvious, but I recently read an argument for the idea that Chicago's 'Southern culture' contributes to its crime problems. In this article, by Whet Moser at Chicago Magazine, the author notes the extensive connections between populations in Mississippi (and to a lesser extent other Southern states, too) and in Chicago. That is, Chicago took in many Americans coming from Mississippi and other Southern states, indicating that these areas too were in its hinterland. No more. Atlanta is now the king of the Southeast, and Houston rules the gulf.
These cities compete using their similar centrality. They're all good locations for rail freight and for air traffic. All of them enjoy the advantage in capturing industries that need cheap freight to all parts of the country. Chicago is a bit superior when it comes to naval connections, but it has two severe disadvantages in a world where everything is more mobile and flexible, and people can live and work pretty much where they want – its weather, which it cannot do much about, and its other poor climate -- a bad regulatory climate of clout in which special interests flourish.
Today cities everywhere compete for the same jobs and capital. This is the key, because of what I've just stated – the jobs and workers are more and more mobile and flexible because locational advantages are severely lessened by ease of communication and travel. Therefore, every city must compete with the whole world and far more aggressively. Chicago can no longer expect its magnificent location to guarantee success. It must compete with Houston, which is more welcoming to business but enjoys many of the same geographical advantages that Chicago does. Think about that – Houston! Houston is not gifted with the advantages of historic importance, but neither is it saddled with the problems. It will culturally grow to fit its britches, but it will never have Chicago's labor problems hanging heavily around its neck. It won't soon face a bond crisis as a result of the incredible influence of interest groups who also lobby for a multitude of protectionist regulations that stifle business and innovation.
So Chicago must fix these issues and compete for business at the same level as Houston, with the same welcoming level of regulation as Houston, and Houston's general lack of red tape. If Chicago doesn't do this, it may soon find itself eclipsed by its neighbors to the South because capital is, more than ever before, able to freely flow anywhere it is welcomed.
As insurance, Chicago should jealously guard its sense of place to counteract its inclement weather.
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