Thursday, March 16, 2006

Disequilibrium …

As we head toward our April scoring of New Orleans’ progress, we are getting very concerned about moving into our new living quarters in Metairie. We have scheduled a moving date of March 31, but our confidence that the place will be move-in ready decreases each day. Early in each of the three previous months we were also told that we could schedule the move for the end of that month.

Our story is far from unique. Builders are overbooked, skilled workers are hard to find, and suppliers of construction materials are having trouble keeping up with demand.

Businesses are reopening or staying open with less employees than they had, and generally far less than they need. Food service is particularly affected; it is hard to find a place to eat that does not have a “help wanted” sign. There is not a shortage of workers wanting to come to the area, just nowhere for them to live. Restaurants are adapting to the new reality by cutting hours, limiting their menus, and apologizing for bad service.

Public sector functions are similarly hard to staff, while budgets are turned upside-down. The effects of this are easy to find. Four-way stops do not work nearly as efficiently as traffic lights. Gaping holes in city streets make it seem as though you are driving an obstacle course; private citizens, being good neighbors, are spray painting the edges of the crevasses.

A new equilibrium must be established between supply and demand. I am afraid that New Orleans will no longer be an inexpensive place to live.

Positive signs of the recovery abound as well. The public area of the city is quite lively, convention business is picking up. New flights are being added. Many houses are beginning to come on line. Utilities are back for the most part.

For this progress to be sustained, we need to know the rebuilding “rules,“ such as elevation requirements for construction, availability and cost of insurance, and what form the new City “footprint” will take. We need to watch this mayor’s race closely to see which candidate we trust most to accelerate what has been a sluggish recovery so far.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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