June 4, 2013

How will Oklahoma arts organizations prepare for the fate of the states?

"America's central corridor -- the heartland, the Midwest, the onetime flyover states, the golden triangle within the center of the country -- will be the foundation of economic growth for years to come." -- Meredith Whitney, The Fate of the States

One of the most respected voices on Wall Street, Meredith Whitney, shot to global prominence in 2007 when her warnings of a looming crisis in the financial sector proved all too prescient. Today, marks the release of her first book, The Fate of the States. In it she expands upon her biggest call since the financial crisis.

Whitney points out that it wasn’t just consum­ers who binged on debt. For the past 20 years local and state governments have binged on it, too. She explains how the fiscal sins of the past are beginning to transform the U.S. economy along regional lines. She shows how we are moving into a new era in which wealth, power, and opportunity flow away from the coasts and toward the central corridor. This includes Oklahoma.

Here is an excerpt that mentions the Sooner State:
"States like California, Illinois and Connecticut are all raising taxes and cutting programs, while states like Oklahoma and Indiana are cutting taxes and investing in infrastructure and education. Growth rates are just higher and will be for years to come in the central corridor." 
The housing boom was initially great for states such as California, Nevada, and Florida. State and municipal
coffers overflowed, unemployment shrank, and local governments spent their tax-revenue windfalls on pay hikes and pension increases for their public employees. But when the boom dried up in those parts of the country, so too did the tax revenues, forcing tax-rate hikes and cuts to essential public services—especially education and infrastructure.

In contrast to those doom and gloom head­lines, a much different trend was developing in interior states such as North Dakota, Indiana, and Texas. They survived the housing crisis relatively unscathed, avoiding mass foreclosures and bud­getary chaos. As a result they’ve had the money to retrain workers and offer tax incentives to companies willing to relocate. Coupled with the recent booms in natural gas and oil extraction and a resurgence in manufacturing, these states are poised to become the new powerhouses of the American economy.

Whitney offers a sobering vision of the next few decades:
Coastal states will continue to struggleCentral corridor states (like Oklahoma) will continue to thrive. Roughly half the country is stuck in a vicious cycle of decline The other half enjoys a virtuous circle of growth
Here are few thoughts and questions to ponder.
How do you think this new geography of American prosperity will impact Oklahoma's arts and cultural organizations and institutions? 
How can we use this information to educate legislators about the role public funding for the arts plays in this new economic landscape?
We have strong examples of how seed funding from the Oklahoma Council has supported new and innovative projects and programs that have contributed to the economic windfall of our states. Shouldn't this validate the need for more funding from legislature and not less? 
How will your organization prepare for an increased demand on arts and cultural programming? How can your organization prepare for the new emerging market of the central corridor of the United States? 
A significant portion of this blog post came from the publisher's summary of the book via Amazon.