Give Me Liberty! Give Me a 51st State

A television station in Washington state recently reported that representatives there would like to divide their state — with the eastern half becoming the state of Liberty. Legislation includes the following: “Since statehood, the lifestyles, culture and economies of eastern and western Washington have been very distinct and dramatically different.”

The TV outlet reports a tech, service-oriented economy in Seattle and Olympia (the capital), while Spokane anchors the east with roots in mining, forestry and agribusiness.

Not surprisingly, forming a new state is not a simple process. But shockingly, at least 12 new states have been proposed at one time or another (according to State Legislatures magazine). Among the offerings: South Alaska, South Florida, North Maine and Superior (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).

Social Media Hot Spots for Job Seekers

The largest city in the United States has the highest volume of social media jobs. No surprise that New York is atop both lists (based on 2010 population figures and a recent report from OnwardSearch, an Internet marketing staffing company that used job postings as its basis for comparison).

Size isn’t always a determing factor when one views the rest of the list. The top 10 social media hot spots for jobs included the following (with their 2010 population ranks in parentheses):

  • 2. San Jose (10th in population)
  • 3. San Francisco (13th)
  • 5. Boston (23rd)
  • 6. Washington, D.C. (25th)
  • 7. Baltimore (22nd)
  • 9. Seattle (24th)

Rounding out the social media top 10: Los Angeles, 4; Chicago, 8; and Philadelphia, 10. Each are among the top five in population.

Go the opposite route and the largest cities not showing up on the social media top 20 are San Antonio (7th in population), Jacksonville (11th) and Indianapolis (12th). Making the biggest jumps (low population, top 20 in jobs) are Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami.

What does all this prove? Not sure. There may have been a disconnect between city population totals and metro area job postings. Nevertheless, social media is here to stay (and the jobs are widespread).

Riding the Rails, Slowly but Surely

The road to high-speed rail has been a rocky one in many places. In the Northwest, purposeful efforts to slow down are proving successful – producing more riders at less cost. The goal is to increase the speed incrementally. Are there lessons to be learned? Governing magazine has the column.

Civic leaders still call their town the “Hub City,” a holdover from its role a century ago as a rail center for the movement of goods and people in all directions. A dozen passenger trains a day — half northbound, half southbound — still rumble through this western city of 16,000 that sits equidistant between Portland and Seattle.

They are run by the Washington state government-subsidized Amtrak Cascades passenger service, which has taken a deliberately incremental approach to developing the Cascadia corridor running from Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C.

Passenger rail service has been central to the corridor’s strategy and is reflected in a 15-year track record of increasing ridership (up 10 percent in the last year alone) and fares that cover nearly two-thirds of operating expenses. The strategy has marshaled local investment in infrastructure and forged partnerships with those who have an interest in the shared rail bed, including cities and towns along the corridor, Amtrak, the freight carrier Burlington Northern Santa Fe, federal funding agencies and regulators.

In the Northwest, passenger rail has purposely taken some of the speed out of high speed. Instead, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) measures its rail initiatives based on a three-part definition of convenience: reducing total trip time while boosting system efficiency and average speed. Scott Witt, former director of WSDOT’s State Rail and Marine Office, says a number of studies all indicate that sticking with faster (rather than fastest) rail would allow the region to realize 90 percent of the ridership and revenue targets at 50 percent of the cost of true high-speed rail, which can peak at 150 mph on Amtrak’s Acela service in the Northeast.

The lion’s share of the $781 million in federal passenger rail funding awarded to Washington is dedicated to raising the average speed by eliminating slow parts of the corridor with new bypasses and other upgrades.

This incremental approach to higher-speed rail has not isolated the service from the complexities of establishing a governance structure for the multistate, binational effort in which five governments must act in concert with one another. As part of that mix, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is transitioning from being a regulatory and safety organization to one responsible for project delivery, funding and management. Witt, whose career has been in project delivery, notes, “The FRA just has not seen this level of funding and complexity before.”

Still, he remains confident that the state will get there. “Our long-range vision is still to establish a dedicated high-speed track with trains running at up to 150 miles per hour,” says Witt, “but we’re laying the foundation to get there step-by-step.”

And the Top Manufacturing City is …

No matter the math, Indiana still generally ranks as the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. That means we have more manufacturing jobs based on our population/workforce. Wisconsin and North Carolina are typically in the same neighborhood.

Manufacturers News Inc. changed the scope recently and put out a top 50 list of most manufacturing jobs by city. Certainly population is a bigger factor here, but there are still some interesting numbers.

The top 10 (list below), lost more than 95,000 jobs between August 2008 and the end of 2010. Big movers included Detroit (falling from 29th to 45th) and Seattle (moving up to 34th from 46th). Five from California (L.A., San Diego, San Jose, Irvine and Santa Clara) made the top 50.

Top 10 Manufacturing Cities

  1. Houston: 228,226
  2. New York: 139,127
  3. Chicago: 108,692
  4. Los Angeles: 83,719
  5. St. Louis: 83,123
  6. Dallas: 81,626
  7. Cincinnati: 81,364
  8. Indianapolis: 79,566
  9. Phoenix: 77,322
  10. San Diego: 70,709

Where We Rank … Literally

We’re No. 25 and No. 43. Those are the ratings for Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, respectively, in the annual America’s Most Literate Cities study published by Central Connecticut State University.

Libraries (branches, volume of materials, utilization and staff) are an apparent Hoosier strength with Fort Wayne seventh and Indy tied for 15th. Those were the best finishes for the Hoosier cities in any of the six categories: booksellers, education, Internet, newspapers and publications are the others.

Seattle topped the list followed by Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; Portand, Oregon; St. Paul; Boston; Cincinnati; and Denver.

Check it out here.