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Down the Road, Mobility Will Be the Key to Career Opportunities

November 21, 1987|From Times Wire Services

Whether you're a teen-ager thinking about your future career or established in one now and thinking of keeping or changing it, you should know where the jobs will be in the future.

Workers will have to become more mobile to take advantage of new job opportunities.

David Birch, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program on Neighborhood and Regional Change and head of his own consulting firm, Cognetics, believes the United States will have to do a better job of exploiting its chief competitive advantage over the rest of the world: brainpower. That, in turn, will mean a competitive advantage for cities near universities or other research facilities.

Birch's scenario goes something like this: Universities will attract brains, which will generate ideas, which will give birth to new companies, which will create more jobs. Already, he says, all the growth in new jobs is coming from middle-sized and small companies.

Among the cities on Birch's list of places most likely to succeed: Atlanta; Albuquerque; Austin, Tex.; Huntsville, Ala.; Manchester-Nashua, N.H.; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Tucson and Washington.

Florida a Leader

As the entrepreneurial climate increasingly determines which regions are going to flourish, distinctions between Sun Belt and Frost Belt will blur. Steven Malin, regional economist for the Conference Board, told Changing Times magazine that he expects Texas to rebound from its oil slump and become an economic powerhouse by the end of the century. But Oklahoma and Louisiana will have a tougher time because their economies aren't as broad-based. In Malin's view, Florida has perhaps the brightest future of any of the 50 states. "If someone asked me where to go to find a good job in the next 10 years, I'd send him to Florida and Florida," says Malin.

Meanwhile, areas like New England, New York and New Jersey, which have built a strong base of business and financial services, will continue to flourish, but their growth rates will slow inevitably as they bump up against the limits of expansion: high costs of land and labor and a shortage of workers, especially in New England.

A number of cities in the country's industrial heartland will get a new lease on life. "We've seen nice comebacks in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Columbus," says Malin. And cities like Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago have the potential to become major financial centers.

An Even Spread

Coastal areas will continue to be the most promising job markets, but with better times in the Oil Patch and agricultural and manufacturing areas in the Midwest, economic growth may well become more evenly spread.

Still, Sun Belt cities are conspicuous by their presence on lists of fast-growing regions. Among the 25 metropolitan areas with the fastest-growing job markets identified by the National Planning Assn., 14 are in Florida and California.

It's important to keep in mind the distinction between the rate of job growth and the number of new jobs expected to be created. The Los Angeles-Long Beach area does not even appear among the 25 fastest-growing job markets, yet in terms of sheer numbers, it will provide more jobs than any other metropolitan area between now and the year 2010. Other metropolitan areas on the list: Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and Baltimore.

The jobs that will be created in these and other cities will not be confined to opportunities to work for someone else. Shifting populations will open up innumerable chances to strike out independently--as a consultant, free-lancer or entrepreneur. "That's not as cushy as working for the Fortune 500," notes Richard Belous, a labor economist for the Conference Board. "And you have to hustle more."

The ability to hustle will continue to be a hallmark of a successful career, as it always has been. The job market of tomorrow will provide somewhat less security than in the past but more opportunity for those who are willing to reach out and seize it.

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