What Happens When Main Street Starts Making Money Like Wall Street Does?

Lori White Curator:
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All Eric Garland, economic consultant and newly minted Midwestern cheerleader, wants is for everyone to see America as he sees it. And the more people who see it that way, the more epic things might get. Want in? Press play.

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Eric Garland: Welcome to Saint Louis, Missouri. You know, if you don't have a fetish for steamboats or you're not from St. Louis, it's OK if you don't think much about the place. That's not a criticism, by the way. I didn't think about it much either until I married a girl from here.

I lived in Washington, D.C. for 11 years. I love that town. We left in 2010 because we started having babies, and the cost of living was killing us. And my wife's a doctor by the way, and I'm a management consultant. We don't normally have to think about things like that. So, in 2010, we packed up and moved out to Saint Louis here. I hated it here. It's flat, its ugly, its racist. Summers are about 108 degrees, They ask you where you went to high school in order to measure you up. And they abandoned the downtown about 50 years ago, all of which I discovered after moving here. So, why would I be running a conference on the future of an economy in a place I'm describing like that? Because it's still the future of the American economy. We are Americans. We like big things. We like shiny things. We like new things. We like growth. Only problem is that stuff isn't working as great as it used to.

I've been a Strategic Trend Analyst for corporations and governments for about 15 years. I predicted the financial crisis down to about the month. You know, in 2008, we got a big wake-up call that an economy built on finance and real estate and retail is not built for the long term. We bailed the banks out, we've put all the guys that caused that crisis, put them back into power, and we're trying to do the exact same thing. No matter how much they cook the books in Washington and New York, it's not working, it won't work, it can't work. How do we know it's not working? Well, let's see. Detroit is entirely bankrupt. Millions of people have gone on food stamps. The new jobs pay minimum wage. People are buying cars but they're buying them on the longest loans in the history of the industry. You know, the stock market's really high, but there's fewer people in it.

About the only two sectors that are really working right now are luxury and finance, and its the finance guys that are buying all the luxury. So, isn't that nice and tight? Does this sound like bad news to you? Well, tough. The guys in Washington and New York and San Francisco, they think it's working great right now. Oh, I'm sorry, is your town dying? Are you from Detroit or Cleveland or Buffalo or Baltimore? Who gives a shit about those places? Everybody knows they suck to begin with, right? Which brings us back to Saint Louis.

So, that first couple of years, I was around here hating it. I was driving around, and eventually I started looking up at the architecture. It's gorgeous here, actually. And if you look under the streets, you can see the remnants of the largest system of street cars in the United States. It's not in San Francisco, it was actually in Saint Louis. And remember, I noted that they abandoned the downtown a few decades ago. Well, you know, the side effect of that is that rent here is stupidly cheap. I mean compared with like D.C. and San Francisco, you can get a house for like ten bucks and if you want to throw another five bucks in, they give you an extra soccer field or airplane hangar. I'm not even quite kidding. And remember, when you're starting a business, about two months of expenses in New York will go for a year here. So, if you have a new idea, this is a good place to do it. And by the way, when peak oil starts hitting, guess what? You're going to be glad that you're shipping your products out of a city that has three rivers and a bunch of railroads coming through it. You're not going to be able to say that about Las Vegas and Phoenix.

So, Americans like things that are new and shiny, but this is the transition. The next phase of economic growth is going to actually come from old grimy things that grow slowly. In the past, all economic growth was built on green fields and we just discarded the past. The next economy is going to be built on brown fields, and the past and the future are going to live right next to each other. The next economy will be built by you. No one's going to do it for you, not for you or your business or for the community that you love. And not from wallowing in problems, but figuring out how to take action.

You know, the transition economy is kind of ugly, but it's honest. So, I started this conference called Transition Economics. We're bringing some of the brightest people in the world to Saint Louis to jam with us on what the next phase of economic growth is going to be. We're going to be talking about what's changing, what it means, and what you can do to help create that next phase of growth. And by the way, big businesses can take part too. You don't have to be a two-person start-up to take part in the transition. You just have to think like one. I know it's kind of corny, but meet me in Saint Louis!

There may be small errors in this transcript.

I found this video through filmmaker Bill Streeter, who made this for Eric Garland (that’s the guy who’s speaking).

Thumbnail image via Wikimedia Commons.

Aug 04, 2014

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