Sell The Smell

Our house in Brooklyn today.

I’m a New Yorker. Born in Brooklyn, moved to Tuckahoe went I was 11. Spent my summers “Upstate,” as we say.  Got my college education in The Bronx. We always looked down on “Jersey” (never daring to call it “New Jersey”).

Well, after living here since 1991, I’ve realized it, like other states, has it’s good points and bad. Some things are getting better, while others are getting worse. Traffic congestion varies, but it can get maddeningly chaotic when critical roads get backed up. On the other hand, roads and bridges are improving with key projects’ conclusions.

At times, it feels like the entire northern part of the state is urbanized, then other times you take a ride from Oldwick to Long Valley and it feels like you’re in New England. From farms to factories, 12-lane turnpikes to single-lane dirt roads, this state has it all.

The state’s tourism department isn’t working with any particular slogan or tag line these days, but I do remember “Jersey’s Got It” from the 80’s and “New Jersey & You: Perfect Together” from the 90’s. So I was quite surprised to come across the “Jersey Doesn’t Stink” site

It’s a good effort and kind of cute. The video responses they’ve gotten are pretty good.

On the contrary, I’d look into doing it differently. I had a thought a few years ago, once I became comfortable with being a New Jersey resident, the new slogan should be “New Jersey: What’s That Smell?”

All that’s good about the state has it’s own distinct smell: The Shore, the restaurants, the fresh fruits and vegetables. “Stink” sounds worse than “smell,” don’t you think? Even the negatives can be handled in this context. “What’s that smell? Petroleum hydrocarbons being burned off to make your gasoline. New Jersey is home to three large refineries, with a combined capacity of nearly 700,000 barrels per day.”  Or “…that’s methane gas being released by an old landfill. That gas is being used to generate electricity. And it’s being cleaned up now to comply with the Clean Air Act.”

Think of the cultural enclaves, with their vibrant restaurants: Indian in Edison, Portuguese in Ironbound, Turkish in Paterson. You get the picture. Can’t you just smell it?

I know MTV Networks is happy with the popularity of the “Jersey Shore” show, scandals and all. Gov. Christie ought to through his weight around and get them to cease and desist as they may be infringing on the state’s trademark: The Jersey Shore. His response on ABC News was lame…

He can pick a fight with the state’s teachers, but not MTV lawyers, ey? That stinks.

Top States for Business

CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business ranking have New Jersey in the top 10 for “quality of life” and #3 in education. I’m surprised at the former, not so much the latter.

Who’s last? Oh, you betcha.

Hip Cities

Years ago, I visited Portland, Oregon, for business. Learned Mt. Hood was about an hour away — and it was March — I packed my ski boots. Hopped into my rental car after my business was done and drove out to Timberline Lodge.  Although it was a solitary experience, I did enjoy myself.It was the only time I was ever able to combine skiing with business.

I liked Portland, too.  Thought it might be a really good city to live in some day. Apparently, thousands of others share my opinion, resulting in Portland’s higher-than-average unemployment rate. The story, via The Wall Street Journal:

This drizzly city along the Willamette River has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%.

More photos and interactive graphics Some new arrivals are burning through their savings as they hunt for jobs that no longer exist. Some are returning home. Others are settling for low-paying jobs they are overqualified for.

With his search for a journalism job coming up short, Mr. Singer has spent thousands in savings, and is now earning $12 an hour at a temporary job scanning loan documents, a task he says is so mind-numbing he listens to his iPod all day. “Careerwise, it’s definitely not what I’d like to be doing,” says Mr. Singer.

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and — more than anything else — a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these “youth magnet” cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area’s critical mass of young professionals means it has a “sustained attractiveness” for other young people looking for a place to settle down.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, it won’t be long before Trenton, Newark and Camden “get hip.” My little town my not be hip, but it’s still cool.