Jul

30

 Last week I took a tour of Skagway Alaska (home port of the Klondike Gold Rush), and Seattle Washington. What struck me about the two towns was the boom to bust cycle still seems to be replaying itself 110 years later.

Skagway, now population of 800, became a boom town of about 10,000 in 1897,  when gold was found in Yukon in 1896.  The trip up that mountain into Canada was the stuff of legends, as was the city of Jack London fame.  Canada mounties required nearly a ton of supplies to be allowed entry into Canada.  Of course a railway was built to help.  Knowing time was of importance, the tracks were only 3 feet wide versus regular 4 and it was designed to have special engines built for the tracks and mountains.  It only took 2 years to build, but by 1899 the rush was over.

Likewise viewing the skyline of Seattle, full of cranes, and taking a tour of the city with Starbucks, WaMu, Amazon, Boeing and MicroSoft all seeming to have hit their peak.  Several of these were part of the cranes problem, and Starbucks didn't have a crane but a new big hole in the ground for a new headquarters planned before their cutbacks. I couldn't help but wonder if the rush of cranes in the skyline to build the multiple new skyscrapers isn't equivalent to the rush to  build a train track in the 21 century. However, the difference is perhaps the investor and the markets bear the brunt of the boom to bust cycle nowadays, and they do so much better and more efficiently than the inflows/outflows of population, eliminating many hardships that where suffered by the average individual 110 years ago from such a blow to a town.   Is this similar to the forest crowding out the saplings and the rush to new heights bringing risk of catching stronger winds and more lighting strikes?   Perhaps another simile, besides a record height, being hubris. Too many cranes in a cramped space signal too much competition  for space and a boom to bust transition. Dooming the economics of the buildings in that area, taller and bigger or not. Are there studies on such phenomena? 

Alan Millhone reports:

Last week in Vegas we stayed at the Vegas Club on the 16th. floor. End of our hall way was an exit onto the fire escape and a platform and railing that revealed a terrific view during the day and at night. During the day there are cranes everywhere and close to our hotel was a crane being used for the addition to the Golden Nugget Hotel/Casino. One evening they were pouring ready-mix concrete (over $100.00 per cubic yard in my area !) and the trucks were lined up far as one's eye could see ! (Ed.: approx. 12 cubic yards per truck).


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