Is the World Really Ending?
Reflections from the 2022 Pacific Northwest Commerce Chain Summit
The many tentacled octopus of the housing ecosystem is so complex, and its innovations so specific, that sometimes we lose sight of the big economic trends affecting our region, the Pacific Northwest. This week we attended the 2022 Pacific Northwest Commerce Chain Summit which brought together over 100 leaders to discuss the global forces affecting Oregon, and that key people and physical infrastructure investments build resiliency and competitiveness for our region
Hosted by the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) the Summit featured author and geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan as keynote speaker. Peter is not short on opinions - or data. He brought an outsider's lens to what he sees as our challenges & opportunities as a state, and was able to describe the likely impacts to our economy from global events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China's demographic crisis, and refugee emigration and immigration.
At a reception the night before the Summit, Peter was asked "What are the three most important things Oregon could focus on in the face of global economic headwinds to remain competitive?" His answer:
Invest in technical trades education
Reduce the cost of living to improve quality of life at scale
Change how construction happens
Trust me – the Missing Middle Housing Fund did not pay him to say that. I only met him for the first time that night! He's right, however.
Without highly skilled trades workers we will not be able reinvest in our infrastructure at the scale necessary to drive economic development. We need electricians, machinists, plumbers, HVAC engineers, framers, and more to build the homes of the future. The MMHF is putting together a statewide Workforce Housing Consortium to focus on the education, partnerships, and investment necessary to grow our skilled manufacturing, design, and construction workforce.
If you're reading this, you likely already know our goal of providing better housing for all of us. In a digitizing world, workers increasingly relocate based on housing affordability. Why buy a $500K house in the PNW when you can buy one for $150K in my hometown of Pittsburgh? We MUST reduce the cost to build housing so it's less of a factor in deciding where to spend economic vitality and capital.
Construction is one of the least changed industries over the last 100 years, and it's COMPLICATED. Simplifying financing, regulation, materials, assembly, design - it ALL matters. The Pacific Northwest should lead this effort, given our natural advantages in timber production, advanced manufacturing, and history of innovation. Our new export should be a better way to create homes.
We're going to return to our laser focus on how to mitigate our housing crisis through innovation, connection, and scale - but for a moment, it was refreshing to think globally and realize the entire world is struggling with many of the same issues we face every day.
CEO – MMHF
June 9, 2022