The Future Looks Bright
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
Dec 7, 2007 - For an economist, Ray Perryman is one funny guy.
Take, for example, his tongue-in-cheek theory on the high price of health care in the United States. One reason, he says, is because pharmaceutical costs go up 20 percent a year
"And the pharmaceutical companies, now they advertise, and man, they are good at it," he says. "When I was growing up over in Lindale, I was a little bit shy. Shyness was not a disease, but now shyness is a disease. So we take Paxil, and we're not shy anymore, so we head to the bar to pick up girls. And we get to the bar and they say, 'We don't want you." So we take Propecia. And there's side effects so we take Prevacid and Viagra."
That was one of many times the East Texas native, now a noted financial expert, cracked up a crowd of about 200 business and civic leaders from Hopkins County and surrounding areas at his 24th Annual Perryman Economic Outlook Conference at the Civic Center Wednesday.
Dr. Perryman, founder and president of the Waco-based Perryman Group and regarded by some as one of the world’s most influential and innovative economists, focused on the future of the Northeast Texas economy at the conference, and overall, it's a bright outlook, he said.
"This area’s very competitive," he said. "Your economic development people are very good, your incentive packages are good. The whole Northeast Texas area, your workforce training efforts are good, and you have good resources here, so there’s every reason to be optimistic."
One important factor that will play into the economy, particularly for Hopkins County, is the ever-expanding influence of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is slowly but steadily moving eastward. Delta County, for example, is now included in the Metroplex's Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, Perryman told the crowd.
"Over time, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is expanding in every direction, and it’s a big, dynamic, great economy, and there are a lot of opportunities out here," he said. "The challenge is to maintain a high quality of life, to maintain a type of standard of living that you desire, while taking advantage of economic opportunities.
"And there’s every reason to think that you’ll have opportunities," he added. "There are a lot of positive things happening here. You’ve seen a steady pattern of growth, and there are going to be more and more opportunities as the Metroplex grows this way."
The movement to revitalize downtown to create a new marketplace for the city of Sulphur Springs is one step in the right direction.
"A number of communities have done that successfully, and you’re even seeing a lot of big developers now in larger cities, when they develop a mall, they try to put a downtown feel to it," he said. "They put a Main Street in and some pedestrian areas, which says there’s some demand for that type of situation. So if you have the right mix of tenants, the right type of development, those things can be very successful."
He also had some advice for those who are finishing their high school days and preparing to move on to college. He said a well-rounded education will serve them best when preparing for the jobs of the future.
"Seven of the 10 fastest growing occupations at the time those folks finish college don’t even exist today because technology changes so rapidly. We don’t know what they are," he said. "Clearly, getting a good grounding in science and math can be very important, but they should not lose sight of the cultural side — creativity is so important.
"Basically, train yourself to be a part of the future, and that’s going to require you to be smart, creative and not afraid of numbers."
As for what changes need to made to the Northeast Texas economy, he has some simple advice: "If it ain't broke, don’t fix it."
"I think you’re doing a lot of things right, and everybody’s going to have to go through things such as mortgage markets are going through, and that’s going to affect every place in the country," he said. "But that’s going to have a minimal affect here, and I do think that this area’s poised to do very well in the future."