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Happy New Year and welcome to the 2024 edition of The Economic Perspective! We hope that you had a restful and safe break and are ready for all of the excitement that 2024 has in store for us. If you're in the Pacific Northwest (like me) and you're looking for things to do this weekend, you might check out Broadway Bound Children’s Theatre’s production of Willy Wonka, The Musical at Magnuson Park Theatre. You could also visit the West Seattle Farmer's Market, which partners with local food banks to increase access to fresh, healthy food.
On the Florida front, TBG President and Principal Economist Valerie Seidel was asked to speak at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting this coming Monday in Washington DC on research TBG completed for FHWA recently.
This edition of our weekly newsletter features articles about the effects of highway improvement projects, a study on invasive species in Florida, and the role of finance in global climate Actions.
Hope you enjoy the read and let us know what you think! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested. If you’d like to view previous editions please click here, or to subscribe please click here!
The Effects of Highway Improvement Projects on Nearby Business Activity
Using data since 2007, the Minnesota DOT published a new study that aimed to estimate the impacts different construction project types have on business activity in adjacent census tracts. While not at all results were statistically significant, findings conveyed that a 100% increase in per capita income increases the probability of treatment by about 22%. Additionally, it pushes the first year of construction earlier by about 0.75 years. Also, single-location businesses were negatively affected in sales and employment in tracts where projects only replaced existing infrastructure without new operational benefits. Read more here and you can access all of the findings here.
As Tree Species Face Decline, ‘Assisted Migration’ Gains Popularity in Pacific Northwest
As native tree species die off in the Northwest, the U.S. Forest Service, Portland, and citizens around Puget Sound are turning to “assisted migration”. However, three kinds of migration have caused a divide in what the best practice is. As climates get warmer and trees can no longer survive in their original habitat, people advocate for migrating them to more habitable areas within their already existing range. Species migration calls for a new species to be moved well outside its existing range, such as introducing sequoias and redwoods to Washington. Range expansion has a species moved to just beyond its current range. The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service are currently focusing on population migration as it has fewer ecological risks. Tests are being done to see if Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks can help western Washington forests adapt to climate change. Read More.
Study Identifies Potential Invasive Species Facing Florida
A study warns that Florida faces potential invasion by 40 new species, adding to existing threats like Burmese pythons and spectacled caimans. Led by University of Florida scientists, the research identified several species including the alewife herring, zebra mussel, crab-eating macaque, and red swamp crayfish as significant threats based on invasion likelihood and potential impacts. The invasive species could enter through boats, ballast water, or pet trades. Global invasive species management cost $423 billion in 2019, with costs expected to quadruple every decade. The study also emphasizes the need for proactive prevention to protect Florida's ecosystems, as reactive measures are costly and often initiated too late. Read more here and find the full study here.
Finance to Become Central to Global Climate Actions in 2024
Finance has always been a critical factor in climate actions and is expected to become an even stronger, central focus of global climate conversations in 2024. Finance is extremely important for clean energy due to up-front construction costs associated with the development of new infrastructure. Trends in higher interest rates often cause project cancellations, and emerging economies struggle to pledge higher levels of carbon reduction without adequate financing. In the face of these global challenges, we can expect to see increased use of blended finance structures where climate-related projects will be funded by combining private, public, and philanthropic capital to increase the likelihood of their success. Read more here.
Microsoft’s New AI Key
Microsoft has announced a major change coming to their keyboard on new Windows 11 PCs, first being available in February of this year. It is being marked as the most influential change to Microsoft’s keyboards since 1994, marking the biggest change since the first creation of the windows key 30 years ago. The key will utilize Microsoft’s Copilot, its new AI tool powered by OpenAI. Copilot assists users with searching, writing emails, image creation, and more functions that will “amplify” and also “simplify” user experience, as said by Microsoft’s VP Yusuf Mehdi. Even though Copilot has already been integrated in Microsoft Bing and Office, introducing it onto the keyboard shows the value and spotlight Microsoft has placed in this feature. Read more about the product here.
Data Visualization of the Week
Foreign-Owned Farmland Report from USDA
Foreign ownership of farmland in the U.S. has become a hot topic in Washington D.C., and some states have already banned foreign ownership from some countries. The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (AFIDA) requires foreign owners to annually report their landholdings to the USDA. The latest report from USDA on these landholdings was just released in December. The top 5 foreign landholders of U.S. farmland: Canada, Netherlands, Italy, UK, and Germany. Owners from these top 5 countries own 62% of the foreign-owned lands in the U.S. Chinese owners comprised less than 1% of foreign-owned lands. The report is out for public comment and you can find it here.