Who's Right? Me or Frank Williams?

Peter Coy

I was on CNBC last night talking about my story in the new issue on areas of the country that would be hurt the most if housing goes into a big slump. I said one place that's pretty vulnerable is the high and dry Inland Empire of California--the fast-growing territory east of Los Angeles. In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, jobs in construction accounted for 33% of all jobs created between August 2004 and August 2005. That's the most of any big metro area in the country. So if housing slumps nationally, it stands to reason that parts of the country that have been heavily reliant on construction for growth would get hurt more.

Naturally this view is not popular in the Inland Empire. To present a contrary view, CNBC hooked in Frank Williams, executive officer of the Baldy View chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California. Mr. Williams said the article was completely wrong and that the pent-up demand for housing in the Inland Empire was so strong that it would continue even if housing slumped in other parts of the country.

To me, that brave talk sounds like an echo of what we heard at the end of the 1990s when tech spending was soaring. Tech companies told everyone that tech had become so valuable to business that companies would have to keep increasing their spending on it. Soon after that, tech spending crashed.

So who's right? I or Frank Williams? (I asked the question grammatically this time in case any English teachers are reading.)

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