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    The Furniture Hustlers of Silicon Valley

    As tech companies cut costs and move to remote work, their left-behind office furniture has become part of a booming trade.Brandi Susewitz touched the curved stitching on a pair of bright red Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs and announced they were worth around $5,000 each. The chairs were in pristine condition, perched in the reception area of the software company Sitecore’s office in downtown San Francisco.Trisha Murcia, Sitecore’s workplace manager, said she was likely the only person who ever sat on them. “It’s really sad,” she said. “They opened this office in 2018 and then Covid happened.”Ms. Murcia led Ms. Susewitz around Sitecore’s office, pointing out bar stools that had never been used, 90-inch flat screens, shiny conference room tables and accent chairs from the retailer Blu Dot. The whiteboard walls, outfitted with markers and erasers, were spotless. And rows upon rows of 30-by-60 inch, height-adjustable Knoll desks with Herman Miller Aeron chairs sat collecting dust.Ms. Susewitz measured and snapped photos, identifying designer brands and models. Her office furniture resale business, Reseat, would take all of it, she declared. “We can find a home for this,” she said. “We have time.”Brandi Susewitz looked at two red Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs during a visit to the Sitecore office in San Francisco last month.Jason Henry for The New York TimesSitecore was reducing its office space because the pandemic meant more employees worked remotely.Jason Henry for The New York TimesMs. Susewitz, who started Reseat in 2020, is one of an increasing number of behind-the-scenes specialists in the Bay Area who are carving out a piece of the great office furniture reshuffling. There are professional liquidators, Craigslist flippers and start-ups spouting buzzwords like “circular economy.” And a few guys with warehouses full of really nice chairs.All of them are capitalizing on a wave of tech companies that are drastically shrinking their physical footprints in the wake of the pandemic-induced shift to remote work and the recent economic slowdown.Nowhere is the furniture glut stronger than in San Francisco. Tech workers have been slowest to return to the office in the city, where commercial vacancy rates jumped to 28 percent last year, up from 4 percent in 2019, according to the real estate firm CBRE. Occupancy in San Francisco in late January was 4 percent below the average of the top 10 U.S. cities, according to the building security firm Kastle. And companies of all sizes, including PayPal, Block and Yelp, are giving up their expensive downtown headquarters or downsizing their office space.Add to that the tech industry’s recent U-turn from optimistic hypergrowth to fear and penny pinching. That has led tech giants such as Google and Salesforce, along with smaller companies like DoorDash and Wish, to carry out widespread layoffs, cutting more than 88,000 workers in the Bay Area over the last year, according to start-ups have abruptly gone under, including the flying car company Kittyhawk, the autonomous vehicle start-up Argo AI and the interior design start-up Modsy. Others have slashed spending, starting with their dusty, rarely-used offices full of designer furniture.Ms. Susewitz checked out an Aeron chair during her visit to Sitecore. She toured the office with Trisha Murcia, Sitecore’s workplace managerJason Henry for The New York TimesMs. Susewitz measured office furniture at Sitecore’s office in downtown San Francisco.Jason Henry for The New York TimesLast month, Twitter held a public auction for some of its furniture, hawking dry erase boards, conference tables and a three-foot blue statue of its bird logo. The social media company, which is owned by Elon Musk, at one point stopped paying the rent on some of its office leases.Layoffs in Big TechAfter a pandemic hiring spree, several tech companies are now pulling back.A Growing List: Alphabet, Microsoft and Zoom are among the latest tech giants to cut jobs amid concerns about an economic slowdown.Salesforce: The company said it would lay off 10 percent of its staff, a decision that seemed to go against the professed commitment of its co-founder and chief executive, Marc Benioff, to its workers.New Parents Hit Hard: At tech companies that spent recent years expanding paid parental leave, parents have felt the whiplash of mass layoffs in an especially visceral way.Tech’s Generational Divide: The recent cuts have been eye-opening to young workers. But to older employees who experienced the dot-com bust, it has hardly been a shock.Martin Pichinson, a founder of Sherwood Partners, an advisory firm that helps restructure failing start-ups, said he was staffing up to handle increased demand. Today’s reckoning was not as severe as that of the dot-com bust in the early 2000s when dozens of tech companies collapsed, he said, but “everyone is acting as if businesses are falling apart.”That’s led to a lot of expendable furniture, much of it hewing to a specific youthful aesthetic of Instagrammable bright colors and midcentury modern shapes. That look, complemented by plant walls of succulents and kombucha on tap, was a hallmark of the tech talent wars over the past two decades, telegraphing a company’s success and sophistication.Then there’s the Aeron chairs. The $1,805 black roller-wheel desk chairs are a closely-watched barometer of tech excesses. Their sleek design makes them a work of art, according to the Museum of Modern Art. And in the tech industry, where workers are used to being pampered while chained to their desks, they are ubiquitous.When internet companies imploded in 2000, liquidators filled their warehouses with the “dot-com thrones.” Now any whiff of empty Aerons piling up conjures memories of that slump and sets off fears that another is imminent.The Bay Area’s Craigslist currently has gobs of the chairs for sale, photographed in warehouses, lined up in corners of conference rooms and wrapped in plastic outside a storage unit. Some are selling for as cheap as a few hundred bucks.The listings are a reminder: Silicon Valley is a place of booms and busts, with enterprising hustlers who see nothing but opportunity, even in the rubble.Mr. Norbu’s furniture reselling business, called Enliven, has expanded to include a van, three employees and a warehouse.Jason Henry for The New York TimesA trail of Dropbox furnitureFor furniture specialists, it all starts with supplies from tech companies like Dropbox.In 2019, the file storage company moved into its 735,000-square-foot headquarters in San Francisco. Its 15-year lease was the largest in the city’s history at the time. Dropbox’s old office was rented to other companies, and last year, a cache of furniture — futuristic-chic chairs, couches and tables — from that office made its way to a liquidator.The inventory included several emerald green velvet Jean Royère-style Polar Bear chairs that cost roughly $10,000 to custom make in 2016, according to their maker, Classic Design LA.Three of those chairs sold to Tenzin Norbu, a furniture reseller in Richmond, Calif., who paid around $1,000 for each. Mr. Norbu, 25, started buying and selling high-end furniture on online marketplaces early in the pandemic, when people were eager to redecorate the homes they were stuck inside and stymied by supply chain delays on furniture.Since then, his business, called Enliven, has expanded to include a van, three employees, a 4,000-square-foot warehouse and annual revenue in the mid-six figures.The tech talent wars, with companies competing to out-perk one another with the fanciest offices, were good for designer furniture. The retreat from that battle has been just as good for resellers.Last year, Mr. Norbu scored some lounge chairs and couches from Fast, a payments start-up that collapsed in the spring. He also paid “tens of thousands” of dollars, he said, to fill a 20-foot truck of still-in-the-box furniture that WeWork, whose valuation had plummeted, had kept in storage since 2019. The trove included dining chairs, lamps, couches and a chunky red Bollo armchair by the Swedish designer Fogia.Mr. Norbu’s inventory included three green Polar Bear chairs that were custom made for Dropbox.Jason Henry for The New York TimesMr. Norbu said he planned to buy furniture from more tech start-ups as his business grows.Jason Henry for The New York TimesOn a recent tour of his warehouse, Mr. Norbu pointed out a pair of never-used felt poufs from a start-up, two glass coffee tables from Delta Air Lines, some gray lounge chairs that were “probably from Google” and plants from a venture capital firm.Mr. Norbu aims to target more tech start-ups as his business expands. The companies are always acquiring or shedding furniture, since they tend to grow quickly and shut down abruptly. Many of his buyers also work in tech, he said, which means they could find themselves eating dinner at the very conference table they once gathered around for meetings.Last year, Mr. Norbu sold one of the Polar Bear chairs that had been owned by Dropbox to a fellow furniture flipper, Nate Morgan, for $1,400. Mr. Morgan started trading furniture in the fall after he was laid off from a business development job at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram. He said he quickly discovered the Bay Area contains “crazy pockets of massive amounts of furniture.”Mr. Morgan’s business, Reclamation, recently worked with a wealthy tech entrepreneur who had bought a second San Francisco home to live in while his main home was being renovated. The entrepreneur furnished the 4,000-square-foot second home with new goods from Restoration Hardware. Nine months later, when the entrepreneur moved into his main home, Mr. Morgan bought all of the second home’s furniture for 10 percent of its retail price.Mr. Morgan, 44, said the furniture business was a welcome shift from the 15 years he spent working in tech. “It feels really good to be building a local community business that’s tied to this geographic area,” he said.Outside Mr. Norbu’s 4,000-square-foot furniture warehouse.Jason Henry for The New York TimesMr. Morgan later sold the Polar Bear chair that had been at Dropbox for a profit to an interior designer in Los Angeles, who then sold it to a client in the Hollywood Hills. From the liquidator, to Mr. Norbu, to Mr. Morgan, to the interior designer, each person in the chain made a little money.Dropbox declined to comment. During the pandemic, the company shifted to remote work and made plans to sublet 80 percent of its headquarters. Takers have been slow; the company recently lowered its expected rate, pushed out its target for finding tenants by two years and recorded a $175 million charge on its real estate holdings in 2022.Dropbox’s remaining space has been converted into what the company calls a “studio” instead of an “office,” designed for meetings and “touchdown spots,” or cafes and libraries for people to sit, chat and work briefly. There are no more desks.‘It was a ghost town’Ms. Susewitz, 49, has worked in office furniture since 1997, when she became a customer service representative at Lindsay-Ferrari, a Bay Area furniture dealer now known as One Workplace.The furniture industry’s wastefulness always bugged her, she said, with companies discarding durable, commercial-grade items that were built to last decades every time they moved. Companies waited until the last minute to deal with the furniture, she said, increasing the odds it wound up in the trash.In the late 1990s dot-com boom, Ms. Susewitz created a business plan to build an online marketplace for used office furniture. She abandoned it when eBay took off, thinking the company would eventually solve the problem. “But that never happened,” she said.Over the next two decades, she worked in sales and business development, outfitting Bay Area businesses with goods from “the big five” of workplace furniture — Steelcase, MillerKnoll, Haworth, Allsteel and Teknion.Before the pandemic, Sitecore was expanding its space so rapidly that it had leased another half of a floor in its office tower.Jason Henry for The New York TimesWhen the pandemic hit, Ms. Susewitz’s livelihood of new office furniture screeched to a halt. She watched with disgust as companies tossed out barely-used desks and chairs.“Perfectly good, brand-new furniture is just being carted off to landfills,” she said. So she created Reseat to help businesses liquidate furniture. The company uses an inventory management system that tracks the items’ “life cycles” so it can quickly share the specifications for the furniture, making the goods easier to sell. Given enough time, sellers can expect 20 cents on the dollar for their furniture, she said. Reseat, which has 14 employees, has worked with more than 100 companies and sold more than eight million pounds of furniture.“Our goal is to sell it standing,” Ms. Susewitz said. “Once it ends up in a warehouse, it loses value and ends up collecting dust.”In December, Reseat was hired to liquidate more than 900 work stations, 96 office chairs, 40 work benches, 24 sofas and 84 file cabinets at an office in Santa Clara, Calif. Analog Devices, the semiconductor company that had moved out, hardly used the space during the pandemic. But Pure Storage, the data storage company moving in, didn’t want those pieces. Reseat had just four weeks to sell the items.“It just ate me up inside,” Ms. Susewitz said. That she found buyers in time was “a miracle,” she added.Pure Storage said it was reusing a “substantial” amount of Analog Devices’s furniture, including desk chairs and conference room items, but it planned to install its existing desks “to better suit how Pure employees work in a more open office environment.” An Analog Devices representative declined to comment.Ms. Susewitz was excited about the furniture at Sitecore because the company had contacted Reseat months ahead of its move, setting it up to easily find a home for its goods. At Sitecore’s office, she showed off how to identify the size of an Aeron chair. Each one has a set of plastic bumps hidden on its back. Two bumps indicate the most common size, a “B.”There were 16 size Bs around a wooden conference table that Sitecore had built using wood from a houseboat that was in Sausalito, Calif. In the center, a basin filled with Legos was flanked by the universal emblems of the pandemic: a bottle of Purell and a package of Clorox wipes.Ms. Susewitz said she would take everything from Sitecore’s kitchen area, except for the plates and silverware.Jason Henry for The New York TimesBefore the pandemic, Sitecore was expanding its space so rapidly that it had leased another half of a floor in its office tower. But “once the pandemic hit, it was a ghost town,” said Brad Hamilton, the company’s head of real estate and facilities.Sitecore plans to downgrade to 30 desks from 170. “We’re paying an outrageous amount of money for a floor that nobody uses,” he said.Toward the end of the office tour, Ms. Susewitz surveyed Sitecore’s empty kitchen area, outfitted with a Ping-Pong table, a Ms. Pac-Man machine and two curved, six-foot privacy coves. Ms. Susewitz said she would take everything, except for the plates and silverware.Chair influencersOne result of the furniture trading is a lot more people logging into Zoom meetings from very nice chairs — and not only in the Bay Area.In January, Gilad Rom, a software engineer in Los Angeles, decided to upgrade his work station at home. He searched Craigslist and found a seller with 500 Aeron chairs — apparently acquired from a SiriusXM office that had shifted to remote work — in Culver City, Calif.When he posted a picture of the chairs gathered in a room, their black foam arms intertwined, the reaction was explosive. Some people wanted to score their own cheap Aeron. Many more wanted to reminisce about what the empty chairs represented — corporate excess gone awry.“I think it brought back a lot of memories,” Mr. Rom, 43, said. “Flashbacks from 2008 and 2000.”The seller, a secondhand furniture shop called Wannasofa, was so overwhelmed with calls after Mr. Rom’s tweet that the store gave him a 25 percent discount. “Apparently I’m a chair influencer now,” he said.The reaction also gave him an idea.“Maybe I should build an app that helps people find cheap luxury furniture,” he said. “Maybe there’s something there.” More

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    How Arizona Is Positioning Itself for $52 Billion to the Chips Industry

    The state has become a hub for chip makers including Intel and TSMC, as the government prepares to release a gusher of funds for the strategic industry.In recent weeks, Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, has talked with Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, spent time with the president of Arizona State University and appeared at a conference with the mayor of Phoenix.Their discussions centered on one main topic: chips.Ms. Raimondo is in charge of handing out $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and research under the CHIPS Act, a funding package intended to expand domestic production of the foundational technology, which acts as the brains of computers. The legislation, which passed in August, is a prime piece of President Biden’s industrial policy and part of a push to ensure America’s economic and technology leadership over China.Arizona wants to make sure it is in position for a portion of that once-in-a-generation gusher of federal funding, for which the Commerce Department will begin taking applications after Thursday. As a result, Arizona officials have inundated Ms. Raimondo to promote the state’s growing chip industry and talked with the chief executives of giant chip companies such as Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.Arizona, which is vying for subsidies along with Texas, New York and Ohio, may have a head start on the action. The state has been home to semiconductor makers since the 1940s and has 115 chip-related companies, whereas there is one major manufacturer in Ohio.Arizona has also led the nation in chip investments since 2020, with the announcements of two new chip-making plants by TSMC and two additional factories from Intel that will cost a combined $60 billion. State leaders had helped persuade the companies to open the facilities by offering big tax breaks and water and other infrastructure grants. They also promised to expand technical and engineering education in the state.State officials and chip companies also acted as a lobbying bloc in Washington. They helped shape the CHIPS Act to include federal tax credits, subsidies, and research and work force grants. TSMC expanded its lobbying staff to 19 people from two in two years, and Intel spent more than $7 million in lobbying efforts last year, the most it had spent in two decades. Arizona State University spent $502,000 on lobbying last year, also the most in two decades.“It has been an intentional and an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Sandra Watson, president of the Arizona Commerce Authority, a nonprofit economic development organization that has helped lead state efforts to attract chip companies and push for the CHIPS Act.Sandra Watson, president of the Arizona Commerce Authority, hosted more than 20 chief executives of chip companies at the Super Bowl this month.Caitlin O’Hara for The New York TimesThe Commerce Department is expected to soon begin handing out $39 billion in subsidies to semiconductor makers, later opening the process to companies, universities and others to apply for $13.2 billion in research and work force development subsidies. The CHIPS Act also provides an investment tax credit for up to 25 percent of a manufacturer’s capital expenditure costs.Ms. Raimondo has described the process as a “race” among states. “Every governor, every state legislature, every president of public universities in every state ought to be now putting their plan of attack together,” she said in August during a visit to Arizona State University’s tech research and development center. “This is going to be a competitive process.”The Commerce Department declined to comment.Arizona’s history with chip manufacturing stretches back to 1949, when the telecom hardware and services provider Motorola opened a lab in Phoenix that later developed transistors. In 1980, Intel built a semiconductor plant in Chandler, a suburb southeast of Phoenix, drawn by the state’s low property taxes, relative proximity to its Silicon Valley headquarters and stable geology. (Earthquakes are rare in Arizona.)During President Donald J. Trump’s administration, he pushed an “America First” policy agenda. That opened an opportunity for Doug Ducey, a Republican who was then Arizona’s governor, and other state officials to transform their economy into a tech hub.Arizona’s governor at the time, Doug Ducey, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo while touring the TSMC construction site in December.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesIn 2017, Mr. Ducey and other Arizona officials traveled to Taiwan to meet with executives of TSMC, the world’s biggest maker of leading-edge chips. They promoted the state’s low taxes, its business-friendly regulatory environment and Arizona State University’s engineering school of more than 30,000 students.Mr. Ducey, who was close to Mr. Trump, also had calls with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on financial incentives to expand domestic production of chips.“My job is to sell Arizona,” Mr. Ducey said. “In this case, it was to sell Arizona to TSMC but also to the administration.”In 2019, Mr. Ducey helped set up calls between the cabinet secretaries and TSMC’s executives to lock in a deal to open manufacturing plants in Arizona. The state promised tax credits and other financial incentives to help offset costs for the company to move production to the United States from Taiwan.In May 2020, TSMC announced plans to build a $12 billion factory in Phoenix. Later that year, the city provided TSMC with $200 million in infrastructure incentives, including water lines, sewage and roads. One traffic light would cost the city $500,000.“TSMC appreciates the support from our dedicated partners on the state, local and federal levels,” said Rick Cassidy, the chief executive of TSMC Arizona, adding that the CHIPS Act funds will enable the company and its suppliers to expand “for years to come.”The CHIPS Act is a prime piece of President Biden’s industrial policy. He toured TSMC’s Arizona plant in December.T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesIn early 2021, Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s chief executive, announced a sweeping strategy to increase U.S. production of chips. States began soliciting the company. Arizona officials highlighted their long relationship with Intel and perks, such as the state’s low property and business taxes.Intel soon announced a $20 billion expansion in Chandler, with two additional factories that would bring 3,000 new jobs to the state. Chandler also approved $30 million in water and road improvements for the new plants.“The Arizona government has been a great collaborator,” said Bruce Andrews, Intel’s chief government affairs officer. “By investing in semiconductors early, they created an ecosystem that has had a jobs multiplier effect and massive economic benefits.”But some of the tax breaks have rankled Arizona residents, who say the moves have hurt funding for public schools. The state ranks 47th in per-student spending.“We need to bring business to our state, but we need to look at balance,” said Beth Lewis, the executive director of Save Our Schools in Arizona. “Corporations are choosing not to settle in Arizona because of our devastated public education system.”Arizona pressed ahead with pushing Congress to create legislation for chip subsidies. In March 2021, Senator Kelly joined Senators John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, the authors of legislation that would become the CHIPS Act, in a call with the new Biden administration to push for the White House’s support of funding.Mr. Kelly, an early sponsor of the CHIPS Act, became a chief negotiator on the legislation in Congress. He negotiated the inclusion of a four-year 25 percent investment tax credit in the bill, including a provision that ensured Intel and TSMC would get the tax credits even though their Arizona factory projects were announced before the bill would go into effect.Mr. Kelly also helped the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, lobby for the inclusion of more than $13 billion in grants for research and development and work force training. And Mr. Kelly and state leaders hosted administration officials at events to showcase the state’s semiconductor efforts as part of the White House’s manufacturing strategy.Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona at TSMC’s factory in December.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times“We have the potential to lead the nation in microchip production,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement. “I was honored to lead this effort, and now I’m working to maximize it for Arizona”Mr. Ducey, who left office when his term ended in January, pushed for more tech-friendly policies, including an income-tax cut. He also said he would use $100 million that the state had received from federal Covid grants to attract more chip companies and help them apply for funds provided by the CHIPS Act.In December, TSMC announced a second factory that would bring its total investment in Arizona to $40 billion. Mr. Biden and Ms. Raimondo traveled to Phoenix to speak at the announcement, with Mr. Kelly accompanying them on Air Force One.Arizona officials continue to pitch semiconductor companies to open factories in the state.This month, Ms. Watson hosted more than 20 chief executives of chip companies at the Super Bowl in Glendale. Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s new governor and a Democrat, and Mr. Kelly heralded how the state could benefit from the CHIPS Act.“There’s a robust pipeline,” Ms. Watson said. More

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    The Pandemic Flight of Wealthy New Yorkers Was a Once-in-a-Century Shock

    New tax data reveal a steep population loss in 2020, toward the start of the pandemic. The exodus was temporary, but how much of its effects could be permanent?When roughly 300,000 New York City residents left during the early part of the pandemic, officials described the exodus as a once-in-a-century shock to the city’s population.Now, new data from the Internal Revenue Service shows that the residents who moved to other states by the time they filed their 2019 taxes collectively reported $21 billion in total income, substantially more than those who departed in any prior year on record. The IRS said the data captured filings received in 2020 and as late as July 2021.Many new or returning residents have since moved in. But the total income of those who had initially left was double the average amount of those who had departed over the previous decade, a potential loss that could have long-term effects on a city that relies heavily on its wealthiest residents to support schools, law enforcement and other public services.The sheer number of people who left in such a short period raises uncertainty about New York City’s competitiveness and economic stability. The top 1 percent of earners, who make more than $804,000 a year, contributed 41 percent of the city’s personal income taxes in 2019.About one-third of the people who left moved from Manhattan, and had an average income of $214,300. No other large American county had a similar exodus of wealth.Early in the pandemic, Sam Williamson, 51, a white-collar defense lawyer living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, first relocated to Utah, then to Long Island. After a return to the city, he and his family permanently moved to Miami last year when his law firm opened an office there.“I love New York City, but it’s been a challenging time,” Mr. Williamson said. “I didn’t feel like the city handled the pandemic very well.”The average income of city residents who moved out of state was 24 percent higher than of those who moved the year prior, according to a New York Times analysis of federal tax returns that were due in 2020. It was the biggest one-year income increase among people who left the city for other states in at least a decade.The tax data is in line with the most recent Census Bureau estimates, which showed that in the first year of the pandemic, the number of New York City residents who left was more than triple the typical annual outflow before the pandemic. International immigration, a key source of growth in New York, plummeted to one-fourth the level prepandemic. And the death rate surged, as approximately 17,000 more residents died than in a typical year.All of this led to a loss of about 337,000 people in New York City between April 2020 and June 2021, according to census estimates, a startling drop after the city’s population reached 8.8 million residents, a record high, in early 2020.New York City’s official demographers say that the pandemic was a blip in the city’s long-term population growth and that migration trends have returned to prepandemic levels, pointing to indicators like change-of-address requests and soaring rents that suggest people are flooding back.But, they said, it is too soon to conclude when the population that was lost will be completely replaced.And other indicators suggest flight from the city may be continuing. Public school enrollment this year is down 6.4 percent compared with before the pandemic, according to New York City Department of Education data, and private school enrollment decreased by 3 percent, according to state data, potentially signaling a reduction in the number of families that could hurt the city’s ability to foster a diverse work force.“All of these are underlying trends that are concerning,” said Andrew Rein, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog. “We don’t know what this means permanently, but things have shifted in a way that should give anybody looking at this some serious pause.”In the years before 2019, the people who left and the people who stayed in New York City had similar average incomes, the IRS data showed. But during the pandemic, the residents who moved had average incomes that were 28 percent higher than the residents who stayed.Still, New York City collected more tax revenue in both 2020 and 2021 than in 2019, thanks in part to at least $16 billion in federal pandemic aid.The outlook for this year has become much less certain as the stock market has plummeted in recent months and certain forms of federal aid, like stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits, have ended.The city’s Independent Budget Office said it was not possible to calculate the tax revenue lost from the people who had moved because some of them could be working remotely for New York-based companies and paying city income tax. In the long term, the office said, their tax status could become a major policy issue as states fight for their share of taxes from remote workers.Sophia and Charlie Blackett relocated last year to Rowayton, Conn., from Brooklyn, partly because both of their jobs in tech allowed them to permanently work from home. Ms. Blackett, 27, had previously considered raising children in the city, but the confinement of the pandemic shifted her thinking.“I used to thrive on the hustle and bustle,” she said. Now, she said, “I think about waking up in my bed in an apartment, and I just feel a little bit anxious.”The issue has become a talking point in the governor’s race. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a moderate Democrat, said earlier this year that the steep population drop in New York State, driven by the city losses, was “an alarm bell that cannot be ignored.” Representative Tom Suozzi of Long Island, a centrist challenging her in this month’s primary, has blamed the exodus on crime, high taxes and an unaffordable cost of living.Gergana Ivanova, 28, a clothing designer and social media influencer, said her decision to move to Miami was less about taxes. The pandemic made the downsides of living in New York City more noticeable, she said, including the lack of space in her tiny Queens apartment and the trash piling up on the sidewalks. She felt less safe walking around when the streets were emptier.“It didn’t feel happy and positive like it used to,” she said.Gergana Ivanova at Margaret Pace Park in Miami, where she moved from Queens.Scott McIntyre for The New York TimesUrban planners and economists have long debated the extent to which policymakers should be concerned about the outflow of New Yorkers to other states. Some see it as a positive sign of mobility for people who start their careers in New York, making way for new arrivals to inject vibrancy into neighborhoods.In a new report published Thursday, the Department of City Planning said federal immigration levels and change-of-address data from the Postal Service show that New York City’s population trends likely returned to prepandemic levels by the second half of 2021. And deaths from Covid-19 are significantly lower than early in the pandemic.Since the 1950s, New York City has had a net loss of residents to other states, but the population still grew because the number of immigrants and new births surpassed the number of people who moved away.The pandemic spurred a flight to many of the same suburbs that have long attracted New Yorkers seeking more space, including Connecticut’s Fairfield County and New Jersey’s Bergen and Essex Counties. But it also triggered residents to leave for more far-flung destinations, including Hawaii, the Florida Keys and ski towns in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.Charlie and Sophia Blackett moved to Rowayton, Conn., from Brooklyn.Anthony Nazario for The New York TimesThe exodus to Florida was especially robust, and not just for the retiree crowd. In 2020, New York City had a net loss of nearly 21,000 residents to Florida, IRS data showed, almost double the average annual net loss from before the pandemic.The pandemic accelerated the relocation of several New York-based financial firms to new offices or headquarters in Florida. Many of them have landed in Palm Beach, Fla., including the hedge fund Elliott Management, whose co-chief executive, Jonathan Pollock, is now a full-time Florida resident, according to records obtained by The New York Times.The Manhattan residents who moved to Palm Beach County had an average income of $728,351, IRS data showed.Many New Yorkers also moved because they lost their jobs in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. In New York City, the unemployment rate is almost double the nation’s, in part because the city still has at least 61,000 fewer leisure and hospitality jobs than before the pandemic, according to the most recent jobs report.Zak Jacoby was the general manager of a bar on the Lower East Side when the pandemic hit. Throughout 2020, his employment status fluctuated with the city’s changing indoor dining rules, a stressful period that put him on and off unemployment benefits.Mr. Jacoby, 37, flew to Miami in January 2021 to see a friend — and decided to stay permanently after getting a job offer at a local restaurant group. If there was another virus surge, he said, the state would be less likely to shut down businesses, giving him more job security.“My mind-set was, Florida’s more lenient on Covid, and there’s going to be less regulation,” he said.During his first six months in office, Mayor Eric Adams visited cities like Miami and Los Angeles as part of what he said were efforts to lure businesses and residents back to New York.Jonathan Koplovitz, 53, an executive at an automotive engineering and design start-up, is among the residents who came back.As the virus began sweeping through New York, Mr. Koplovitz and his family moved from their apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to Aspen, Colo., the upscale ski resort town. Expecting to stay permanently, they bought a home about a mile from the ski lifts, where his two teenage sons finished the rest of the school year with virtual classes.But on a trip back to New York, he found the city to be far more vibrant than the darkest days of the pandemic. Once in-person schooling resumed in fall 2020, the family decided to return.“There’s no place like New York,” Mr. Koplovitz said. More

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    N.Y.C. Companies Are Opening Offices Where Their Workers Live: Brooklyn

    Before the pandemic, Maz Karimian’s commute to Lower Manhattan was like that of many New Yorkers’: an often miserable 30-minute journey on two subway lines that were usually crammed or delayed.By comparison, when he returned to the office last week for the first time since the coronavirus began sweeping through the city, his commute felt serene: a leisurely bicycle ride from his home in Carroll Gardens to his company’s relocated office about 10 minutes away in Dumbo.“I love the subway and think it’s a terrific transit system but candidly, if I can be in fresh air versus shared, enclosed air, I’ll choose that 10 times out of 10,” said Mr. Karimian, the principal strategist at ustwo, a digital design studio.More than 26 months after the pandemic sparked a mass exodus from New York City office buildings, and after many firms announced and then shelved return-to-office plans, employees are finally starting to trickle back to their desks. But remote work has fundamentally reshaped the way people work and diminished the dominance of the corporate workplace.Companies have adapted. Conference rooms got a makeover. Personal desks became hot desks, open to anyone on a first-come basis. Managers embraced flexible work arrangements, letting employees decide when they want to work in person.And some are taking more drastic measures to make the return to work appealing: picking up their offices and relocating them closer to where their employees live. In New York City, the moves reflect an effort by organizations to reduce a major barrier to getting to work — the commute — just as they start to call their workers back.Before the pandemic, workers in New York City had the longest one-way commute on average in the country, nearly 38 minutes.About two-thirds of ustwo’s employees live in Brooklyn, so it made sense to move the office to Dumbo, on the Brooklyn waterfront, after a decade in the Financial District in Manhattan, said Gabriel Marquez, its managing director.The new space is about 11,500 square feet, slightly smaller than its former office, and was less expensive per square foot to lease than most offices in Manhattan. It is also better suited for when employees do come into the office, featuring an open-air rooftop with Wi-Fi for meetings, he said.“We didn’t need the same relationship with the office and have everyone in five days a week,” said Mr. Marquez, who said that employees are mandated to be there twice a week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “It felt like, culturally, it is a good fit and for a lot of companies like ours in our area.”Before the pandemic, the morning commute for Maz Karimian, who works at ustwo, took about 30 minutes on two separate subway lines into Manhattan. Now, his company’s new office in Brooklyn is within biking and walking distance from his home.Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York TimesAs New York City tries to climb out from the depths of economic turmoil, there are recent signs that the city is rebounding despite concerns about crime on the subways and rising coronavirus cases. Tourists are visiting New York at a greater rate than last year, hotel occupancy has increased and earlier this month, daily subway ridership set a pandemic-era record of 3.53 million passengers.Despite those promising signals, a vital piece of the city’s economy remains battered: office buildings.Before the pandemic, office towers sustained an entire ecosystem of coffee shops, retailers and restaurants. Without that same rush of people, thousands of businesses have closed and for-lease signs still hang in many storefronts.Despite pleas for months from Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul for companies to require people return to the office, so far, many have heeded demands by their employees to maintain much of the job flexibility that they have come to enjoy during the pandemic.Just 8 percent of Manhattan office workers were in-person five days a week from the end of April to early May, according to a survey from the Partnership for New York City, a business group.About 78 percent of the 160 major employers surveyed said they have adopted hybrid remote and in-person arrangements, up from 6 percent before the pandemic. Most workers plan to come into the office just a few days a week, the group said.The seismic shift in office building usage has been one of the most challenging situations in decades for New York real estate, a bedrock industry for the city, and has upended the vast stock of offices in Manhattan, home to the two largest business districts in the country, the Financial District and Midtown.About 19 percent of office space in Manhattan is vacant, the equivalent of 30 Empire State Buildings. That rate is up from about 12 percent before the pandemic, according to Newmark, a real estate firm. Office buildings have been more stable in Brooklyn, where the vacancy rate is also about 19 percent but has not fluctuated much since before the pandemic, Newmark said.Daniel Ismail, the lead office analyst at Green Street, a commercial real estate research firm, predicted that the office market in Manhattan would worsen in the coming years as companies adjusted their work arrangements and as leases that were signed years ago started to expire. In general, companies that have kept offices have downsized, realizing they do not need as much space, while others have relocated to newer or renovated buildings with better amenities in transit-rich areas, he said.Even before the pandemic, it was not uncommon for companies to move offices throughout the city or to open separate locations outside of Manhattan. The city offers a tax incentive for businesses that relocate to an outer borough, with up to $3,000 in annual business-income tax credits per employee.Nearly 200 companies received it in 2018, for a total of $27 million in tax credits, the most recent data available, according to the city’s Department of Finance. But some office developers are betting on neighborhoods outside Manhattan becoming attractive in their own right, luring companies that specifically want to avoid the hustle-and-bustle of Midtown.More than 1.5 million square feet of office space is under construction in Brooklyn, including a 24-story commercial building in Downtown Brooklyn.Two Trees Management, the real estate development company that transformed Dumbo, is turning the former Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg into a 460,000-square-foot office building. Jed Walentas, its chief executive, said he had so much confidence in the project that it was being renovated on speculation, without office tenants lined up beforehand.“You can’t ignore the talent base that has shifted to Brooklyn and Queens,” Mr. Walentas said. “The notion that they will all take the F train or the L train or whatever train into the middle of Manhattan, that’s faulty.”“We didn’t need the same relationship with the office and have everyone in five days a week,” said Gabriel Marquez, the managing director at ustwo, which moved to the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn.Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York TimesTo be sure, the latest outer-borough office trend is still nascent, and the unpredictable whims of the pandemic could change its course in the future.Brian R. Steinwurtzel, the co-chief executive at GFP Real Estate, whose firm largely owns properties in Manhattan, said that office markets in Queens and Brooklyn could attract certain niches of companies, such as biomedical and life science companies in Long Island City, Queens, where GFP has several sites.But overall, Mr. Steinwurtzel offered a curt assessment of the outer-borough markets: “It’s terrible.”Still, just being able to have panoramic views of Manhattan is enough for some companies.When the European advertising firm Social Chain opened an office in the United States before the pandemic, the group settled in the Flatiron area, an epicenter of the marketing world made famous decades ago by advertising giants on Madison Avenue.But after the pandemic struck and the firm decided to revisit its location, the prestige of being in Manhattan lacked the same magnetism — or necessity, said Stefani Stamatiou, the managing director of Social Chain USA.She toured office locations in Manhattan but none felt like the right fit. Then she traveled across the East River into Williamsburg and found 10 Grand Street, also a Two Trees property. It checked all the boxes — unobstructed views of Manhattan, a flexible floor plan and, most importantly, a shorter commute for a large number of Social Chain’s 42 employees.That includes Ms. Stamatiou, who now walks to work from her home in Greenpoint.“There is actual outside activities and restaurants down below us just like in Manhattan but there’s a sense of space,” Ms. Stamatiou said. “It made sense to be where the creative is, where the people are.” More

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    The Era of Cheap and Plenty May Be Ending

    Supplies of goods are coming up short in the pandemic, and prices have jumped. Some economists warn that the changes could linger.For the past three decades, companies and consumers benefited from cross-border connections that kept a steady supply of electronics, clothes, toys and other goods so abundant it helped prices stay low.But as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine continue to weigh on trade and business ties, that period of plenty appears to be undergoing a partial reversal. Companies are rethinking where to source their products and stocking up on inventory, even if that means lower efficiency and higher costs. If it lasts, such a shift away from fine-tuned globalization could have important implications for inflation and the world’s economy.Economists are debating whether recent supply chain turmoil and geopolitical conflicts will result in a reversal or reconfiguration of global production, in which factories that were sent offshore move back to the United States and other countries that pose less of a political risk.If that happens, a decades-long decline in the prices of many goods could come to an end or even begin to go in the other direction, potentially boosting overall inflation. Since around 1995, durable goods like cars and equipment have tamped down inflation, and prices for nondurable goods like clothing and toys have often grown only slowly.Those trends began to change in late 2020 after the onset of the pandemic, as shipping costs soared and shortages collided with strong demand to push car, furniture and equipment prices higher. While few economists expect the past year’s breakneck price increases to continue, the question is whether the trend toward at least slightly pricier goods will last.The answer could hinge on whether a shift away from globalization takes hold.“It would certainly be a different world — it might be a world of perhaps higher inflation, perhaps lower productivity, but more resilient, more robust supply chains,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said at an event last month when asked about a possible move away from globalization.Still, Mr. Powell said, it’s not obvious how drastically conditions will change. “It’s not clear that we’re seeing a reversal of globalization,” he said. “It’s clear that it’s slowed down.”Prices Have Shot UpPrices for durable goods had been falling for decades. Lately, though, they’ve been a major factor pushing inflation higher.

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    Annual Change in the Personal Consumption Expenditure Index by Category
    Source: Commerce DepartmentBy The New York TimesThe period of global integration that prevailed before the pandemic made many of the things Americans buy cheaper. Computers and other technology made factories more efficient, and they chugged out sneakers, kitchen tables and electronics at a pace unmatched in history. Companies slashed their production cost by moving factories offshore, where wages were lower. The adoption of steel shipping containers, and ever larger cargo ships, allowed products to be whisked from Bangladesh and China to Seattle and Tupelo and everywhere in between for astonishingly low prices.But those changes also had consequences for American factory workers, who saw many jobs disappear. The political backlash to globalization helped carry former President Donald J. Trump into office, as he promised to bring factories back to the United States. His trade wars and rising tariffs encouraged some companies to move operations out of China, although typically to other low-cost countries like Vietnam and Mexico.Understand Inflation in the U.S.Inflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Your Questions, Answered: Times readers sent us their questions about rising prices. Top experts and economists weighed in.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve announced that it was raising interest rates for the first time since 2018.How Americans Feel: We asked 2,200 people where they’ve noticed inflation. Many mentioned basic necessities, like food and gas.Supply Chain’s Role: A key factor in rising inflation is the continuing turmoil in the global supply chain. Here’s how the crisis unfolded.The pandemic also exposed the snowball effect of highly optimized supply chains: Factory shutdowns and transportation delays made it difficult to secure some goods and parts, including semiconductors that are crucial for electronics, appliances and cars. Shipping costs have soared by a factor of 10 in just two years, erasing the cost savings of making some products overseas.Starting late in 2020, prices for washing machines, couches and other big products jumped sharply as production limitations collided with high demand.Inflation has only accelerated since. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further snarled supply chains, raising the prices of gas and other commodities in recent months and helping to push the Fed’s closely watched inflation index up 6.6 percent over the year through March.That is the fastest pace of inflation since 1982, and price gains are touching the highest level in decades across many advanced economies, including the eurozone and Britain.Many economists expect price increases for durable goods to cool substantially in the months ahead, which should help calm overall price gains. Data from March suggested that they were beginning to moderate. Rising Fed interest rates could help temper buying, as borrowing to buy cars, machines or home improvement supplies becomes more expensive.But there are still questions about whether — in light of what companies and countries have learned — major products will return to the steady price declines that were the norm before the coronavirus.It’s not clear yet to what extent factories are moving closer to home. A “reshoring index” published by Kearney, a management consulting firm, was negative in 2020 and 2021, indicating that the United States was importing more manufactured goods from low-cost countries.But more firms reported moving their supply chains out of China to other countries, and American executives were more positive about bringing more manufacturing to the United States.Duke Realty, which rents warehouse and industrial facilities in the United States, expects the change to be a source of demand in years to come, though the reworking may take a while. Customers are “now future-proofing their supply chains,” Steve Schnur, the firm’s chief operating officer, said on an earnings call last week.“Some reshoring is occurring — let’s make no mistake about that,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the World Trade Organization, said in an interview. But the data show that most businesses are mitigating risk by building up their inventories and finding additional suppliers in low-cost countries, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said. That process could end up integrating poorer countries in Africa and other parts of the world more deeply into global value chains, she said.Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, said last month that supply chains had proved too vulnerable given the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and urged a reorientation around “a large group of trusted partners,” an approach she called “friendshoring.”The approach might result in some higher costs, she said, but it would be more resilient, and a large enough group would allow countries to maintain efficiencies from the global division of labor.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? More

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    The Next Affordable City Is Already Too Expensive

    Maybe it was the date night when he and his wife spent two hours driving 19 miles to dinner, or the homeless encampment down the street, or the fact that homes were so expensive that his children could never afford to live near him.Whatever the reasons, and there were many, Steve MacDonald decided he was done with Los Angeles. He wanted a city that was smaller and cheaper, big enough that he could find a decent restaurant but not so much that its problems felt unsolvable and every little task like an odyssey. After the pandemic hit and he and his wife went through a grand reprioritizing, they centered on Spokane, where their son went to college. They had always liked visiting and decided it would be a nice place to move.Eastern Washington was of course much colder. Until this winter, Mr. MacDonald, a native Southern Californian, had never shoveled snow. But their new house is twice as big as their Los Angeles home, cost less than half as much and is a five-minute commute from City Hall, where Mr. MacDonald works as Spokane’s director of community and economic development.He arrives each day to tackle a familiar conundrum: how to prevent Spokane from developing the same kinds of problems that people like him are moving there to escape.“I’m realizing more and more how important the future prosperity of this city is about getting housing right,” he said. “If we don’t, it’s going to track more closely with what happened in Los Angeles.”Mr. MacDonald knows the pattern, and so does everyone else who has been following the frenetic U.S. housing market for the past decade. The story plays out locally but is national in scope. It is the story of people leaving high-cost cities because they’ve been priced out or become fed up with how impossible the housing problem seems. Then it becomes the story of a city trying to tame prices by building more housing, followed by the story of neighbors fighting to prevent it, followed by the story of less expensive cities being deluged with buyers from more expensive cities, followed by the less expensive cities descending into the same problems and struggling with the same solutions.It’s easier to change where we live than it is to change how we live.Whether it’s Boise or Reno or Portland or Austin, the American housing market is caught in a vicious cycle of broken expectations that operates like a food chain: The sharks flee New York and Los Angeles and gobble up the housing in Austin and Portland, whose priced-out home buyers swim to the cheaper feeding grounds of places like Spokane. The cycle brings bitterness and “Don’t Move Here” bumper stickers — and in Spokane it has been supercharged during the pandemic and companies’ shift to remote work.No matter how many times it happens, no matter how many cities and states try to blunt it with recommendations to build more housing and provide subsidies for those who can’t afford the new stuff, no matter how many zoning battles are fought or homeless camps lamented, no next city, as of yet, seems better prepared than the last one was.Just a few years ago, a Spokane household that made the median income could afford about two-thirds of the homes on the market, according to Zillow. Now home prices are up 60 percent over the past two years, pricing out broad swaths of the populace and fomenting an escalating housing crisis marked by resentment, zoning fights and tents.Nadine Woodward, the mayor of Spokane, Wash., said the city might be too expensive even for her own son and his wife.Rajah Bose for The New York TimesBeing an “it” place was something Spokane’s leaders had long hoped for. The city and its metropolitan region have spent decades trying to convince out-of-town professionals and businesses that it would be a great place to move. Now their wish has been granted, and the city is grappling with the consequences.The Great ReadMore fascinating tales you can’t help but read all the way to the end.Garage doors, a straightforward finishing touch, have become a source of woe for the home-building industry, thanks to supply-chain issues.Was the “Russian flu” of the late 19th century actually a pandemic driven by a coronavirus? And could its course give us clues about our pandemic?Our reporter hid seven tracking devices in her husband’s belongings to see how invasive they were and which ones he would find.Growth is never perfect, and Spokane’s influx has been accompanied by a booming employment market that has increased wages, turned abandoned warehouses into offices and helped the city recover jobs lost during the pandemic. This is normally called progress. But for people who already lived in and around Spokane or the suburbs just across the border in north Idaho, the shift from living in a place that was broadly affordable to broadly not has come on with the suddenness of a car crash. Now many workers are wondering what the point of growth is if it only makes it harder to keep a roof over their head.Even the mayor isn’t immune. In an interview, Nadine Woodward, a Republican who was elected in 2019, noted that her son and daughter-in-law, newlyweds who moved home during the pandemic, were living with her and her husband while they figured out where they could afford to settle. They came back to Spokane from Seattle, where they were long ago priced out. Austin was the next city on their list, but then its home prices shot up to about where Seattle’s were when they left. At this point, even Spokane is seeming pricey.“I never thought I’d see the day where my adult children couldn’t afford a home in Spokane,” Ms. Woodward said.Between Seattle and MinneapolisStanding by a snow-covered lawn on an overcast afternoon, Steve Silbar, a local real estate agent who has been selling homes for five years, explained Spokane’s transformation in terms of a six-inch screen. When he thinks of a typical buyer, Mr. Silbar said, he imagines a couple thousands of miles away, perhaps on a beach, looking at their phones. They’re considering moving to a cheaper city, and do a search for homes.Clients like this are why Mr. Silbar invested $3,000 in a camera that allows him to create three-dimensional tours of his listings, and why the exterior of every home he sells is showcased with an aerial video shot by a drone. In a market that attracts so many outsiders, a virtual walk through the interior and bird’s-eye flight over the street can be the nudge buyers need to bid on a home they’ve never entered, in a city they’ve never seen.“I have to assume that the person that is looking at my listing has never been to Spokane, does not know about Spokane, has no clue,” Mr. Silbar said.Steve Silbar, a real estate agent, showing a home in Spokane. He relies on virtual methods to help buyers from outside the region.Rajah Bose for The New York TimesSpokane is the largest city on the road from Seattle to Minneapolis. This fact is frequently cited as the logic behind its economy: It’s between things. The city was incorporated in 1881 and grew into a transportation hub for the surrounding mining and logging industries. It remains a hub, only instead of shipping out timber and silver, businesses revolve around Fairchild Air Force Base and a collection of hospitals and universities that draw from the rural towns that stretch from eastern Washington to northern Idaho and into western Montana.The transition from past to present plays out across a skyline in which the usual collection of anonymous bank and hotel towers is broken up by historic brick buildings that seem to be either in a state of abandonment or rehabilitation or occupied by low-rent tenants while waiting for redevelopment. The current boom has already made its mark in the form of new apartment towers, warehouses turned office buildings and an empty lot that will soon contain a 22-story building that will be the city’s tallest.Driving around town, Michael Sharapata, a commercial real estate broker who moved to Spokane from the Bay Area in 2017, gave a staccato accounting of new leases, such as the millions of square feet that Amazon occupies out by the airport, or the satellite offices rented by various regional accounting and building firms.His family is coming, too. After Mr. Sharapata and his wife moved north, they were followed, in rapid succession, by his brother-in-law in Austin, another brother-in-law in the Bay Area and his sister-in-law in Salt Lake City.“We were looking for an affordable community that had an opportunity to accommodate all of us,” he said.As in most of urban America, much of the growth in the Spokane area is on the fringes, where heavy equipment and the skeletal outlines of new subdivisions unfold in every direction and into Idaho. Building permits have surged, and the cadre of mostly local builders who had the market more or less to themselves now grumble that the rapid growth has attracted big national builders like D.R. Horton and Toll Brothers.All of this happened fairly recently. In the years after the Great Recession, when homebuilders were in bankruptcy or hibernation, migration to the Spokane region plunged. That pattern shifted in 2014 when, as if a switch had been flipped, waves of migrants started arriving as already high-cost cities like Seattle and San Francisco saw their housing markets go into a tech-fueled frenzy.By the end of 2014, migration to the Spokane region had jumped to more than 2,000 net new residents, compared with a net loss the year before, according to Equifax and Moody’s Analytics. Annual growth has only continued, rising further with the pandemic to more than 4,500 net new residents.Sometimes they come for the chance to buy their first home. Other times it’s a bigger house or some land. Joel Sweeney, an academic adviser at Eastern Washington University, wanted the best of both: a single-family house on a quiet street that was close enough to downtown that he could walk to a good brewery. That sort of Goldilocks urbanity could cost a million in Austin, where he and his wife lived until last year. When they moved to Spokane they paid less than a third of that.“You could not get a house for $299,000 in Austin where you could walk to a bunch of different stuff,” he said.Nurses and teachersLindsey Simler, who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a home in the $300,000 range, but put her search on pause after a dozen failed offers.Rajah Bose for The New York TimesThe white house with the red door sits on a quiet block near Gonzaga University. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom and 1,500 square feet of living space.Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with zero drama. This year it went back on the market, and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen offers and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.When Mr. Silbar got into the business, he said, his clients were “nurses and teachers,” and now they’re corporate managers, engineers and other professionals. “What you can afford in Spokane has completely changed,” he said.The typical home in the Spokane area is worth $411,000, according to Zillow. That’s still vastly less expensive than markets like the San Francisco Bay Area ($1.4 million), Los Angeles ($878,000), Seattle ($734,000) and Portland ($550,000). But it’s dizzying (and enraging) to long-term residents.Five years ago, a little over half the homes in the Spokane area sold for less than $200,000, and about 70 percent of its employed population could afford to buy a home, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. Now fewer than 5 percent of homes — a few dozen a month — sell for less than $200,000, and less than 15 percent of the area’s employed population can afford a home. A recent survey by Redfin, the real estate brokerage, showed that home buyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a budget 23 percent higher than what locals had.One of Mr. Silbar’s clients, Lindsey Simler, a 38-year-old nurse who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a home in the $300,000 range but keeps losing out because she doesn’t have enough cash to compete. Spokane isn’t so competitive that it’s awash in all-cash offers, as some higher-priced markets are. But prices have shot up so fast that many homes are appraising for less than their sale price, forcing buyers to put up higher down payments to cover the difference.A dozen failed offers later, Ms. Simler has decided to sit out the market for a while because the constant losing is so demoralizing. If prices don’t calm down, she said, she’s thinking about becoming a travel nurse. With the health care work force so depleted by Covid-19, travel nursing pays much better and, hopefully, will allow her to save more for a down payment.“I’m not at the point where I want to give up on living in Spokane, because I have family here and it feels like home,” she said. “But travel nursing is going to be my next step if I haven’t been able to land a house.” ‘Positive activity’From her seventh-floor office atop the Art Deco City Hall, Ms. Woodward, the mayor, looked out at the Spokane River, where in the warmer months a gondola glides past her window to a park built for the World’s Fair. Spokane hosted the fair in 1974 as a means of revitalizing its blighted downtown, and during the recent interview Ms. Woodward pointed out the window at cranes and construction sites that she calls “positive activity.”Spokane’s job market is among of the strongest in the nation, and the virtuous economic cycle — of people coming for housing, causing businesses to come for people, causing more people to come for jobs — is in full swing. And yet, as in Seattle and California before and increasingly across the nation, the scourge of rising prices, particularly for rent and housing, makes it feel less virtuous than advertised.The recent Realtors report warned of “significant social implications” if the city doesn’t tackle housing. The issues included young families not being able to buy or taking on excessive debt, small businesses not being able to hire, difficulty keeping young college graduates in town.In the dominoes of the housing market, the disappointments of aspiring buyers like Ms. Simler get magnified as they move down to lower-income households. With homes so hard to buy, rents have shot up, and the vacancy rate for apartments is close to zero.All of this has compounded at the lowest end of the market, where the nonprofit Volunteers of America’s Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho affiliate, which runs three shelters and maintains 240 apartments for people who were formerly homeless, said it will lose a quarter of its units in the next fiscal year as more of its funding goes to higher rents.Julie Garcia, right, founder of Jewels Helping Hands in Spokane, at her organization’s warming and food tent for people in need.Rajah Bose for The New York TimesA homeless camp in Spokane, where Mayor Woodward declared a housing emergency last year.Rajah Bose for The New York TimesIn December, as temperatures dropped and shelters filled, advocates and members of the homeless population protested by setting up several dozen tents on the City Hall steps. The encampment was gone two weeks later but has since been reconstructed on a patch of dirt on the other side of town. In the winter cold it smells like ash and soot from the open fires burning to keep people warm.Last year, Ms. Woodward declared a housing emergency, and her administration has put in place initiatives that mirror those of housing-troubled cities on the West Coast. The city has built new shelters, is encouraging developers to repurpose commercial buildings into apartments, is making it easier for residents to build backyard units and is rezoning the city to allow duplexes and other multiunit buildings in single-family neighborhoods.Ms. Woodward pointed to Kendall Yards, one of the developments outside her City Hall window, as an example of what she wanted to see more of. The mixed-density project could be a postcard picture of what economists and planners say is needed to combat the nation’s housing shortage and sprawl. In defiance of the single-family zoning laws that dictate the look of most U.S. neighborhoods, Kendall Yards has houses next to townhomes next to apartments, with retail and office mixed in.People in town seem to love it, but are leery of there being more places like it, especially in their neighborhood.“I think it’s awesome — I have friends there, and we go down there to the farmers’ market and walk around,” said John Schram, a co-chair of the neighborhood council in Spokane’s Comstock neighborhood. “That’s just not my vision of what I want for me. My concern is that I move into a neighborhood because of the way that it was designed when I got there, and when somebody else comes in and wants to change that I’m going to be concerned.”He added: “I have nothing against duplexes and triplexes, just not next to my house.” More

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    Supply Chain Woes Prompt a New Push to Revive U.S. Factories

    Companies are testing whether the United States can regain some of the manufacturing output it ceded in recent decades to China and other countries.When visitors arrive at the office of America Knits in tiny Swainsboro, Ga., the first thing they see on the wall is a black-and-white photo that a company co-founder, Steve Hawkins, discovered in a local antiques store.It depicts one of a score of textile mills that once dotted the area, along with the workers that toiled on its machines and powered the local economy. The scene reflects the heyday — and to Mr. Hawkins, the potential — of making clothes in the rural South.Companies like America Knits will test whether the United States can regain some of the manufacturing output it ceded in recent decades to China and other countries. That question has been contentious among workers whose jobs were lost to globalization. But with the supply-chain snarls resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it has become intensely tangible from the consumer viewpoint as well.Mr. Hawkins’s company, founded in 2019, has 65 workers producing premium T-shirts from locally grown cotton. He expects the work force to increase to 100 in the coming months. If the area is to have an industrial renaissance, it is so far a lonely one. “I’m the only one, the only crazy one,” Mr. Hawkins said.But as he sees it, bringing manufacturing back from overseas — a move often called onshoring or reshoring — has found its moment. “America Knits shows it can be done and has been done,” he said.Some corporate giants are keen on testing that premise, if not for finished goods then certainly for essential parts.General Motors disclosed in December that it was considering spending upward of $4 billion to expand electric vehicle and battery production in Michigan. Just days later, Toyota announced plans for a $1.3 billion battery plant in North Carolina that will employ 1,750 people.At America Knits in Swainsboro, Ga., workers earn up to twice as much per hour as they would in a service job.Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York TimesIn October, Micron Technology said it planned to invest more than $150 billion in memory chip manufacturing and research and development over the next decade, with a portion of that to be spent in the United States. And in November, the South Korean giant Samsung said that it would build a $17 billion semiconductor plant in Texas, its largest U.S. investment to date.Bringing manufacturing back to the United States was a major theme of former President Donald J. Trump, who imposed tariffs on imports from allies and rivals, started a trade war with China and blocked or reworked trade agreements. Still, there was little change in the balance of trade or the inclination of companies operating in China to redirect investment to the United States..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Since the pandemic began, however, efforts to relocate manufacturing have accelerated, said Claudio Knizek, global leader for advanced manufacturing and mobility at EY-Parthenon, a strategy consulting firm. “It may have reached a tipping point,” he added.Decades of dependence on Asian factories, especially in China, has been upended by delays and surging freight rates — when shipping capacity can be found at all.Backups at overwhelmed ports and the challenges of obtaining components as well as finished products in a timely way have convinced companies to think about locating production capacity closer to buyers.“It’s absolutely about being close to customers,” said Tim Ingle, group vice president for enterprise strategy at Toyota Motor North America. “It’s a big endeavor, but it’s the future.”New corporate commitments to sustainability are also playing a role, with the opportunity to reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption in transportation across oceans emerging as a selling point.Repositioning the supply chain isn’t just an American phenomenon, however. Experts say the trend is also encouraging manufacturing in northern Mexico, a short hop to the United States by truck.Called near-shoring, the move to Mexico is paralleled in Europe with factories opening in Eastern Europe to serve Western European markets like France and Germany.“We’re starting to see it in Mexico as well as in the U.S.,” said Theresa Wagler, chief financial officer of Steel Dynamics, a steel maker based in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Many companies now prefer security of supply over cost.”Mr. Knizek of EY-Parthenon expects industries with complex and more expensive products to lead the resurgence, including automobiles, semiconductors, defense and aviation and pharmaceuticals. Anything that requires large amounts of manual labor, or that is difficult to automate, is much less likely to return.For items like shoes or furniture or holiday lights, for example, “the economics are daunting,” said Willy C. Shih, a professor at Harvard Business School. “It’s hard to beat wages of $2.50 an hour.”Although trade tensions and shipping delays are making headlines, Professor Shih added, China retains huge advantages, like a mammoth work force, easy access to raw materials and low-cost factories. “For a lot of what American consumers buy, there aren’t a lot of good alternatives,” he added.But as the moves by auto and tech companies show, the United States can attract more sophisticated manufacturing. That has been a goal shared by Republican and Democratic administrations, including President Biden’s, which supports $52 billion in subsidies for domestic chip manufacturing.“Incentives to help level the playing field are a key piece,” said David Moore, chief strategy officer and senior vice president at Micron. “Building a leading-edge memory fabrication facility is a sizable investment; it’s not just a billion or two here and there. These are major decisions.”In the aftermath of the coronavirus and restrictions on exports of goods like masks, moving manufacturing closer to home is also being viewed as a national security priority, said Rick Burke, a managing director with the consulting firm Deloitte.“As the pandemic continues, there’s a realization that this may be the new normal,” Mr. Burke said. “The pandemic has sent a shock wave through organizations. It’s no longer a discussion about cost, but about supply-chain resiliency.”Despite the big announcements and the billions being spent, it could take until the late 2020s before the investments yield a meaningful number of manufacturing jobs, Mr. Burke said — and even then, raw materials and some components will probably come from overseas.Still, if the experts are correct, these moves could reverse decades of dwindling employment in American factories. A quarter of a century ago, U.S. factories employed more than 17 million people, but that number dropped to 11.5 million by 2010.Since then, the gains have been modest, with the total manufacturing work force now at 12.5 million.But the sector remains one of the few where the two-thirds of Americans who lack a college degree can earn a middle-class wage. In bigger cities and parts of the country where workers are unionized, factories frequently pay $20 to $25 an hour compared with $15 or less for jobs at warehouses or in restaurants and bars.Even in the rural South, long resistant to unions, manufacturing jobs can come with a healthy salary premium. At America Knits, a private-label manufacturer that sells to retailers including J. Crew and Buck Mason, workers earn $12 to $15 an hour, compared with $7.50 to $11 in service jobs.The hiring is being driven by strong demand for the company’s T-shirts, Mr. Hawkins said, as well as by a recognition among retailers of the effect of supply-chain problems on foreign sources of goods.“Retailers have opened their eyes more and are bringing manufacturing back,” he said. “And with premium T-shirts selling for $30 or more, they can afford to.”A few years ago, Julie Land said she would naturally have looked to Asia to expand production of outerwear and other goods for her Canadian company, Winnipeg Stitch Factory, and its clothing brand, Pine Falls.Instead, the 12-year-old business is opening a plant in Port Gibson, Miss., in 2022. Fabric will be cut in Winnipeg and then shipped to Port Gibson to be sewn into garments like jackets and sweaters. The factory will be heavily automated, Ms. Land said, enabling her company to keep costs manageable and compete with overseas workshops.“Reshoring is not going to happen overnight, but it is happening, and it’s exciting,” she said. “If you place an order offshore, there is so much uncertainty with a longer lead time. All of that adds up.” More

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    Are Tesla and Texas a Perfect Match? It’s Questionable.

    While its C.E.O., Elon Musk, and the state’s conservative lawmakers share libertarian sensibilities, they differ greatly on climate change and renewable energy.Tesla’s move from Silicon Valley to Texas makes sense in many ways: The company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and the conservative lawmakers who run the state share a libertarian philosophy, favoring few regulations and low taxes. Texas also has room for a company with grand ambitions to grow.“There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area,” Mr. Musk said Thursday at Tesla’s annual meeting hosted at its new factory near the Texas capital. “Here in Austin, our factory’s like five minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from downtown.”But Texas may not be the natural choice that Mr. Musk makes it out to be.Tesla’s stated mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” and its customers include many people who want sporty cars that don’t spew greenhouse gases from their tailpipes. Texas, however, is run by conservatives who are skeptical of or oppose efforts to address climate change. They are also fiercely protective of the state’s large oil and gas industry.And, despite the state’s business-friendly reputation, Tesla can’t sell vehicles directly to customers there because of a law that protects car dealerships, which Tesla does not use.Tesla’s move is not surprising: Mr. Musk threatened to leave California in May 2020 after local officials, citing the coronavirus, forced Tesla to shut down its car factory in the San Francisco Bay Area. But his decision to move to Texas highlights some gaping ideological contradictions. His company stands at the vanguard of the electric car and renewable energy movement, while Texas’ lawmakers, who have welcomed him enthusiastically, are among the biggest resisters to moving the economy away from oil and natural gas.“It’s always a feather in Texas’ hat when it takes a business away from California, but Tesla is as much unwelcome as it is welcome,” said Jim Krane, an energy expert at Rice University in Houston. “It’s an awkward juxtaposition. This is a state that gets a sizable chunk of its G.D.P. from oil and gas and here comes a virulent competitor to that industry.”In February, a rare winter storm caused the Texas electric grid to collapse, leaving millions of people without electricity and heat for days. Soon after, the state’s leaders sought — falsely, according to many energy experts — to blame the blackout on renewable energy.“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Gov. Greg Abbott said of the blackout on Fox News. “It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we will be able to heat our homes in the wintertimes and cool our homes in the summertimes.”Mr. Musk, a Texas resident since last year, seemed to offer a very different take on Thursday, suggesting that renewable energy could in fact protect people from power outages.“I was actually in Austin for that snowstorm in a house with no electricity, no lights, no power, no heating, no internet,” he said. “This went on for several days. However, if we had the solar plus Powerwall, we would have had lights and electricity.”Tesla is a leading maker of solar panels and batteries — the company calls one of its products Powerwall — for homeowners and businesses to store renewable energy for use when the sun has gone down, when electricity rates are higher or during blackouts. The company reported $1.3 billion in revenue from the sale of solar panels and batteries in the first six months of the year.Mr. Musk’s announcement that Tesla would be moving its headquarters from Palo Alto, Calif., came with few details. It is not clear, for example, how many workers would move to Austin. It’s also unknown whether the company would maintain a research and development operation in California in addition to its factory in Fremont, which is a short drive from headquarters and which it said it would expand. The company has around 750 employees in Palo Alto and about 12,500 in total in the Bay Area, according to the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies.It is also not clear how much money Tesla will save on taxes by moving. Texas has long used its relatively low taxes, which are less than California’s, to attract companies. County officials have already approved tax breaks for the company’s new factory, and the state might offer more.Over the years, California granted Tesla hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, something that Gov. Gavin Newsom noted on Friday. But because Tesla will continue to have operations in California, it may still have to pay income tax on its sales in the state, said Kayla Kitson, a policy analyst at the California Budget & Policy Center.Whatever incentives they offer Tesla, Texas officials are not likely to change their support for the fossil fuel industries with which the company competes.In a letter to state regulators in July, Mr. Abbott directed the Public Utility Commission to incentivize the state’s energy market “to foster development and maintenance of adequate and reliable sources of power, like natural gas, coal and nuclear power.”A Tesla factory under construction in Austin in September.Joe White/ReutersThe governor also ordered regulators to charge suppliers of wind and solar energy “reliability” fees because, given the natural variability of the wind and the sun, suppliers could not guarantee that they would be able to provide power when it was needed.Mr. Abbott’s letter made no mention of battery storage, suggesting that he saw no role for a technology that many energy experts believe will become increasingly important in smoothing out wind and solar energy production. Tesla is a big player in such batteries. Its systems have helped electric grids in California, Australia and elsewhere, and the company is building a big battery in Texas, too, Bloomberg reported in March.Texas has no clean energy mandates, though it has become a national leader in the use of solar and wind power — driven largely by the low cost of renewable energy. The state produces more wind energy than any other.Another issue that divides Tesla and Texas is the state’s law about how cars can be sold there.As in some other states, Texas has long had laws to protect car dealers by barring automakers, including Tesla, from selling directly to consumers. California, the company’s biggest market by far, has long allowed the company to sell cars directly to buyers, which lets it earn more money than if it had to sell through dealers.Tesla has showrooms around Texas, but employees are not even allowed to discuss prices with prospective buyers and the showrooms cannot accept orders. Texans can buy Teslas online and pick the vehicles up at its service centers.Once the Austin factory starts producing vehicles, including a new pickup truck Tesla calls Cybertruck, those vehicles will have to leave the state before they can be delivered to customers in Texas.Efforts to change the law by Tesla and some state lawmakers have gone nowhere, including during the legislative session that concluded this year. That’s partly because car dealers have tremendous political influence in the state.Perhaps once Tesla has moved to Austin and started producing cars, Mr. Musk might have enough political clout to get the Legislature to act. Texas lawmakers typically meet only every two years, however, so it would most likely take at least until 2023 for the company’s customers to receive a car directly from its factory there.Michael Webber, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said Mr. Musk’s decision to move to Texas might have been influenced in part by the ability to pressure the state to change its law.“The Texas car market is the second-largest car market in America after California, so if you are selling cars it kind of makes sense to get closer to your customers,” Mr. Webber said. “The Texas car market is particularly difficult outside of cities because of the legislative barriers.”There were already signs on Friday that some in Texas, including those involved in oil and gas and related industries, were happy to have Tesla because it could eventually employ thousands of people.“It can only be positive for Texas, because it brings more business to Texas,” said Linda Salinas, vice president for operations at Texmark Chemicals, which is near Houston. “Even though it’s not fossil business, it’s still business.”She said Texmark might even benefit from Tesla’s manufacturing operations in the state. “Texmark produces and sells mining chemicals to people who mine copper, and guess what batteries are made out of?”Peter Eavis More