I have seen the future of Cape Cod, and I bet it’s not what you think. But first, some history:
Years ago, one of the “futurists” writing at the time said that the economic history of the United States could be written in three words, “Farmer, Laborer, Clerk.” We started out as an economy built on agriculture, and moved quickly into the Manufacturing Age. Then, in the middle of the 20thCentury, with the introduction of what they then called “the stored program computer” we headed full speed into the Information Age.
My first job out of college in 1965 was as a management trainee at John Hancock Life Insurance. My first assignment was to the EDP (Electronic Data Processing) Department because they understood that computers would be central to their future and managers needed to understand them.
The computer I programmed, the Univac II. used vacuum tubes, was water cooled, and had 24k of memory, less than the Casio watch I am wearing. Thirty years later I wrote an ad with this headline:
“If the auto industry had done what the computer industry
has done in the last thirty years, a Rolls Royce would
cost $2.50 and get 2 million miles per gallon.”
I don’t think anyone understood how rapidly the computer would change our society. PC’s, smart phones, the Internet, tablet computers…..who knew? They have changed everything. And that change is going to dictate the Cape’s future.
The movement away from offices towards telecommuting is well underway. I have a niece who lives near Taunton and works for a leading Boston law firm. She goes to work downtown once a week.
A financial advisor I know has moved into his summer house in Rockport and goes into his office in the city only once or twice a week.
My wife’s nephew works for a publisher in Manhattan, and has reduced his commute from NJ to once a week.
A woman I used to work with manages the marketing department of a major university from her home in Plymouth. Once every other week she goes to her office.
But her husband takes the cake. He doesn’t even have a formal office. He runs his company (which manages and markets the electronic versions of magazines), with 42 employees scattered across the country, from his extra bedroom. When his clients come to town he rents conference space for the day.
I didn’t see it at first, but this telecommuting trend is starting to explode. In the next thirty tears tens of thousands of workers will be moving their work into their home. This will save millions of wasted hours in traffic and tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.
If you could work from home, why not put your home in a place you love to be……like Cape Cod? As offices empty out, and people start working from home, many of them will choose to live where they always vacation.
No need to worry about creating jobs on the Cape. No need for industrial parks. The economy will boom as the population grows with white-collar telecommuters.
Now for the bad news. Where will they live? There’s not enough room for everyone to have a single-family house on an acre or more. We’re going to have to get creative. Cluster zoning would be a good start.