Experts Call for More Planning, Jobs Here Real-Estate Forum Hears Plea for `a New Vision'

Article excerpt

While the economy appears strong nationally and locally, experts are warning that times will get tougher. Some of the prosperity may be illusory anyway, they say, and the St. Louis metropolitan area needs a stronger effort at job creation and regional planning.

Laurence H. Meyer, a local economic forecaster, said the country's "outstanding" economic performance may peak during the current quarter.

"The economy is poised to slow down," Meyer said. "The best of the broad economic performance is behind us in terms of rapid growth and low inflation."

Meyer offered an explanation for the anxiety reflected by many voters on Nov. 8, despite two years of economic growth. The real income, or purchasing power, of the median-income family, he said, remained constant from 1973 to 1993.

"So the median-income family has faced a stagnation of its living standard for 20 years," Meyer said. For the previous 20 years, ending in 1973, real income rose 3 percent annually, he said.

"We're getting mean-spirited," Meyer said. "When the pie is not growing, dividing it becomes more important." He predicted a middle-class tax cut from the next Congress, but said that would merely put some cash into middle-class pockets in time for the 1996 elections.

Richard Fleming, chief executive of the Regional Commerce & Growth Association, said the area needs to create more jobs so that fewer residents move away.

From 1986 to 1993, according to RCGA figures, job growth here substantially lagged the national average as well as Midwestern cities like Kansas City, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Indianapolis. …