I have lived in Marin County, possibly America’s preeminent left wing enclave, for over two decades. Marin residents are old (and getting older), white, and vote heavily Democratic. They overwhelmingly embrace abortion rights, drug rights, and gay rights. Church attendance is extremely low; mind-altering pharmaceutical drug use and therapist attendance is extremely high. The cult of self is Marin’s dominant religion. And outside of Greenwich, Connecticut there are probably more money managers, per capita, in Marin than anywhere else in America. Marin’s attitudes are not unique. The investment community and the media/cultural elites on both coasts share a suspicion (or dislike?) of religious, socially conservative Americans. That might explain why companies that cater to the values of Red State residents are poorly understood, poorly followed, and often undervalued by the stock market. Continue reading
I glanced at a recent issue of the Stanford alumni magazine the other day. It featured an interview with former school president Gerhard Casper and an excerpt from his book on “addressing the challenges of higher education.” The piece was underwhelming, to put it mildly. There was the usual pabulum about school rankings, measuring outcomes, and fostering diversity. But there wasn’t a single word about the biggest problem facing higher education today:
It costs too damn much!
Our nation’s universities, public and private, have crushed an entire generation with debt. All told, young adults owe more than a trillion dollars in student loans. That’s a huge drag on our economic growth. And where is all that borrowed money going (besides the Wall Street banks that underwrite many of the loans)? It’s propping up one of the most backwards and wasteful industries in the world: academia.
I know I’ve been talking about the population boom in Texas quite a bit lately, and I promise to move to other subjects soon, but I really do feel like this is the biggest story nobody is talking about—especially if you’re on the lookout for stocks to buy.
Most investors like growth. I’m no exception. And in this era of the perpetual non-recovery recovery, the only place to find real growth (on this continent anyway) is deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.
When I seek new investments for my $100 million fund, I often research companies that benefit from secular changes, large shifts in society and business. Three epic secular shifts happening right now are: the rapid adoption of cloud computing platforms, the tidal wave of growth in Texas (almost a million people a year are moving to that state), and America’s booming energy renaissance. The last change is particularly breathtaking. We’re pulling up almost nine million barrels of oil a day now in this country. That’s almost double the amount we extracted ten years ago. Natural gas production is way up as well, causing some analysts to predict America will be a net exporter of fossil fuels sometime in the next decade.
This growth in domestic oil and gas production is obviously good for energy companies. But how those fossil fuels get from the ground to the gas pump will strongly benefit one, very old-school mode of transportation: railroads. That’s why one of my favorite stocks these days is Trinity Industries’ (TRN). Its products were last considered “high tech” in the 19th century. But they’re going to make the company a ton of money here in the 21st.
Yesterday, Toyota announced that it is relocating its North American headquarters from the LA suburb of Torrance to the Dallas suburb of Plano.
Toyota is far from the first company to leave California for Texas in recent months. In the last three years, public California companies Copart, Waste Connections, Primoris, Vermillion, Pain Therapeutics, and Tenant Healthcare have all joined the exodus. Many private companies have moved as well, including Santa Monica money manager Dimensional Fund Advisors, which moved to Austin three years ago. But these previous relocations have been minor tremors in terms of employment and tax revenue. Toyota’s move is a major earthquake. It’s the kind of shift that can remake a region.
Unless California gets its act together and rethinks how it treats the private sector that drives its economy, many more vital employers are going to move and the Golden State is going to wind up looking a lot less golden.