Friday Roundup: Taxing services, telecommuting, cities creating high-wage jobs, apprenticeships, and the next Silicon Valley

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Stateline: Why States Are Struggling to Tax Services

Twenty-three state legislatures considered proposals this year to impose taxes on at least some services. But so far, none has made it into law intact — and most died outright. And in several states, new taxes on services that took effect this year are so complicated that tax offices are writing clarifying memos, like the one in North Carolina to distinguish between roof repair (taxable) and roof replacement (not taxable).

New Geography (Kotkin): Want to be Green? Forget Mass Transit. Work at Home.

True, in a handful of large metropolitan regions — what we might call “legacy cities” — trains and buses remain essential. This is particularly true of New York, which accounts for a remarkable 43% of the nation’s mass-transit commuters, and of other venerable cities, such as San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. Together, these metros account for 56% of all mass-transit commuting. But for most of the rest of the country, transit use — despite often-massive infrastructure investment — has either stagnated or declined. Among the 21 metropolitan areas that have opened substantially new urban-rail systems since 1970, mass transit’s share of work trips has declined, on average, from 5.3% to 5%. During the same period, the drive-alone share of work trips, notes demographer Wendell Cox, has gone up from 71.9% to 76.1%.

Meantime, the proportion of the labor force working from home continues to grow. In 1980, 2.3% of workers performed their duties primarily at home; by 2015, this figure had doubled to 4.6%, only slightly behind the proportion of people who commute via mass transit…

The areas with the thickest presence of telecommuters — including cities such as Austin, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Denver, and Seattle — tend to have the greatest concentration of tech-related industries, which function well with off-site workers.

New Geography: The Cities Creating the Most High-Wage Jobs

As the country moves toward full employment, at least as economists define it, the quality of jobs has replaced joblessness as the primary concern…

To that end, the key sector to watch is business and professional services. By far the nation’s largest high-wage sector — including such fields as law, accounting, architecture, advertising, engineering, scientific research and development, and computer systems design – it employs 20.5 million Americans, roughly the same as the finance and manufacturing industries combined.

Our number one metro area for professional and business service jobs, Nashville, Tenn., epitomizes many of the characteristics that drive high-end employment today. Since 2011, Nashville’s job count in professional and business services has expanded a remarkable 42.6% to 160,300, easily the highest growth rate of any major metropolitan area. Management and technical consulting, architecture and related services have led this growth.

The very forces that lead companies to Nashville — low taxes and a pro-business regulatory environment — also apply to several of our other top 10 places…

But for the most part … the fastest-growing areas for business services are also the same areas that did best on our overall list. These include the Texas powerhouses of Austin-Round Rock (third), Dallas-Plano-Irving (fifth), and San Antonio-Braunfels (sixth), all of which logged 25% job growth or more since 2011. Salt Lake City, ranked ninth, has become a major magnet for business service, outpacing such hot spots as 21st-ranked Seattle and No. 28 Denver.

Pew Trust Stateliness: How State Apprenticeships Could Ease Staffing Woes

As state agencies face a wave of retirements, training programs such as apprenticeships can help fill open positions, give workers the skills they need, and reduce turnover. Here in Virginia, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe set aside funds in 2015 to expand federally registered apprenticeships at state agencies. 

“It makes perfect sense for state agencies or county governments to utilize registered apprenticeships,” says Patricia Morrison, the division director at the Virginia Department of Labor who leads the state’s efforts to expand apprenticeships. The programs create a pipeline of younger, entry-level workers who will eventually replace retirees, she said.

SF Gate: Could one of these cities be the next Silicon Valley of the world?

Indeed, according to Cushman & Wakefield. A study by the real estate firm went all in on retrieving substantial data to find metropolitan areas that are on the brink of becoming tech epicenters.

The study utilized six metrics: institutions of higher learning, venture capital funding, number of tech workers, knowledge workers (or, available non-tech workers who can work in legal and business capacities), educated workers, and growth entrepreneurship. The study argues that these factors — which it’s collectively calling a “tech stew” — are key to finding the areas where people are most educated and creative, where there’s space for entrepreneurship, and where there’s, well, lots of money.