In the mid 1800’s the Steam locomotive opened up the Western part of the United States and Canada for that matter. This new technology made migration possible on a large scale. It became possible to move people and materials. Not surprisingly, communities opened up within a very short distance of these railway lines. It was a technology breakthrough that enabled migration.

The year was 1902, American inventor Willis Carrier built what is considered the first modern electrical air conditioning unit. He installed it in a printing plant in Brooklyn to help maintain the printing equipment in better alignment with more consistent temperature and humidity.

The migration of people from the cooler Northern latitudes to the Sunbelt of the US was largely made possible by the invention of the air conditioner. Think about it. Phoenix Arizona would not exist without two technical innovations.

  1. The air conditioner
  2. The redirection of the Colorado River into central Phoenix with the Central Arizona Project.

Las Vegas Nevada would not exist without the air conditioner.

Back in 1900, Miami Made County had a population of under 5,000 people. In fact Miami didn’t become a major city until after the second world war. By the 1960’s, Miami was adding 120 people a day. Without the air conditioner, Miami would not exist in the way that it does today.

When you look at the urbanization trend over the past 30 years, we have seen more and more people move into the highest density cities. These moves have been largely driven by employment.

New York City is one of the best examples.

The question is, what is the next technology innovation that will change the way migration patterns happen? Will it be global internet coverage? Will it be the combination of internet and video conferencing technology like zoom?

For the past several decades, proximity to the office has been the driving factor in choosing where to live. Location of employment has driven housing demand more than any other single factor.

But what if the narrative has changed? What if you can live where you want to live and work where you want to work?

You truly can have it all. Your manager can be sitting in an office in Manhattan and you can live on some acreage overlooking the mountains. That’s possible today, but somewhat unthinkable a few decades ago.

The bigger question is what will happen to migration patterns. How will companies train staff for positions that can be virtual? Will it be important for new hires to start in the physical office environment in order to become indoctrinated in the company’s culture, before being allowed to work remote?

Will the human contact of the traditional office become a competitive advantage? Or will the more agile virtual organizations be more competitive?

Will the higher perceived quality of life that comes from working at home be perceived as an employment benefit? Will the time recovered from commuting to the office be seen as a life improvement? Will people work longer hours when they work from home because there are fewer boundaries between work life and home life?

All of these remain open questions. But these are questions worth examining as you make investment decisions where the outcome is heavily influenced by the answer to these questions.