As a fifth generation Texan, I have always felt a deep connection to the South.  I love the friendliness and hospitality.  I enjoy the lifestyle…regional cooking…and music from the Grand Ole Opry to New Orleans jazz. Stretching from Coast to Coast, the Southern states are varied and diverse, each offering its own unique ‘brand’ from bustling cities to scenic retreats.

Over the years, I have traveled extensively throughout the South for both business and pleasure.  Our firm has represented numerous clients for travel and tourism there, along with real estate and economic development. I have also witnessed the emergence of what is now called the ‘New South’ — a powerful economic engine bringing unparalleled growth and opportunity.  It is not a new phenomenon; it’s a long-term shift that has been occurring over a period of decades.

A quick look at the numbers helps tell the story.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the South is now home to 38 percent of the U.S. population with the Southern region growing at the fastest rate in the nation.  Ten of the fifteen fastest growing large cities are located in the South.  In a recent survey of the best cities for jobs in 2018 conducted by Forbes Magazine, Dallas and Austin, Texas ranked first and second, respectively.  Other cities on the list include Nashville, Charlotte and Orlando.

The Southeast region – generally considered to include twelve states—has experienced a boom in its service economy, manufacturing base, high tech industries and in the financial sector. This growth has fueled a dramatic increase in housing and office development, as well as travel infrastructure.

Americans are heading South in search of jobs, more affordable housing and new opportunities for upward mobility. This population shift has brought with it a change in demographics with younger, more affluent ‘hip’ residents moving to the region. They are ‘foodies’, travelers, adventurers, and members of a new ‘creative class’ that are the face of the New South.

The region’s ‘business friendly’ environment has attracted manufacturers with lower taxes and new incentives.  Auto, aerospace and defense manufacturers from the Midwest, Europe and Japan have expanded their presence in the Southeast to capitalize on the availability of large tracts of land, an available workforce and its strategic location with access to railroads and ports.

As public relations professionals, we of course keep a close eye on new media opportunities.  While New York may still retain its reputation as the media capital of the nation, regional magazines are geared toward an affluent, upwardly mobile readership.   The award-winning Garden & Gun Magazine, based in Charleston, South Carolina boasts one of the most affluent audiences in the nation. The bi-monthly magazine covers all things Southern—home and garden, cuisine, travel, arts and culture, sports and events. Similar publications such as Magnolia Journal, Local Palate, and the Modern Luxury Group cover both the local and national scenes.

National magazines are also taking up residence in the South. Last year, Time Inc. announced that it is moving Food & Wine to its sprawling multi-million dollar facility in Birmingham, Alabama.  It will join its stable of food publications including Cooking Light, Coastal Living, and Southern Living, as well as its ‘digital food desk’. “There are sophisticated food eaters and wine drinkers everywhere now, in cities large and small,” commented Hunter Lewis, the new editor of Food & Wine.

Visitors continue to be drawn to the Southeast to experience the charm and traditions of the South, it’s vibrancy.  Today’s travelers are particularly interested in historic and cultural destinations, as well as scenic locales that are ‘off the beaten path’.  They are traveling to experience the local scene whether it is the cuisine, arts and entertainment, or the region’s natural beauty. The South offers all this and more.

The fueled economy has brought significant changes to the area. We are witnessing the gentrification of old neighborhoods, increasing real estate prices and unprecedented population growth.  As the New South emerges, it continues to retain its charm, traditions and that special flavor that defines the Southern experience.


 My Secret Southern Pecan Pie Recipe

New South, Old South, doesn’t matter, Pecan (Pekan, svp) Pie is a staple of the culture.  Here’s my favorite, Buttermilk Pecan Pie with a swell tale…

Seems a family favorite, prepared by a U.S. Navy chef who cooked for Washington dignitaries including the late President Truman, who said it was his favorite.  Never published, the chef kept the ingredients secret until he retired to Corpus Christi, Texas where he gave it to the Junior League Cookbook in the early sixties.

Here goes:

1 stick butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 tsps.  vanilla extract, 3 eggs, 3 Tabs flour, 1 cup buttermilk, ½ cup chopped pecans (I use ¾ or 1 cup), dash of salt.

Cream butter, add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beat until light.  Blend in vanilla, add eggs one at a time, beat to incorporate.  Add flour gradually and salt, then buttermilk.

Pour mixture into prepared crust (store bought is fine) and sprinkle with pecans.  Bake about 1-1/2 hours at 300 degrees until custard is set.

Cool pie to room temperature before cutting.

Yum with a salute to the Chef and his Texas generosity!

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