Prediction: America is headed for terrific labor shortages. Job-seekers between now and the year 2000 will be searching in a seller's market.
Fact: The "baby bust" generation is about to come of age. The number of teen-agers living in this country will decline by 6 million between 1980 and 1990. Bad news for McDonald's.
Fact: 700,000 new companies were started last year. In the prosperous 1950s, no more than 100,000 new companies were created in a single year. The entrepreneur is America's secret weapon, its engine of growth.
Observation: The union movement is dead. The welfare state is finished. Both were byproducts of the late, unlamented industrial era.
Observation: People who talk about Japan Inc. miss the point. It's a world economy now, and it is about to be dominated by USA-Japan Inc.
Prediction: Fitness isn't a fad. What was once a nation of farmers, and then a nation of workers, is now a nation of clerks. Clerks need exercise. Big bucks here.
Prediction: Travel and tourism will be big. Retailing, too. We're a nation of spenders, and as a nation we're climbing up a grand Maslowian hierarchy of desires.
Prediction: The arts are going to be big.
Observation: The age of urbanization has crested. The population is spreading and thinning. (The "gentrification" of a handful of eastern inner-cities is an over-observed blip on the big screen -- like someone "walking south on a northbound flight.")
Observation: The sun, as ever, shines brighter in the Sun Belt.
That is what the Sun Belt heard when mayors of its 10 hottest properties gathered under one roof to gaze into the future.
Their tour guide was John Naisbitt, author of "Megatrends," champion of the Sun Belt and dean of the pop futurologists. He served up all the munchies dished out above.
The mayors had asked Naisbitt to be keynote speaker at a conference whose purpose was to celebrate their cities' designation -- by Naisbitt -- as "new cities of great opportunity." The cities are Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Tampa and Tucson.
Naisbitt, it happens, is from none of these places. He lives in Washington, D.C., and it must be reported that when he is on the road, he takes an occasional liberty with his home town. He called it "the world's largest theme park."
The crack may have been meant as a metaphor of kinship with the Sun Belt. For, as each of the mayors narrated a brief profile of his city, one overarching theme stood out: All of these cities except workaholic San Jose are into pleasure -- not merely as an amenity but as an anchor of their economies.
When Henry Cisneros talked about San Antonio's future, he put plans for a sea world right up there at the top of his list, along with a biotechnology research park.
Hearing that, San Diego's Roger Hedgecock boasted that he already has a Sea World, plus 28 million tourists a year, plus the reigning National League baseball champs. Bob Martinez of Tampa said he has the bay and professional football's Buccaneers, and he is angling for major-league baseball. Not so fast, said Denver's Federico Pena, who wants a major-league baseball franchise, too, and who thanked God that his city has a ski industry to hedge against the uncertainties of an energy-based economy. Even the Mormons are into the pleasure principal. Palmer DePaulis said good skiing and easy living had catapulted Salt Lake City from a one-hotel town in the 1950s to a big-league tourism and convention center today.
Can municipal economies really be built on pleasure?
"Economic value is whatever people will pay for," said Naisbitt, who offered an historical analogy. "The last time we switched economies, from agricultural to industrial, people had a hard time with that, too. They only valued land; they couldn't understand anyone valuing things."
Hedgecock was less analytical. He displayed a bumper sticker that read: "Working is for people who don't know how to surf."
But enough fun and games. How do these "megatrendees," as San Jose's Thomas McEnery dubbed them, keep their competitive edge in an economy undergoing so many fundamental upheavals? They globalize.
The mayors spent the better part of an hour exchanging tales of the foreign trade missions they had taken in search of markets for their entrepreneurs' products, in search of capital for their entrepreneurs' expansion. Sounds easy, and fun. But what is the down side of being a "city of great opportunity?"
Well, growth brings growing pains. In Phoenix at rush hour, it takes three, sometimes four traffic-light changes to get through an intersection. In San Jose, the average one-way commute pushes an hour. And yet Sun Belters remain addicted to their cars, preferably driven alone.
"People only think buses improve quality of life if someone else is riding them," Tucson City Manager Joel Valdez said.
What does it all mean? Naisbitt was called back to the stage to offer a summation. The mayors, he said, were a fun bunch of guys. But a word of caution was in order as they pursued their various economic development strategies.
Baseball, he said, will go on forever because it is such a child's game. Soccer, the world's sport, will flourish. But football, the "industrially inspired sport . . . will go into a long slide."
For the first time all day, the seer was met with stony silence. There is some news you just don't deliver to a Texas audience.