Going dutch

Illustrations by Travis Foster

State officials and legislators looking for a justifiable trade junket might want to get some plane tickets to Amsterdam. A new report from the International Trade Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) points to the Netherlands as the Bay State’s biggest export market in 2005-taking in $3 billion, or 14 percent of the state’s total exports. During the same year, 11 percent of all U.S. exports to the Netherlands came from Massachusetts, second only to California. “Chemical manufactures,” a category that includes pharmaceuticals and biotech products, accounted for most of the exports to the Netherlands. (Several Dutch companies-including Akzo Nobel, Crucell, and DSM-have opened research facilities or announced plans for such facilities in the Boston area.)

From 2001 through 2005, exports from Massachusetts went up by 26 percent, compared with an increase of 24 percent nationally; during the same period, Bay State exports to the Netherlands went up by 266 percent. But state exports increased by only 0.9 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared with 10.6 percent nationally.

building enthusiasm

Boston’s Trinity Church, at 25th place, was the highest of seven Bay State winners in “America’s Favorite Architecture,” a survey released in February by the American Institute of Architects. (New York’s Empire State Building was first in the list of 150, ranked by the responses of 1,800 “randomly selected Americans” to photographs of 248 structures.) The only government buildings in the Bay State contingent were libraries: the Boston Public Library; Crane Library, in Quincy; and Ames Library, in Easton. The last two were designed, like Trinity Church, by H.H. Richardson. (Voters in Easton last year voted down a $9.3 million renovation of the Ames.) Faneuil Hall, Fenway Park, and the John Hancock Tower also made the list.

In other architectural developments, the Boston affiliate of the AIA named Wellesley College’s Wang Campus Center as the best new building of 2006. Eighty-four buildings have won the Boston Society of Architects’ Harleston Parker Award since it was introduced in 1923, and 24 of them have been on college campuses. Government buildings are scarce on the list of winners; the last one was the Honan-Allston Public Library, in 2003. But yes, Boston’s now-reviled City Hall did win, in 1969. The only other seat of municipal government to win was the much more traditional Newton City Hall, in 1936.

bay state drivers: efficient but lonely

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Bay State burned through 511 gallons of motor fuel for every resident in 2005. That puts us in 47th place, far below Wyoming (1,374 gallons per person), but still above public-transit-happy New York (373 gallons per person). The FHA also reports that the Bay State’s gasoline tax of 21 cents per gallon is almost exactly in the middle of the pack; Washington state has the biggest levy, at 31 cents, and Georgia goes the easiest on its drivers, with a tax of 7.5 cents.

But if Massachusetts doesn’t use a lot of gasoline, it still seems to have a lot of tanks to fill: The state ranked 8th in the number of motor vehicles registered per capita (0.52 sets of wheels for every person, including children). Not coincidentally, we’re dead last in the share of people who carpool to work (9 percent, as of 2000).

women first, children near the end of the line

From the Census Bureau, we learn that Massachusetts ranked 48th in the number of males (93.8) for every 100 females in 2004. Only New York and Rhode Island were more skewed in the male/female ratio; at the other extreme, Alaska had 107.1 men for every 100 women. Meanwhile, Massachusetts ranked first in the number of adult women who had never married (28.5 percent) and fourth in the percentage of men who had never taken vows (32.7).

The Bay State also ranked 44th in the percentage of residents who were under 18 (22.8 percent), but that’s better than our 1990 showing, when only Florida had worse odds for finding play dates. Since then, children have become scarcer in several less-urbanized states, including Maine (now in last place) and Vermont.

politics prompt pix picks?

It’s illegal to find out what movies your neighbor is renting (a legacy of Robert Bork, whose video habits were leaked during his unsuccessful attempt to join the Supreme Court), but the DVD rental service Netflix will tell you what’s popular in your neighborhood, at least among its subscribers. This winter, Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, was in heavy demand in liberal MetroWest suburbs such as Belmont, Framingham, and Natick, while the TV series The West Wing still had a loyal audience in Cambridge. Arguably on the other side of the ideological spectrum, the action series 24 had plenty of viewers in Brockton, Charlestown, Lowell, and Quincy. But many choices can be chalked up to hometown pride: The drama Southie was a hit in Boston, and a rather obscure documentary called Greater Southbridge was at the top of the charts in Charlton, a neighbor of the title community.

get a government job if you want to stop working

Meet the Author

A new national survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute reveals that government workers get the most help in saving for retirement. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k) accounts, were offered to 92 percent of household heads with jobs in public administration, and 81 percent of the total workforce in this sector participated in such a plan. In the manufacturing sector, 75 percent were offered employer-sponsored plans, and 57 percent participated. The figures were much lower in the finance/insurance/real estate sector (55 percent offered, 40 percent participation) and in trade (53 percent offered, 35 percent participation).

Only 14 percent of those at firms with fewer than 10 workers had employer-sponsored plans, compared with 87 percent of those who work for firms with 500 or more workers.