Sunday, June 18, 2006

Communities of Common Cause

Where is the boundary of your region? How do you define your region? And why will your region better underpin a sense of community than other forms of common identity?

A number of regions are struggling economically, suffering from the out-migration of youth and intellectual capital. Upstate New York is no different. An editorial in the Sunday New York Times tells a tale familiar to many places, including Pittsburgh:

This is a drearily familiar story, one that could be repeated with variations in far too many places in America. But the common denominator is nearly always the loss of jobs. When a young person moves, say, from Utica or Rochester to Los Angeles or Atlanta, it is easy to assume that the reason is climate or a more urbane way of life. But those factors weigh far less heavily when the local economy is exuberant enough to offer the prospect of a real future.

Promoting domestic immigration to your region is a zero-sum game. Your region’s gain is some other region’s loss. And despite the above editorial assertion, climate does matter, particularly in an economy defined by the increasing mobility of capital AND labor. The losers in today’s game have much in common, but they will compete with each other as well as with those favored locations in the Sun Belt states.

But the fickle economic geography that troubles these regions should bind them together. Instead of dreading mobility, they should work together to embrace it. Let Atlanta struggle with funding an overburdened infrastructure, while Pittsburgh enjoys a steady flow of remittance.

A good education should make a person more mobile and more likely to leave the region, not stay. Help those young people stay connected as they travel the world and enrich their hometown.

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