I contend that regions must leverage some geographic comparative advantage in order to thrive in the current global economy. Despite innovations in telecommunications and the possibility of instant exchanges of financial capital halfway around the world, distance remains a barrier to economic development. The problem is a lack of trust and our dependence on face-to-face interaction. As nationalism continues to demonstrate, a shared heritage can engender trust over long distances. Even if we speak the same language and borders are disappearing, the Tower of Babel is under no threat of crumbling.
Add Chris Varley to the list of people who view translocal human capital as a unique regional asset:
It is a counterintuitive and controversial idea to think that diaspora is a good thing for a region, but in fact it is. The more people outside a place who share a tie *to* a place, the more likely it is that those people can be called upon to help support the region and its up-and-coming generations. For proof of that you can look back in history to the original Diaspora, and the support networks that exist outside of Israel that still feel strong ties to a desire to support the development of this geographic place.
So what’s got me going on this topic today? A call from OSTN, the Open Student Television Network, which is based here in Cleveland. OSTN distributes college student produced television content. Things like Harvard University’s student-produced soap opera, “Ivory Towers.” In October of this year they will be holding a conference in Cleveland to bring together student content producers from around the country. They asked us if we knew of any former Clevelanders who had “made it” in film, television, or music and who would hold an appeal to college students today.
Of course I fully support the idea of reaching out to the Cleveland Diaspora, but I'm struck thinking about a GLUE-type learning moment. If Cleveland intends to network its entertainment industry diaspora, then OSTN might value the experience of the Steeltown Entertainment Project:
The mission of the Steeltown Entertainment Project ("Steeltown") is to nurture promising talent and to incubate meaningful and commercially viable entertainment projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania by connecting former Pittsburghers who are working in the entertainment industry with the region's human, cultural, educational and economic resources.
Northeast Ohio's close proximity to Pittsburgh could have a few beneficial spillover effects, for both regions. More importantly, the efforts in one Rust Belt city can help inform similar projects in another shrinking city. That's one of the ideas driving GLUE. And who knows, perhaps two Rust Belt bloggers can foster a meaningful connection between Arun Kumar and Carl Kurlander?