It's a case of desperation, and it explains what's at stake as the Midwest grapples with global competition, said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the foreign affairs organization and author of a recent book "Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism."
"Youngstown, if it's lucky, will always be about half the size it was," Longworth said in a speech to the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "Of course, if it's unlucky, it will be a lot less than half."
The council will hold a conference in Chicago on Oct. 6 to convene supporters for a proposed Global Midwest Forum - a group that will help coordinate states that share history, economy, politics and a patchwork of empty factories and dying downtowns.
The forum would address issues such as manufacturing, high-speed rail, water-technology and Great Lakes water usage, and ways to harness research universities in the region. The council is so confident that the think tank will garner sufficient support that its first policy paper has been planned. The paper will examine immigration, which divides the region and its politicians, Longworth said.
Backers of the forum include Carlos Santiago, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"I see myself as a partner," Santiago said, adding that he's eager for Milwaukee to bridge ties to Chicago. As it is now, Longworth argues, Milwaukee is economically tied to Chicago but politically tethered to Madison, while Chicago politically is bound to Springfield, leaving a vacuum within the giant Chicago-Milwaukee metroplex.
Other supporters include James Duderstadt, the former president of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and John Austin, who directs the Great Lakes Economic Initiative at the Brookings Institution, Longworth said.
I'm thrilled to discover that the Global Midwest Forum idea will receive serious consideration. I'm sure a number of Rust Belt Bloggers would be interested in attending the conference. I hope registration will be open. I'll post updates as I unearth them.