Longsworth [sic] challenges the Midwest to fight, waking up to the reality of a global economy. While he has numerous examples of dying cities, he also names several places that have held their own. It's the result of a number of factors, including luck, but none of them include waiting for the state and federal governments to ride to the rescue.
I won't name them all here — you should read the book — but chief among them is cooperation. Not just between cities and states, but the entire Midwest. A plant moving into Iowa should be considered a gain for Ohio — if only because the plant didn't move to California or China. If the Midwest could work together, it could market each state's strengths, linking a powerful battery of universities and research centers. Toledo could maintain its position as a leader in alternative energy, automotive manufacturing and a promising freight center — but the entire Midwest could be selling it as such. We could do the same for other areas.
Putting aside for a paragraph the reasonable mega-regional skepticism, there is no benefit to each Rust Belt city trying to improve its own urban economy in the same sectors as its neighbor. The current zero-sum game is a non-starter. However, we still need to build the infrastructure that would allow one city to benefit from the success of another. While that is a tall order, that's no reason to embrace the status quo. Perhaps mating dinosaurs is a horrible idea, but cutting a shrinking pie into more pieces is suicide.
Taking the Urbanophile to task, I quibble with the following assertion:
When it comes to talent, there are certainly benefits to having more of it. But I don't see any particular benefits to mega-regionalism here. What would they be? Idea exchange? Possibly, but there is no particular geographic advantage to that. I can exchange ideas with anyone. If I were a struggling Midwestern city, I'd probably be more concerned about building connections to successful places and to the overall global economy than I would be to my failing neighbor next door. Believe me, if a good idea comes up, people will find out about it. The Youngstown shrinkage experiment is a good example of that.
When it comes to the exchange of ideas, geography matters a great deal. Otherwise, as Richard Florida often remarks, talented people wouldn't crowd into increasingly expensive cities. The assumption is the world of knowledge transfer is flat. That's a false premise. The global flow of ideas isn't anything like a currency market.
How does knowledge, particularly the tacit kind, manage to travel long distances?