Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hamiltion (Ontario) and Pittsburgh (PA)

I browsed Richard Florida's vision for Ontario. I don't intend to offer a critique because I am mostly interested in the way the economic geography is re-imagined. At this point, a synopsis is more prudent. The goal is to plug the Ontario mega-region more effectively into the Toronto globalization engine. Toronto will serve as the interface with the world. As for the rest of the province, connectivity to its closest global city is critical.

The Nashua problem I raised early today is instructive in understanding what Dr. Florida is proposing. The software company moved from Nashua to Lowell in order to get closer to Boston. Why not retool and extend the infrastructure so that Nashua is also part of the Boston commuter shed? The concept is clear when the report discusses the Hamilton advantage:

The second set of places includes older industrial cities like Windsor, Hamilton, Oshawa, and others. Of all of these regions, Hamilton appears to be adjusting the most successfully. It is almost in Toronto’s commuter shed and can be made more so. Hamilton is beginning to show the value of aligning within the larger region. It has had longer to adjust, as a steel town, its decline came much earlier. The comparison of Hamilton to Windsor or Oshawa is much like the comparison of Pittsburgh to Detroit. It has had time to try to rebuild. The other industrial legacy cities are more closely tied to the automotive industry. Success for these cities will require massive retooling, either within or away from the auto industry.

Hamilton and Pittsburgh provide, ironically, a striking contrast. Pittsburgh is not close to any global city's commuter shed. I think you could make a case for DC, but that's a big stretch. Nonetheless, Pittsburgh is in the class of a Hamilton without the benefit of a nearby Toronto. Either DC is closer to Pittsburgh than anyone thinks or something else is going on in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

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