A blog post from Richard Florida about the benefits of high-speed rail could be applied to the TechBelt. Florida links to a white paper from his Martin Prosperity Institute concerning HSR service for Ottawa. Three advantages:
First, it expands the labour pool available to employers, bringing talented workers from nearby centres within commuting distance and thus expanding the quantity and quality of available employees. So, for example, high-speed rail would enable a company in Toronto looking for a mobile user-interface designer to draw on talent living in Kitchener-Waterloo, London, and Kingston. In economic terms, an effective transportation system improves productivity because it helps allocate labour inputs more effectively.Second, high-speed rail expands the size of the job market available to workers. Because it increases the distance that commuters can travel for work, it allows them to seek employment across what were once multiple, separate labour markets. This is particularly important in an era when self-employment, contract-oriented work, and part-time work are all risingi , meaning that workers are searching for jobs more frequently than ever. Eliminating the need to move to a new home to follow economic opportunity saves significant financial and social costs.Third, faster connections extend the benefits of other expensive, productivity-enhancing infrastructure across the entire mega-region. International airports, major research universities and reference libraries are all more financially viable and internationally competitive when they serve a larger population. High-speed rail allows them to build the scale they need to achieve world-class excellence and also spreads their high costs across a wider population.
From the standpoint of diaspora economic geography, the first two highlight the strategic position of Youngstown. The Mahoning Valley is the talent hub for the TechBelt. A residence there can effectively access both the Cleveland and Pittsburgh labor markets. The returning expatriate might have a job in one city with the trailing spouse employed in the other.
The third benefit speaks to attracting business. Youngstown's talent shed is huge. It includes not only Greater Pittsburgh and Cleveland, but also Columbus (many Mahoning Valley expats live there) and even Erie.
All of the above is already practically available, no additional infrastructure is needed. Just the same, I'd welcome better transport links between the three major TechBelt airports. The idea is to diversify the offerings, meaning the region can leverage the comparative advantage of each member city.
As for economies of scale, scarce venture capital and startup executive talent could be addressed via the casting of a wider net. More from Mike Madison:
The talent pool, and by that I mean the tier of managers needed to grow and run companies, is notoriously thin in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is home to some smart people interested in *first* opportunities, but it struggles to attract a larger corps of people to expand that pool, and it struggles because of the relative lack of *second* opportunities. If the job that you move here for doesn't pan out, then what will you do next? Other regions have more of those second opportunities than Pittburgh does.
Ideally, the TechBelt could expand the geography of "second opportunities". What was once characterized as a loss (i.e. entrepreneur moves from Pittsburgh to Cleveland) is now a win. Spatially, it spreads the risk.