Monday, July 09, 2012

Migration And Geographic Clustering

Migration is more than a link between two cities. It is a link between two neighborhoods. The clustering of Little West Michigan in Detroit:

Peter Brand was tired of driving back to Grand Rapids after seeing a Tigers or Lions game and saying to himself the Web marketing firm he co-founded -- Mindscape at Hanon McKendry -- ought to be doing more business in Detroit. So in May, after three years of procrastination and study, he finally opened a downtown office.

The opening of his 1,100-square-foot office in Paradise Valley -- formerly the Harmonie Park area of downtown -- was a small pebble making barely a ripple in the metro area's large pond of real estate.

But Brand and others from West Michigan say that a bucket of those pebbles can, one by one, create a wave for downtown Detroit that's as large as a small boulder.

Perhaps the bucket is on its way.

Over the past few months, the Grand Rapids-based companies Mindscape, Atomic Object Inc. and Lambert, Edwards & Associates all have opened offices in downtown Detroit no more than a stone's throw from each other -- creating what Atomic Object's Carl Erickson calls a "little West Michigan."

Emphasis added. Peter Brand's company is the pioneer migrant. He broke through all the negative geographic stereotyping and moved his business to downtown Detroit. Via his network, other people in West Michigan hear about the opportunity. Brand's assessment is trusted. It drives migration. Thus, other firms cluster around where Brand landed.

The relationship between social capital and migration is hyperlocal. Your lens of analysis must be fine enough to pick up chain migration from Providence, RI to Pittsburgh, PA. I highly recommend reading the entire article cited above. You can see how parochial attitudes stifle urban redevelopment and why outsiders are vital to the Rust Belt rebound.


Allen said...

Is Peter Brand an outsider or insider when it comes to the so-called Rust Belt?

Jim Russell said...

In terms of the so-called Rust Belt, I have no idea how to categorize Peter Brand. I was referring to Detroit in terms of his outsider status.