Thursday, October 31, 2013

Italy Is Dying

Fictions about Italian brain drain at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic decline and brain drain hysteria.

Subject Article: "Italy: The Nation That Crushes Its Young."

Other Links: 1. "What Workers Lose By Staying Put."

Postscript: Italy suffers from too much social capital. Mr. Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam, would say that it is a good thing. It isn't. Most Italian communities lack the capacity to embrace newcomers and thus engage in knowledge transfer. Italy lacks churn, domestic and international. An allegory:

Peter’s café sits on a hillside in Horta, a port city on one of the Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. By the time you reach the docks in the harbour, you can tell that this place is special. Bright, colorful paintings of sailboats and flags line the piers—hundreds and hundreds of them, drawn by visiting captains and crew members from every corner of the globe. Horta is the one place between the Americas and Europe where world-traveling sailors stop to take a break. Some are heading toward Fiji, others to Spain. Some are on their second tour around the world; others are simply resting before the last leg to Brazil. They come from different backgrounds and cultures. And all of them converge upon the rustic-looking Peter’s Café. Here they can pick up year-old letters from other world travelers or just sit and talk over a beer or a glass of Madeira.

When I saw this place for the first time, I realized that the serene environment of the café actually concealed a chaotic universe. The café was filled with ideas and viewpoints from all corners of the world, and these ideas were intermingling and colliding with each other.

“Get this, they don’t use hooks when fishing for marlin in Cuba,” one visitor says.

“So what do they use?” another asks.

“Rags. The lure is covered in rags. When the fish strikes the rag, it wraps around the fish bill and won’t let go because of the friction. The fish don’t get hurt and can be released, no problem.”

“That’s pretty neat. Maybe we could use something like that. . . .”

The people here participate in what seems like an almost random combination of ideas. One conversation leads into another, and it is difficult to guess what idea will come up next. Peter’s Café is a nexus point in the world, one of the most extreme I have ever seen.

Brain drain is good for innovation. Not enough young talent is leaving Italy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Allentown Is Undead

A growing population isn't what you think it is at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Mesofacts and demography.

Subject Article: "Weak Tax Base Hurts Renewal: After Steep Decline, Allentown Places Hope in Development to Boost Property Values."

Other Links: 1. "Billy Joel never put down Allentown, anyway."
2. "Sun Belt Counties Dying."
3. "If I Ruled The Metro -- Suburban Mergers."

Postscript: My theme of "X" place is dying satirizes the metric folklore we use to make that determination. The population numbers, up or down, are much ado about nothing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Great Gentrification

Switching gears from brain drain to gentrification at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Migration and xenophobia.

Subject Article: "Rockaway worries some outside relief workers are carpetbaggers."

Other Links: 1. "The Word Hoosier."
2. "Chicago’s Hillbilly Problem During the Great Migration."
3. "OKIE MIGRATIONS."
4. "Liz Cheney’s biggest challenge: The carpetbagger label."
5. "CARPETBAGGERS."

Postscript: In terms of talent migration, the primary concern for dying/failing cities is transitioning from brain to gentrification. Hypothetically, let's concede civic efforts to stop brain drain have worked. The flow reversal should boost demand for real estate, amenities, and infrastructure. But instead of staying in the suburbs where they grew up, your college graduates settle in urban neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods, while struggling with decades of sprawl, still have residents who are accustomed to the cheap rents resulting from the city exodus. Suburban-produced affluence collides with the isolation of urban blight. How does a community reconcile this tension? Is gentrification all that it is purported to be? I intend to dig into these questions as I have with brain drain.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Next American Hotspot

Which dying city will be the next big thing at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Talent migration projections.

Subject Article: "Census: Americans are moving again."

Other Links: 1. "DURANGO, COLORADO: Next Big Thing."
2. "HARDWICK, VERMONT: Next Big Thing."
3. "Jobless rate among the lowest."
4. "Demographic Deception."
5. "Go Back To Ohio."
6. "San Antonio Talent Economy: Bubbles and Barriers."
7. "[GENTRIFICATION DIARIES] A Tale of Two Austins."
8. "Are Artists to Blame for Gentrification?"

Postscript: I'm in the process of shifting blog focus from brain drain to gentrification. The two issues occupy the same space in a community's psyche. Locals good. Outsiders bad. However, brain drain is descriptive. Gentrification is predictive. I want to try my hand at being more predictive given my understanding of brain drain.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Celebrating Dying Places

Cheering on brain drain from Israel at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Talent churn and innovation.

Subject Article: "In Boston, Israel’s brain drain becomes a meeting of the minds."

Other Links: 1. "Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital."
2. "Revenge of the Rabenmutter: No Sex for You."
3. "Israel Is Dying."
4. "Israel's Brain Drain: Why are so many Israelis teaching at American universities?"
5. "Knowledge Creation, Diffusion, and Use in Innovation Networks and Knowledge Clusters."
6. "NerdWallet Book Club: Orly Lobel, ‘Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids and Free Riding.’"
7. "REGIONAL DISADVANTAGE? NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS AND BRAIN DRAIN."

Postscript: Okay, I started this blog thinking brain drain was a bad thing. Turns out, it is a good thing. Next up, the pejorative "Rust Belt" becomes a point of pride. "Hell with the lid taken off" doesn't mean what most people think it means. Sprawl and shrinking cities are more a function of upward mobility than White Flight. Technological advances that flooded the world with cheap food emptied out rural communities. The success of the Manufacturing Economy led to its own demise. "Bad" metrics stem from positive outcomes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

United States of Failed Cities

Carl Schramm fails urban economic geography at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Policy narratives and social science.

Subject Article: "Why Does The World's Richest Country Have So Many Failed Cities?"

Other Links: 1. "Ambush In Mogadishu."
2. "New Tom Hanks movie features Minn. Somali actors."
3. "Urban Myths of Innovation: Density and Serendipity."
4. "Introduction to HNR360 – Failed Cities, Fast Cities."
5. "Post-Soylent Pittsburgh."

Postscript: For my own archival purposes, the year of urban peak for some well-known Rust Belt cities:


They decided that Buffalo’s civic apogee was 1901.  Its industry was diverse.  It received much of the Midwest’s grain in its port, milled it, and transshipped it by rail for export.    Pittsburgh’s best year was 1910; Rochester’s, 1928; Philadelphia’s, 1929; Detroit’s, 1950; and Gary’s, 1953.

Mind you, that's not a population peak. The tell-tale demographic decline comes after the economic decline. For example, Pittsburgh's epic exodus during the 1980s is roughly 75 years after its civic apogee. That's a long time to go without demanding labor from outside the region.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Urban Myths of Innovation: Density and Serendipity

Greater urban diversity and density aren't all that at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Urbanization and innovation.

Subject Article: "I Love You, David Byrne, But You're Wrong."

Other Links: 1. "Jeff Speck: America Has So Many Problems. Walkability Solves Most of Them."
2. "Two Brains Running."
3. "A call for innovation."
4. "The Urban Tech Revolution."
5. "Can you build an intersection?"
6. "Your Knowledge Is Nothing If No One Else Knows You Know It."
7. "The Paperman Official Trailer Disney Short 2013 HD."
8. "The Novel & Movie: The Bridges of Madison County."
9. "Urban Islands of Poverty and Bowling With Strangers."

Postscript: To make an analogous point about the link between erroneous geographic stereotypes and public policy:

People have been afraid of the dark since the dawn of time – and it’s a good instinct to have when you’re part of the food chain. For millions of years, light = safer. So no one complains about light that exposes potential predators.

While the film suggested a connection, ”there is no real, demonstrable correlation between lighting and crime,” Wren said. “(Rather) people feel less afraid of crime in well-lit areas.”

People feel that greater density and diversity fuel innovation. Bring on the innovation district boondoggles.

Friday, October 18, 2013

China's Pittsburgh Moment

Demographic decline informs better policy at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic economic development.

Subject Article: "Where Have All the Workers Gone? China's Labor Shortage and the End of the Panda Boom."

Other Links: 1. "The Brain Gain: The Rise of San Antonio’s Talent Economy."
2. "Chris Briem, Regional Economist, Urban and Regional Analysis."
3. "Post-Soylent Pittsburgh."
4. "A very brief history of Pittsburgh: The rise, fall and rebirth of the city that built America."
5. "The single biggest change in Pittsburgh since the 1980s......"
6. "Demographic Trends and the City of Pittsburgh."
7. "Maybe I need to issue a press release: City of Pittsburgh now 'younger' than the United States....."
8. "I don't even know how far back you have to go to find the last time that was true."

Postscript: A passage from the Foreign Affairs article about China's labor shortage that I wanted to write about but didn't fit the blog post:

The new generation of migrant workers, by contrast, hardly worked on the farm, if ever at all, and often never saw their parents doing field labor either. Recent studies from Chinese think tanks have shown that these new migrants are less motivated by simple financial opportunities than by their own career advancement and individual interests. Moreover, they tend to put a premium on social justice and fair treatment. These lifestyle considerations make living closer to home, family, friends, and a familiar dialect and culture (which range as much in China as do the modern-day variations of Latin spoken in different corners of Europe) as important as their salary, if not more so in some cases.

Every region in the United States is in the talent attraction and retention game. However, the strategies and tactics employed are divorced from actual studies of migration patterns. What do Millennials want? I sat across from a Columbus, Ohio real estate developer at the International Economic Development Council conference in Philadelphia. The roundtable discussion was titled, "They're Just Not That into You (But They Could Be): Attracting and Retaining Young Professionals." About half of the people there for the chat fit into that category and the real estate developer was keen to know what they wanted. What I heard is that cool amenities didn't matter. Big fish, small pond did. They wanted to make a difference. They would migrate in search of that opportunity. But that qualitative data doesn't fit into a real estate developer's model. Such is the current state of regional talent management in the United States.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Israel Is Dying

Brain drain turning Israel into Somalia at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Networks of global innovation.

Subject Article: "Israeli ex-pats' Nobel win highlights brain drain."

Other Links: 1. "Ireland Is Dying."
2. "Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry."
3. "The World’s Leading Nations for Innovation and Technology."
4. "CBS '60 Minutes' Bob Simon: Detroit reminds me of Mogadishu, Somalia."

Postscript: Occasionally, I come across a legitimate brain drain problem. This story about two expatriate Nobel Prize winners isn't one of them. The Associated Press doesn't bother trying to balance its reporting, buying the hysteria without so much a second thought. Such junk journalism keeps the brain drain myth going.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fortresses of Globalization and Wilmington, Delaware

Looking at the relationship between economic globalization and urban reinvestment at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Urban planning and globalization.

Subject Article: "City job policies are helping create two different and unequal Chicagos."

Other Links: 1. "Fortress Europe: How the EU Turns Its Back on Refugees."
2. "Migrant boat capsize leaves 27 dead in Mediterranean."
3. "France's troubled suburbs: Rebranding la banlieue."
4. "Mapping America's War on Terrorism: An Aggressive New Strategy."
5. "Rust Belt Allure of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania."
6. "creative change: loma design district gives wilmington identity, redevelopment it longed for."
7. "About the Riverfront Development Corporation."
8. "Recovery Grant Funds Amtrak Renovations."
9. "Michael S. Purzycki, Executive Director."

Postscript: Saskia Sassen's divergent global cities are converging down the urban hierarchy:

The hegemony of Tokyo, London and New York—and advanced economies as a whole—will wane. The MGI expects an additional 7,000 large companies by 2025—and most of the newcomers will be based in developing countries.

The number of headquarters in São Paulo is expected to triple by 2025. Beijing and Istanbul will have twice as many large companies. In 12 years’ time 46% of large companies will be headquartered in emerging markets. About 300 cities could host large companies for the first time by 2025—and more than 150 of these cities will be in the China region. In Western Europe, there will be just three newcomers.

Globalization is on the march, in developing countries and to the forgotten parts of the United States.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Failure of Place and Economic Development

Obsession with the failure of place unleashes a parade of Underpants Gnomes at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic development folklore of talent migration.

Subject Article: "Creative Placemaking Has an Outcomes Problem."

Other Links: 1. "Gnomes Know Business."
2. "Underpants Gnomes And Talent Migration."

Postscript: Economic developers and planners are working the wrong end of talent migration. It's all push factors, brain drain. Suburban dreams get labeled, "white flight." Migration is more pull than push. A better place won't solve much of anything. I heard it loud and clear at the IEDC annual conference. Places develop, not people.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Casino Economic Redevelopment in Atlantic City

Casinos gone bad at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Two-track urban economic development.

Subject Article: "Can Revel Save Atlantic City?"

Other Links: 1. "Rust Belt Allure of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania."
2. "Atlantic City's Incredibly Bad Gamble on the Revel Casino."
3. "Allentown Lyrics."
4. "Morning Fix: Rust Belt Revival."
5. "A Tale of Two Cities? London’s economic success does not seem to have translated into lower rates of poverty or inequality."
6. "The Rise and Rise of the Global City."

Postscript: This post is more about what is right in Bethlehem than what is wrong in Atlantic City. Without exception, the economic developers I've met at the IEDC conference in Philadelphia feel embattled. Good things happen when different interests can come together and move a city forward.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Rust Belt Allure of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Rust Belt Bethlehem's Ann Arbor Dilemma at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geographic stereotypes and talent migration.

Subject Article: "Bethlehem Steel's Redevelopment: Winners and Losers in Public-Private Partnerships."

Other Links: 1. "People Develop, Not Places."
2. "Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: A Moravian Settlement in Colonial America."
3. "Why I Have the Bethlehem Steel Tattooed Across My Back."
4. "Rust Belt Chic Development."
5. "Lena Dunham Wants Brooklyn to Be More Like Chattanooga."
6. "History of ArtsQuest."
7. "The man behind SteelStacks: Decades of risk-taking culminate Friday with opening of $53 million concert and arts complex."
8. "Noncompetes Are Lame — Let’s Set the Creators Free."

Postscript: Cruising the internets for an image of the blast furnaces, I settled on a tattoo:

The Bethlehem Steel, that mass of jumbled metal and heartbeat pumping years of spirit, scrap, and history from the acid banks of the Lehigh River. That keeper of memories, that heroic skyscape jutting up from our sunken valley. It's sacred as a footprint, toxic as the depths of the earth, red as blood, and it sits there idly, reminding. The company that gave life to the Lehigh Valley has been history for me since I was born, despite continued operation through the first 15 years of my life. These were years of billowing smoke, fire in the sky, middle shift and layoffs. Years of great mystery: Will dad find another job soon? Are we poor now?

If you grew up in a Rust Belt town, then you understand.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Racism Is Dying

To best model migration, gender trumps race and class at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: The shifting geography of race and Rust Belt Chic Cleveland.

Subject Article: "River Crossings: The old black-divide is breaking down as young people of all races migrate west."

Other Links: 1. " Bentley Faculty Profiles: Joni K. Seager."
2. "Captive Labor Markets and Migration."

Postscript: Possibly a new migration trend, “What’s going on in Lakewood is you have whites and blacks moving in and meeting together. You have young whites from far-flung suburbs moving and meeting up together.

The bigger change, in my opinion, is how we look at geography and migration. Globalization neighborhoods are mixing bowls of people who usually have college degrees. It may look more diverse, but everyone shares a lower social capital requirement for community development. That's not to say we've entered a post-racial era. Just that our concept of segregation is woefully outdated.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Your Knowledge Is Nothing If No One Else Knows You Know It

Dan Gilbert's business acumen is the wrong approach for redeveloping Detroit at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Benefits of brain drain and costs of talent retention initiatives.

Subject Article: "Dan Gilbert Defends $300M In Federal Spending For Detroit."

Other Links: 1. "The Talent Dividend."
2. "Want to Kill Innovation? Fight Brain Drain."
3. "The Benefits of Talent Mobility."
4. "German Pork Butchers in Britain."
5. "The Talent Commons: Human Capital and Collective Knowledge Creation."
6. "The Virtues of Leaks, Raids, and Free-Riding: An Interview with Orly Lobel."
7. "Twitter Feed of Mayor Cory Booker."
8. "The Darwin Awards: In Search Of Smart."

Postscript: Three lines of academic discourse are coming together that expose the folly of trying to plug the brain drain. The first is the migration literature putting people in front of place. More recently, I've looked into social networking theory an the problem of inbreeding homophily. More broadly, I'm interested in how knowledge transfer occurs and the impacts of migration on innovation. See pork butchers. Lastly, we have that Silicon Valley magic. Orly Lobel gives the idea of talent churn some academic heft. I think all three streams comprise an economic development strategy based on migration.