Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Frontier Cities

I'm turning back to the Newsweek issue on urban growth patterns after reading a post about the David Dollar article on Thomas Barnett's blog. Since Barnett name drops, I figure it is okay for me to do so. I first encountered Dr. Dollar, an economist at the World Bank, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was presenting some research to us graduate students, in an NSF funded program titled Globalization and Democratization (GAD), about the benefits of economic globalization. I came away as impressed as Barnett with Dollar's work.

In Newsweek, Dollar investigates the astounding growth of cities in China. Of interest to this blog is the tendency of cities that were yesterday's "industrial backwaters" to be today's economic powerhouses. As for the established industrial centers, they are not faring as well. The best governmental practices are found in the newer urban areas, where innovation and ideas thrive. Dollar points out that the industry in the older cities "tended to protect what they had and reform less aggressively."

I'm hypothesizing that something similar is occurring in the United States. Cities such as Austin, TX and Charlotte, NC have offered a frontier opportunity akin to the one observed in the boomtowns of China. On the other hand, Pittsburgh stagnates. Governmental reform is key for attracting investment and stimulating growth. This is unlikely to happen in Western Pennsylvania, leaving this region at the rear of economic globalization.


Jim Russell said...

Less government is the answer. However, a politician could be the leader needed.

When government stagnates, there is an opportunity to for a movement outside of the traditional avenues of power to do something.

I see a group of people saving Pittsburgh despite the government, not because of it.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

To bring things full circle from China back to PIT ... Peter Hessler wrote the _Letter from China_ section of the New Yorker has a new book _Oracle Bones_.

In one of last columns Hessler wrote had this reference to SW PA.

In Wuhu, though, the officials quietly skirted the regulations. They recruited Yin Tongyao, an Anhui native and a trained engineer, who had been a rising star in one of the joint ventures with Volkswagen. Yin had helped move some of the tooling and equipment of a failed VW plant from Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, to Chang-chun, Jilin. In Westmoreland, the factory had produced Golfs and Jettas. In Changchun, they used the same platform—a car’s basic frame and major components—to build a Chinese version of the Jetta, which eventually became the best-selling car in the country. (The current American Jetta uses a more advanced platform.)

I find it humorous, there was a ton of tax payer money that got wasted on a failed attempt propping up the Westmoreland plant, only to have it fail. Litterally, physically, the exact plant gets shipped to China, where it becomes a success.