Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chi-Pitts Globalization

I send thanks to Brendan Crain, the blogger behind Where, for agreeing to engage in a blog duel over Chicago-Pittsburgh urban connectivity. Our third and last installment attempts to draw some conclusions from our exchange. What have I learned about the linkages between the two cities?

Our dependency controversy is a conceit for a better understanding of contemporary inter-urban relationships. Richard Florida picked up Brendan's description of the connectivity geography in play, sounding a warning about Chicago's dependency on its megaregional hinterland:

But, as Brendan adds, the real question is that competition is growing throughout the global city-system. In other words, the same kind of dynamics that have confronted Pittsburgh and Detroit in the past several decades may some day come home to roost for Chicago. My team's analysis suggests that Chicago may have some real vulnerabilities. In contrast to New York, LA and San Francisco, which have real locational advantages in key economic sectors, our analysis of occupational clusters suggests that Chicago has few if any, other than those associated with O'Hare and air transport. For the time being, it has found a reasonably comfortable niche, providing regional services to its mega-region and serving as a regional talent magnet. But the laws of motion of global capitalism leave little doubt that sooner or later the ante on both of these fronts will be upped.

Pittsburgh's bet on Chicago might be a bad one. The network economy springing from the migration of human capital could result in a cul-de-sac for global connectivity. The Rust Belt club is only good for so long. You might think of each city on its own, making the best of whatever talent opportunities are available. In other words, place dependency is bad policy.

Public intellectuals are fond of polemics and we shouldn't overreact to suggested vulnerabilities. The ties between Chicago and Pittsburgh still represent considerable opportunity. To further the conceit, both cities should seek to diversify their connectivity portfolios. No city is a standalone cash cow. Chicago is not a world onto Pittsburgh, nor should it be.

No comments: