Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rust Belt Network Geography

Yesterday, Chris Varley at Tech Futures posted his second installment about Chattanooga lessons for Cleveland. Chris provides some geographic context for the two cities, remarking how Chattanooga is more like Pittsburgh than Cleveland. However, all three cities do have much in common:

The similarities between Chattanooga and Cleveland are reasonably well known by now: both are river-dependent manufacturing communities that have suffered greatly with the decline of manufacturing in the US. Both cities were cited in 1969 for their heavily polluted environments–Cleveland for the Cuyahoga River catching fire and Chattanooga for air so polluted drivers had to have their lights on during the day. In fact, many in Chattanooga consider the city to be a “rust belt city in the south” rather than a traditional southern city.

I confess that I never thought of Cleveland as a "river-dependent manufacturing" community. I characterized Cleveland as a port city on Lake Erie. Since I was born in Erie, you might forgive my ignorance. If you don't understand why that is relevant, take a peek at the debate about the nickname for Erie's new indoor football team: RiverRats. And I'm sure most older Steelers fans remember a certain quarterback who talked about the cold winds of Lake Erie affecting the play at home games.

River or lake, the connection is the same. There are a number of cities in the interior of the United States (i.e. not located on one of three national ocean coastlines) that flourished as a result of access to navigable waterways. I expect Chris will promote a re-imagining of the water asset for purposes of geographic advantage. I would promote his observations as the GLUE for an emerging mega-regional urban network. I think that group should include the Erie Canal cities of Western New York, but not the upper reaches of the Hudson River. But let's not forget our kindred spirits in Chattanooga and "The Pittsburgh of the South" (to name a few).

No comments: