Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rust Belt Getting Spiky

Buffalo is still chewing on Ed Glaeser. The link will take you to a commentary that articulates what I think to be the most important takeaway from all this attention to Buffalo's problems:
You can, if you choose, watch the entire two-hour plus event of Glaeser’s appearance by logging onto WNED’s Web site. You’ll discover, when you do, the best news of all — that, for all its decline, we live in a city where people are so passionate about it that they pay $30 a head to hear about it and show up in turnaway crowds on a gorgeous spring day to contemplate their city’s future.

GLUE is a product of this passion, which is apparent in a recent interview with the co-founders on the radio show Detroit Today. Staying in Michigan, check out this story about ePrize, located in Pleasant Hills:
[ePrize CEO Josh Linkner], the man behind the virtual curtain, earned a bachelor's degree in advertising from the University of Florida, then served as senior vice president for Rare Medium Group, a Web consulting and venture capital firm, before founding ePrize in 1999. After two rounds of financing — and a total of $43 million in investment — ePrize has offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and London.

Linkner's ePrize relies on the Internet, which can be everywhere and anywhere. That means he could locate it anywhere on Earth.

So why is ePrize in Pleasant Ridge?

Linkner explained. He was born in Southfield and now lives in Bloomfield Hills, so it's near home.
But there's much more.

"There are great opportunities to build a technology company here," Linkner said. "There is a rich talent base in Michi-gan, a great work ethic and deep and solid entrepreneurial roots. The cost structure, if anything, is lower than elsewhere."

I emphasized the key passage. What I am learning is that spiky world is flat and heritage is how some talent will make locational decisions. I'm not suggesting that boomerang migration will solve the demographic dilemma that shrinking cities face. The population numbers are not all that useful. Harold Miller makes this distinction concerning Pittsburgh's job creation. A large increase in low wage service positions is nothing to celebrate. Likewise, as Glaeser points out, we obsess population numbers and completely miss the opportunity before us.

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