Friday, April 04, 2008

Rust Belt Innovation Zone

Since my return from the beach, I've been searching for a launching point to jump back into latest round of energy pulsing through the Great Lakes Economic Initiative. The Toronto Star serves up the blog fodder, fleshing out John Austin's machinations:

For one thing, the Canadian government helped finance the research. The Brookings Institution's original intent was to draft an economic blueprint for America's "rust belt" but after its early findings were released, Ottawa asked for a supplement incorporating Canadian data.

A second problem is that there is very little appetite in Washington for trade liberalization right now. American voters want – and their legislators are offering – protection from low-cost foreign competition.

Finally, there is the issue of money. Austin's proposals would require a substantial commitment of public funds at a time when neither government is in a mood to invest.

The GLUE project aside, Brookings is proposing a top-down solution to the challenges of globalization for the Postindustrial Heartland. I'm reminded of Vivek Wadhwa's critique of China's approach to grabbing market share in the knowledge economy. Government engineering is a poor solution. Instead of trying to change the political geography, let's figure out a way to take advantage of it.

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