Friday, May 23, 2008

Urban Economic Corridors

Richard Longworth figures prominently in this opinion piece about promoting the I-Q Corridor:

Only 400 or so miles separate Chicago from the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with Wisconsin sandwiched in between along the I-90 and I-94 highways. Along that path can be found some of the world's leading research universities, federal laboratories, major tech companies, an educated workforce and ample financial capital. As branded by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the “I” stands for interstate, innovation, intellectual property and investment, and the “Q” for quality of life, education, workforce and more. It's a tool that could help people outside the Midwest, in the United States or abroad, recognize the wealth of resources in the Upper Midwest. There are similar corridor efforts in other parts of the Midwest.

The author goes on to list a few existing instances of interstate cooperation between Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But the takeaway is that not nearly enough is being done and that the I-Q Corridor is a large reserve of untapped resources. What this tells me is that top-down connectivity won't work. Novel regional linkages must be more organic, bottom-up.

I contend this is where Richard Longworth and John Austin get it wrong. Unleashing innovation is not a function of a mega-regional think tank or an intergovernmental organization. The traditional political geography is now so dysfunctional as to create unique spaces of opportunity for entrepreneurs of all kinds to thrive. The fiction of Cleveburgh is a citizen initiative and the groundwork for this corridor is already in place.

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