Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Smaller Industrial Cities Diaspora

Janko offers first blush of the news about a PolicyLink report that was inspired by Youngstown success. That is right, "Youngstown success." I am looking forward to an analysis of the report forthcoming from Janko, but my own various interests are already piqued:

Smaller industrial cities are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, particularly in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.

Some of my readers might anticipate where I am going with the above quote. I see a functional mega-region (Urbanophile cringes at the proposed coalition of weak cities) that is much more coherent than Richard Longworth's sprawling Midwest and John Austin's grandiose Great Lakes Economic Initiative. PolicyLink makes a compelling case for ending the economic isolation of these former small-scale economic powers.

Given the tendency of globalization to favor the biggest cities getting bigger and the smaller cities to shrink, salvaging the assets of a place such as Youngstown would seem to be folly. Pittsburgh's ongoing agglomeration is often understood as a regional economic threat to other would-be renaissance stories. However, I envision some sort of spillover if the right infrastructure was put in place. Fair to say that I'm not sure what that infrastructure should be, but I have a few ideas. The relationship between the bigger industrial cities and their economic hinterlands could be mutually beneficial.

Perhaps I should leave such speculation to the Ed Glaeser's of the world. Yet Youngstown inspired me just as it inspired PolicyLink. I see something working and something worth supporting. Smaller industrial cities have too many assets to let slide into the valleys of globalization.

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