Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cleveburgh Labor Shed

A recent post over at Civic Analytics highlights a new toy from the US Census. Among the uses, the ability to map the extent of a functional region:

Defining regions by showing how central cities are dependent on surrounding areas for workers. Here's an example showing the labor shed for the city of Denver, where I'll be teaching a seminar with Sam Leiken from the Council on Competitiveness this week at the EDA Denver and Seattle Regional Conference.

By way of anecdote, the labor sheds for Cleveland and Pittsburgh are said to overlap in Youngstown:

Terry Abrams, executive director of the Homebuilders-Remodelers Association of the Mahoning Valley, said the cost of land in the Mahoning Valley is lower than in most other metro markets — which enables housing costs to be lower.

“We were never a part of the boom — we never will be,” he said. “But you really get more for your money here.”

A $300,000 house in the Mahoning Valley would cost about $450,000 in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, $600,000 in Denver, Colo., $800,000 in Washington, D.C. and about $1 million in San Francisco, Abrams said.

Youngstown is about 1-hour from Cleveland or Pittsburgh jobs. There are 3 airports within easy driving distance, but housing is about 50% more expensive (using the above numbers) in the bigger cities in either direction. While a 2-hour commute might strike most people as insane, central access to more than one labor shed is a great way to hedge your bets on a volatile globalizing economy. There are also emerging opportunities right there in Youngstown, not to mention nearby Akron. At the very least, Youngstown would be a great place to be self-employed.

Youngstown is also the battleground for the two major Cleveburgh cultural regions, best seen through the eyes of the Browns-Steelers rivalry. Touring Youngstown, Cleveburgh makes perfect sense. The connection to Cleveland is obvious, with the Plain Dealer prominently for sale. The face of Pittsburgh might be less obvious, until you step over the nearby border into Pennsylvania:

Mahoning Valley Steelers fans who won’t be in the stadium can watch the game from Billy’s Black and Gold, 514 Sharpsville Ave., Sharon, Pa.

“There will be no one here in Browns clothes,” said owner Bill Novosel of the crowd that will come out for Sunday’s showdown.

The game day dress code at Billy’s is stated clearly on the door: “ABSOLUTELY NO OPPOSING TEAM GARB-AGE.”

A walk into Billy’s is like a trip to a different country — Steelers Country, where black-and-gold rules and Iron City beer flows like water.

Steelers memorabilia and murals of the Pittsburgh city skyline and sports heroes embellish the walls at Billy’s.

I have no doubt that Pittsburghers would feel very comfortable living in Youngstown. We also know there is a relatively large amount of human capital churn between Cleveland and Pittsburgh (the same is true for Youngstown-Cleveland and Youngstown-Pittsburgh). Regardless, the value proposition of residing in Youngstown is quite attractive.

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