Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Geography of Innovation: Youngstown

This morning, an economic success story coming out of Youngstown, Ohio captivated National Public Radio listeners. Youngstown is likened to Silicon Valley. The geographic reference is useful for explaining the Mahoning Valley Miracle, but something more significant is going on throughout America's Urban Frontier.

When I think of Silicon Valley, I imagine farmland converted into a startup landscape par excellence. But the creative spaces emerging in the Postindustrial Heartland are downtown, a high-density cauldron of knowledge. The spillover potential is much greater than you would find at a suburban tech park or among the balkanized entrepreneurial niches scattered between San Jose and San Francisco.

Reactions to the NPR broadcast also reveal a curious concept of "home". Youngstown natives aren't the only people feeling a sense of pride about the success of the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI). Folks all over the country from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania are reaching out to YBI Chief Evangelist Jim Cossler. Cleveburgh makes sense when you talk to its Diaspora.

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