Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Greater Chicagoland

Economic exogenous shocks force us to re-imagine our communities. What will be the dominant geographic paradigm as we rebound from this depression? New localism is one possibility. The current crisis of trust could, very well, put an end to the world system as we know it. However, a broader conception of home seems more likely and better suited to deal with the mood swings of globalization:

West Michigan? Not anymore. Greater Chicagoland might be a better moniker in the global economy, Richard Longworth told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids Monday.

Besides, why claim the state's stigma?

"West Michigan has more to do with Chicago than it does with Detroit or even Lansing," said Longworth, a veteran journalist and senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

"Globalization couldn't care less about state lines drawn two centuries ago.

"The Midwest states have everything in common, but they're trying to fight this battle on their own. We're basically one economy and we should be working together."

I'm still not convinced that a Great Lakes Economic Initiative could work or that there is a cohesive Midwestern identity that would pave the way for fruitful collaboration. But I buy the idea of Greater Chicagoland.

Greater Chicagoland, as I would define it, is the geographic extent that the global urban economy of Chicago generates enough trust to begin abating destructive competition (zero sum economic development). Civic Analytics puts it in more digestable terms:

Robert Denson and Paul Gregoire, co-chairs of the regional strategy in Central Iowa, hit the mark: "We just don't have the people and resources within our individual jurisdictions to compete. No single community or county in Iowa does."

Refocusing that perspective on the Tech Belt, each participating community should be asking what the greater region allows it to do that it otherwise could not. How could Pittsburgh benefit from better connectivity with Youngstown, Akron or Cleveland?


kentropic said...

"How could Pittsburgh benefit from better connectivity with Youngstown, Akron or Cleveland?"

Why not include Morgantown and add the fast-growing WVU community into the mix? Especially if the ARRA breathes new life into the airport connector segment of the Mon Valley Expressway?

Jim Russell said...

I debated whether or not to include Morgantown. I decided that adding Morgantown to the list is redundant. Even the most parochial Pittsburghers seem to appreciate how WVU serves the Western PA higher education market. WVU news is news in Pittsburgh.

No doubt that more could be done to enhance the connectivity, but that is true for the entire Mon Valley. Just ask Mayor Fetterman.

Unknown said...

Isn't this kind of regional thinking what GLUE, Great Lakes Urban Exchange, is trying to foster?

Jim Russell said...

Greater Chicagoland: More connectivity between Chicago and West Michigan.

GLUE: Greater connectivity between Chicago and Detroit.

I think that's the primary geographic distinction I am trying to make. But that is not to say we can't do both.