Saturday, August 28, 2010

Globalization's Children

Pittsburgh will win the competition for Google Fiber. That buzz is making the rounds again. Reading the entire post, I suspect I might have had a role in fanning the rumor flames:

During the months of June and July I began a quest to gain perspective on what has been happening in business & technology today. During that time I had conversations with over one hundred senior executives, managers, engineers, designers and developers spanning the industries of the Internet, mobile, marketing, advertising, entertainment, recruiting, e-commerce, education, energy, finance, IT, nonprofit, public relations, software, venture capital and health care.

What resulted was a document that became The Wisdom Of Observant Friends (or The Woof Factor) and what follows here and in future posts are a few of its highlights. ...

... On-Shoring: Youngstown, Ohio, in the middle of the Rust Belt, is transforming itself into a technology hub, turning old factories into technology centers. Because the location of a software company isn’t relevant. With its lower cost of living and burgeoning cultural and social life, Youngstown’s transformation is part of a movement referred to as ‘Rust Belt Chic.’

Upon further review, the blogger may be listening to what Jim Cossler is evangelizing. The story from Inc. magazine has made a significant footprint on the entrepreneurial community. What the term "Rust Belt Chic" means in those circles:

The ruined steel mills hold a certain rust belt chic, and when I was there, I met artists and writers who had come back to the city, enchanted by the pathos and romance of the place. There is a splendid new café on West Federal Street -- the Lemon Grove, where the walls are hung with paintings from local artists and the floors are made of planks salvaged from an old barn. There is an old-school museum, the Butler Institute of American Art, that boasts Edward Hoppers and Georgia O'Keeffes in its permanent collection, and there is also a gay advocacy group, Pride Youngstown. Youngstown State University, which sits on a hill above the downtown area, is a big and important presence. But Youngstown is -- let's face it -- not the sort of place where U2 is going to kick off its next tour. It is a small town, more homey than cosmopolitan, and it is trying to fight its way back from a haunted past.

I emphasized the last two words with writer Christopher Barzak in mind:

Originally he planned to read from [The Love We Share Without Knowing] for his Thurber House appearance. But as Barzak explained on the phone, Literary Picnickers may get a preview of a novel in progress, Wonders of the Invisible World, in which the author applies his unique storytelling approach to the erasure of history within Rust Belt communities.

The urban frontier of Youngstown isn't just a blank canvass. There is still the specter of what came before. The opaque history can be both liberating and crippling. Rust Belt traditions such as the cookie table grip the second generation of economic refugees with nostalgia that chains one to her or his cultural hearth. Twentysomethings dancing to polka is much more than ironic. It's a purgatory that sparks creativity and innovation. I find it inspiring, greatly motivating. It's why I feel I must blog.

Jhumpa Lahiri's novel "The Namesake" is Rust Belt Chic. The plight of a second generation Indian transnational is easy for a second generation Rust Belt refugee to understand. The diaspora economy is also similar:

Migration is no charity, and no employer should feel that they are doing a favour by employing foreign workers. "It is a win-win situation because migration benefits all parties, the migrant, the origin country and the destination country," said senior economist and manager of the Migration Unit in the World Bank, Dilip Ratha, at the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE), on Tuesday.

India is familiar with sending its best talent abroad. The brain drain has done more to help the country than hurt it. However, the community of expatriates and their offspring (globalization's children) are their own nation. These New Argonauts are the architects of the economy developing in the wake of the Great Recession. We understand the destructive power of globalization as well as the possibilities.

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