Monday, August 22, 2011

Rust Belt Mesofacts

Mesofacts can cut both ways. The Rust Belt geographic stereotype can hurt, see Ann Arbor. It can also help, see Indianapolis:

Indianapolis used to be the quintessential Rust Belt city. Now it's at the center of a statewide boom in the life-sciences business.

Indianapolis is a city. Indianapolis is in the Rust Belt. That's the extent of the truthiness of the first sentence. Emerging from the post-industrial apocalypse as an economic star makes for better copy.

If past is prologue, then we would expect Minneapolis, Columbus, and Indianapolis to do much better than all the other Rust Belt cities. In other words, Indianapolis was never a quintessential Rust Belt city. I think invoking the Rust Belt cliché does a disservice to Indianapolis. Yes, the city has to overcome the negative branding. But there is a valuable lesson to be learned for other cities struggling with issues not linked to the dead weight of an industrial legacy. The best of a weak megaregion strikes me as faint praise.

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