Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rochester Is Dead

Rochester, NY is dead. Then this dead city, like a relentless zombie, killed Kodak. The Wall Street Journal's version of Rust Belt history:

Kodak's other structural problem is geography. When you study the history of great American companies that stumbled and failed, or only partially recovered, you see how difficult it is to overcome the mindset of your immediate surroundings. Businesses located in places where success is the norm, and innovation is built into the ecology, have a better chance of fixing themselves.

That's an odd spin coming from a newspaper that recently ran an article claiming that Kodak made Rochester risk averse, thus stifling innovation. The city is damned to a Catch-22 Hell. Kodak suffocates any and all nascent entrepreneurial ambitions. The lack of entrepreneurial ambition destroys the regional economy, which leads to Kodak's bankruptcy.

That is quite a story. It isn't true. Rochester and Kodak have been heading in different directions for decades:

Rochester has been a job-growth leader in the state in recent years. In 1980, total employment in the Rochester metropolitan area was 414,400. In 2010, it was 503,200. New businesses have been seeded by Kodak’s skilled work force, a reminder that a corporation’s fall can leave behind not just scars but also things to build upon.

“The decline of Kodak is extremely painful,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, which, with its two hospitals, is the city’s largest employer with 20,000 jobs. “But if you step back and look at the last two or three decades, you see the emergence of a much more diversified, much more knowledge-based economy.”

Kodak demanded a college-educated workforce. Rochester delivered the talent. The result is one of the best-performing metro economies in the entire world:

The Las Vegas economy is inching out of last place.

That's according to a new study that ranks growth among 200 metropolitan economies worldwide.

The Brookings Institution's Global MetroMonitor placed Las Vegas at No. 179, an improvement over its 2010 rank, but a reminder that the city is still in recession, with recovery a long way off. ...

... Just three U.S. cities -- Houston, Dallas and Rochester, N.Y. -- were among the 50 best-performing economies. Most of the top 50 were in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. So it's essential to extend the market's reach into markets in those regions.

Somebody alert the editorial staff of The Wall Street Journal. Don't worry, the Rust Belt Curse will win the day. Even if the news is good, things are still very bad. Rochester, like Oklahoma City, is a shithole:

"Oklahoma City's strengths are things you have to be here to experience," Mayor Cornett said.

Cornett touts the city's low unemployment numbers, strong housing market, cost of living, and low traffic congestion and crime rate as strengths. The Mayor is not surprised Oklahoma City came in low when people were asked how they viewed the city.

"If you have not been exposed to Oklahoma City, it takes a long time for people to break down those stereotypes," Cornett said.

Mayor Cornett, journalists don't need to visit your city. Everyone knows Oklahoma City sucks. OKC is dead, where big companies go to die.


Andy said...

WSJ editorial board failing logic? Imagine that.

Jim Russell said...

I wouldn't call it a failure of logic. Like stock characters, there are stock geographies. Rochester. Rust Belt. The story writes itself.