Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What Chicago Can Learn From Cleveburgh

The Cleveland-Pittsburgh economic corridor is in the news again. Southwestern PA has emerged as a proximity asset for Northeastern Ohio. There are benefits for both cities if two regions functionally can become one. Yesterday, Aaron Renn (The Urbanophile) reviewed a recent OECD report about Chicago's struggles and what can be done about it. You can find the 300+ page paper here. Aaron focuses on the talent issue:

To be sure, the Chicago Tri-State metro-region remains an attractive place for many migrants, but it is less attractive than many of its US metro-region peers. Moreover, if the analysis is confined to highly educated people of prime working age (25+, with at least a bachelor’s degree), then the picture is even more problematic. During 2005-09, more such people moved into the area than left it, but the net gain was relatively small compared with other large US metro-regions. Los Angeles, for example, benefited from a net gain of nearly 80,000 highly educated people in 2009, compared with 3,500 for the Chicago Tri-State metro-region.

Emphasis added. I've looked at Chicago's college degree migration in the past. Granted the data are for one-year (2007-2008), but Pittsburgh net imported more "bachelors +" than Chicago, 5,659 to 2,047. I bet that surprises a lot of readers. The numbers sharpen the point that both Aaron and the OECD are trying to make. Concerning highly skilled talent, Chicago is an underperformer. As a global city, Chicago is failing.

What does that have to do with Cleveburgh? The OECD makes mention of Pittsburgh twice as a way forward for Chicago. The first mention is on page 168 and concerns the efforts of the research universities to impact economic development. The second recommendation is about regional collaboration (p. 186):

The Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown (Ohio) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) area was one of the 19th century industrial motors of the US While it has suffered from industrial decline, the region has taken many innovative actions to reinvigorate declining industries. The study found such federal innovation funds were too time consuming to access and siloed, that state and local funds were easier to access but were more limited in amounts, and that the combination of programmes did help firms both leverage private financing as well as benefit from new expertise and financing sources. Federal funds were found to be more successful at supporting incremental improvements in goods and services than state funds, in part due to larger aids. The study also suggested that federal programmes work more closely with state and local leaders who are close to firms to take into account more regionally tailored and new approaches to regional economic development (Feldman and Lanahan, 2010). Indeed, with respect to supporting research, federal and state governments should pay attention to the balance between longer term basic R&D for new development and applied R&D for the use and dissemination of existing technologies. Such a focus can lead to more inter-institutional collaboration and partnerships of a complementary nature.

I added the links to the study referenced. Consider the OECD report another nudge for the Tech Belt (or whatever you call it) to move along more aggressively with integration. The corridor is a global exemplar. The effort is still in its infancy.

What are the benefits? For one, Pittsburgh's successful attraction of talent can spillover into Cleveland. Research universities in Southwestern PA can act as an economic development catalyst for Northeast Ohio. What Chicagoland could be, Cleveburgh is. Alone, Pittsburgh cannot rival Chicago. Together, the region can be a world class metro.

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