Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rust Belt Chic: Economic Convergence Killing NYC

I've written a fair amount about the struggles of New York City. Talent is expensive. The rent is too damn high. The pressure to get out is tremendous. Many of these real estate refugees are popping up in Philadelphia. It's a return migration, one of the hallmarks of the Talent Economy. This vanguard is gaining confidence, getting downright snarky:

Here’s something to celebrate: The fact that the Brain Drain is not what used to be. Even a few years back, when people told you they were leaving Philly to go to NYC/LA/Whatever, it was a real reaction that you’d smile at them sadly, wish them well and then know that you’d never see them again. Nowadays, anytime people tell us they’re leaving, you can hear the wooden balls in our heads clacking together from how hard we’re rolling our eyes. So sure, go the leaving party/big show for comedians Shannon Brown and Brendan Kennedy, Sideshow Presents: Know When To Leave, send ‘em off right, but know in your heart of hearts that they’ll be back in 18 months. Why? Because NYC is a load of horseshit; East Coast bodies can’t understand LA; Portland is insufferable; and now is the best time to be HERE than perhaps there ever has been. We’ll leave the light on for ya.

This attitude adjustment is recent, very recent. Philly has seen its share of brain drain boondoggles. The issue is alive and well. Strange to read about people leaving and locals responding with a shrug of the shoulders.

The place smack is remarkable enough. The positive self-image is Rust Belt Chic, "... now is the best time to be HERE than perhaps there ever has been." The usual mantra was, "... ANYWHERE but here."

Many Rust Belt cities are entering a special era. New York is crumbling infrastructure and crushing legacy costs. Philadelphia is the urban frontier. However, some places just don't get it. Case and point Milwaukee:

The Milwaukee Water Council, the trade group that aims to coax new jobs and investment from the water technology industries of southeastern Wisconsin and change the region's rust belt image in the process, quietly has dropped the word "Milwaukee" from its formal name.

The 5-year-old Water Council is not disavowing Milwaukee, said Executive Director Dean Amhaus. If anything, no other economic development initiative rivals the Water Council in terms of rebranding the metro region and creating buzz for the city at international trade shows, third-world development forums or whenever the global economics of water are discussed.

But the work of the Water Council has become global in its nature and the organization wants to jettison anything that smacks of provincialism, Amhaus said.

Really? I would be doing everything in my power to connect the name "Milwaukee" with "world class water technology cluster". The two should be synonymous.

The article goes on to put Milwaukee on par with Paris, which is the theme of this post. Milwaukee has nothing to be ashamed of. "Rust Belt" has gone from pejorative to positive in what seems to be only a few months. Someone mail Amhaus a copy of "Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology." We all want something that smacks of provincialism.


Anonymous said...

Philly's infrastructure isn't old and crumbling?

John Goode said...

Well, I hope a better economy. It is quite ironic that despite the technological advancement, economic growth is stagnant.
-John Goode from Dentist in Jersey City