The title of this post may be a bit controversial, but can also be sadly true. Far too often, it seems a blind eye is turned toward the sins of the past just to generate new economic investment. A perfect example is portrayed in the past week’s (April 17th edition) of City Pulse by an article entitled “A Tax Break Won’t Change This.” While tax breaks are being offered to GM for additional investment in Greater Lansing, a ginormous vacant parking lot blights the near south side of the city, not to mention additional deteriorated sites along Saginaw Highway on the west side of town. This case is not alone, as the Rust Belt is littered with leftovers of its industrial history – hence the nickname Rust Belt. Is disregarding the fouled legacy of past sins what economic development is supposed to be all about? I certainly hope not.
Sadly, concerns about the past sins tend to get drowned out by the hype, hoopla, and hyperbole over new (or saved) jobs and investment. While those are important, they are NOT the only things that foster economic development and improve a community. Pleasant and safe neighborhoods, good schools, well-maintained infrastructure, quality public services, environmental stewardship, beautiful parks, inspired art, creative and new ideas, and many other community attributes also spur economic development. Vacant and blighted parking lots, abandoned industrial sites, polluted environment, underfunded schools and public services, and discarded communities are not the seeds necessary for sewing a healthy and vibrant economy. They are the seeds of our ultimate demise as a place where people want to live or work.
The economic development community needs to do some serious soul-searching and start to stand up for enhancing “community” in more ways than the perceived and spouted panacea of jobs which is so narrowly focused and aspired to. Otherwise, they/we are nothing more than a bunch of glorified used-car salespeople, and we know how well they rate in the court of public opinion.
– Rick Brown
The folks at Brookings released a report Monday on the importance of exports to the economies of Great Lakes cities.
Among the findings:
– Exports support 1.95 million jobs in Great Lakes metros
– Cities in this region have some of the highest volumes (dollar-wise) of exports and the greatest reliance on exports. Out of the nation’s top 100 metro areas, Chicago ranks third and Detroit ranks ninth in total dollar volumes of exports. Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis all rank in the top 20, the study states.
How does your city compare?
“Now is a particularly critical time for Great Lakes areas to be smart about their export strategies,” the report’s authors write.
“There is new national attention to increasing the volume of US exports. In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a doubling of US exports in the next ﬁve years. Administration ofﬁcials have also cited greater exports as a way to bolster the condition of the hard-hit manufacturing communities in the US.”
It’s part of a larger Brookings report on how the nation’s cities can lead export growth.
What conclusions should we draw?
“The metropolitan areas of the Great Lakes region are among the most globally engaged metros in the country,” says the report.
“They produce goods and offer services that are in demand around the world, particularly in rapidly emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China. A national effort to double exports in the next ﬁ ve years holds great promise for these metros that are already fairly export-oriented. But this opportunity may be squandered if Great Lakes metros do not focus intensely on innovation, both in terms of expanding the range of products and services that they offer and in their speciﬁc product and service lines. A legacy of success in exports does not guarantee future dominance, a lesson that Great Lakes metros should have learned through rough experience.”
What do you think?
Has anyone seen the HBO Movie The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant?
It looks like it came out last year, so I’m a little late on this one. It is focused on the last few months of a plant in Moraine, Ohio (near Dayton).
What can Las Vegas learn from the Rust Belt? Quite a bit, according to this article in the Las Vegas Sun.
Not to toot our own horn, but this story references Rust Wire, and our own Angie Schmitt!
I thought this story was well-written, and made an interesting comparison: though many wouldn’t think of it this way, Las Vegas and Detroit are both one-industry towns – Vegas’ industry of course, being tourism.
The author definitely did his homework- and talked to a number of knowledgeable folks in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston and elsewhere.
I don’t really consider Boston to be in the Rust Belt, but still an interesting read.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Wall Street Journal article that traces the story of one home in the Motor City – and through that house, decades of history and change in the neighborhood and the city overall.
Spend a few minutes reading about 1626 W. Boston Boulevard, in Detroit’s Boston-Edison neighborhood, from its auto-industry origins to a subprime borrower.
We’ve written before on this blog that we were encouraged by Time Magazine’s declaration that it intended to devote resources to covering what is happening in Detroit.
Writes Time publisher John Huey,
“we believe that Detroit right now is a great American story. No city has had more influence on the country’s economic and social evolution. Detroit was the birthplace of both the industrial age and the nation’s middle class, and the city’s rise and fall — and struggle to rise again — are a window into the challenges facing all of modern America. From urban planning to the crisis of manufacturing, from the lingering role of race and class in our society to the struggle for better health care and education, it’s all happening at its most extreme in the Motor City.”
Here are some of the journalistic fruits of the pursuit of that story – this Time Cover story, and this site on Detroit and its importance, which seems pretty comprehensive.
I don’t really like the sound of the question, “How do you survive Detroit?”
And, as one of the commenters points out, some of the stories are cliched by now (i.e. “brain drain”).
Still, it is nice to see such a big layout and obvious dedication of resources to the story.
Thanks to Rust Wire reader Jeff Vines for his suggestion.
Two interesting items in this month’s Harper’s Magazine:
End of the Road, a piece about how the decline of the Big Three is linked to declining blue-collar wages and job security, and
These Mean Streets, photos of “scenes from the abandoned city”
Neither is available online unless you are a subscriber, so you’ll have do it the old fashioned way and to pick up a magazine if you want to look at these.