Meanwhile…In Shelbyville

23 Jan


If you aren’t familiar with “Shelbyville“, it is the rival town to Springfield, home of “The Simpsons”.  The town is often cited as being the complete opposite of Springfield in every way…Buffalo has its very own Shelbyville, often called “Buffalo South” or “Charlotte”.

Every couple of weeks, I rummage through the Shelbyville blogs and newspaper sites to see what’s going on in the headquarters of the Buffalo Diaspora. The story of the week appears to be the scourge of construction cranes that are dotting the city skyline.

Charlotteans grumbled in the ’90s that orange traffic barrels had come to symbolize progress in one of the region’s fastest growing cities.

In 2008, that honor goes to construction cranes, which have recently taken over the uptown like an infestation of 200-foot iron weeds.

Twenty-five tower cranes are active in and around the Interstate 277 loop, on a dozen projects ranging from the NASCAR Hall of Fame to the EpiCentre.

Construction and the resulting jobs are booming in Charlotte as the economy expands and people flock to the region.

Up to 11 more cranes could be added to the uptown area by year’s end, says Dennis Kenna, whose Heede Southeast Inc. supplies many of the region’s construction cranes.

For a town that has seen a decade long economic boom, the current explosion in construction is still shocking.

“It’s a renaissance,” says Michael Smith, president of Center City Partners. “These cranes are a fascinating, leading indicator of progress.

“We have an urban core that is expanding and it has pierced through 277 into South End, Elizabeth, midtown, Wesley Heights and Wilmore,” he says.

Experts say young professionals seeking to live near jobs and entertainment, and empty nesters weary of yard work and long commutes are driving the boom.

In case people are wondering, that is what a renaissance looks like. Also, I’d like to note how Charlotte has identified the primary means with which to attract young professionals to their city, jobs.  Not much talk of museums, sense of place, or massive amounts of state funding.  They keep the taxes low, attract business, and the people follow.  Not really a revolutionary idea, but one that we might be able to learn a thing or two from up here in Springfield, err, I mean Buffalo.

There is nothing wrong with having nice looking buildings, museums, cool restaurants, and kitschy tschotske shops; they are absolutely a value added bonus for people looking for a place to live.  However, they are not a primary means to create economic development.  The jobs need to be here in order for those things to be a real differentiator.

8 Responses to “Meanwhile…In Shelbyville”

  1. Denizen January 23, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    Hmmm….Horse THEN cart, what a novel idea!!

  2. Rob M January 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    I don’t know about Springfield or Shelbyville. I do know RALPH WIGGUM FOR PRESIDENT!!!

  3. eac January 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    Which aspects of a city’s economic destiny are under the city’s control? It seems to me that broadly speaking, the city can do very little, the county somewhat more, but ultimately it is the state, national & global economies that seem to have the most impact. Bethlehem Steel didn’t leave because of anything the city did, or didn’t, do, right? That entire industry, and heavy manufacturing in general, took off because of what was happening in the global economy. Similarly, Buffalo didn’t really *do* anything to be at a major border crossing. You get the point. Tell me about the legislation that the Buffalo Common Council should enact which will turn us into Charlotte? I’m sure there’s small things they can do, but the larger facts about he decline of manufacturing and the migration of Americans to the south and west… I don’t know. I think that’s out of our hands somewhat.

    I think sometimes we confuse the issue. Other rust belt towns have enacted policies aimed at dealing with smart downsizing- including consolidation of services under various brands of regionalism. I’m not saying it’s a good idea to be anticompetitive, or to stop trying to attract new people and business. I’m saying that, one can accept and manage a period of decline that might be part of a broader trend that’s out of your hands. When and if that period of decline reverses, you can worry about the cranes that come with.

    To me, *thats* the horse before the cart.

  4. Christopher Smith January 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    I didn’t specifically say that the city itself is responsible for changing the economic future of the region, but there are some things a city and its citizenry can do.

    From the people:

    – Demand better from politicians. Stop wasting votes on status quo candidates who pander to the remnants of a blue collar ethos that has slowly melted away. Stop pining for entitlements from the government and instead demand your elected leaders put forth a progressive vision and work towards it. Sure, these are esoteric concepts, but before a glacier can be moved, you need to get people to agree that it needs to be moved. It is the ultimate horse to be put forth before the cart. Without a sea change in the collective mindset of local people about what government is and what it should do, little will change. Democracy is a responsibility, if it is to work, we need to make it work.

    From the city:

    – Lobby Albany for change. Band together with upstate cities to demand change from Albany. Round up the Mayors, Supervisors, Councils, and Town Boards across upstate and form a coalition to create change. All should contribute funding to lobby Albany and Washington for reform, tax relief, and smarter business governance.

    – Leverage synergies to manage shrinkage, land bank, reduce costs, lower city property taxes, reach out to civic organizations, put police on the streets, reform zoning laws, implement smart code, work with regional leaders to create one master plan for economic development, advocate for shared services and create economies of scale, implement transparency regulations for all government departments, move to online services, offer business incentives, etc.

    Certainly there are macro reasons for why industry in Buffalo and many Northeastern cities has migrated to points south and overseas, but there are incremental changes that we can make on a local, regional, and statewide level to reverse the flow. Incremental changes are needed and once enough of those are achieved, macro trends can be influenced. We still operate as if blue collar jobs will return and we support regional plans which openly advocate for their return.

    Where is the marketing and outreach built around new economy businesses? Where are the plans to leverage our resources, IT infrastructure, and location on an international border?

    Often times, we hear that these activities are too expensive or are impossible to achieve due to circumstances beyond our control. Or the groups advocating for them are politically disconnected or are working from differing agendas. Fuck that noise. The Mayor of this town needs to LEAD and not sit passively by while other cities implement the plans that will continue to draw our people and businesses. The people of this town need to demand he do it and actively join in the process.

    Change is hard fucking work and we all need to get going on making it happen.

  5. pauldub January 23, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    Getting the common council to focus on their job instead of pushing personal agendas and generally looking like asses would be a good start

  6. eac January 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    Democracy is a responsibility

    That’s sure true, and it’s a big part of America’s problem today in my opinion. We settle for mediocrity.

    I think, though, you put togther a nice plank in a platform there. not like what I was trying to get you to do, not at all.

  7. shopitall January 28, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    This from yesterday’s NYT Mag:

    Old School Economics:

    Perhaps Buffalo needs fewer lawyers and more choreographers?


  8. Kilty Larkin April 23, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    There are a lot of things dotting the Buffalo Skyline also these days – BULLETS!

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