Tag Archives: Rust belt

Mayor of Braddock, PA is transforming a deserted town into a thriving community

6 Oct

Source: spot.us (http://s.tt/13q4B)

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Have We Yet Gained the Brains?

20 Jan

Richard Florida, observer of cities, has a new piece in The Atlantic noting the changing migration patterns of the young and educated. For those not familiar with his work, Florida is a business professor and institute director at the University of Toronto, a former Buffalonian, and promoter of various Creative Class theories which, in short, state that if your city can attract enough educated, diverse, talented, gay and young people, you’re going to turn out okay. Florida lists wooing the Creative Class as the number one job of cities, and so tracks what works and what doesn’t.

The latest info (from a Brookings Institution report) says Buffalo, and the rest of the Rust Belt, is doing a lot better than it has in the recent past. Buffalo has cut its young/educated loss rate in the last four years from 0.85% to 0.45%. That’s better than Cleveland and New York, and roughly equal to Los Angeles and Chicago. And several Rust Belt cities – Pittsburgh, Columbus, Baltimore –  have even seen their losses turn into gains. What accounts for this change?

Florida attributes it to lower migration overall (due to the Great Recession), a transformation in Rust Belt cities of manufacturing economies to knowledge based economies, and efforts of cities generally to be more inviting to young people. But does this theory hold water for Buffalo?

Chris Smith regularly reports on Buffalo’s positive economic data, and how our metro has faired well in the Great Recession. Most Buffalonians also know the great statistics about relative cost of living and low commute times. Buffalo Rising readers may also note the influx of converted loft-residences downtown as signs that the city is not just attractive to young people, but successfully courting them. I remain suspicious.

The Federal Reserve’s Buffalo office report on the matter says we do not suffer from an overly large brain drain, but an insufficient brain gain. In every metro, even booming places like Austin and (until recently) Charlotte, some young people leave. In this regard, Buffalo is like everywhere else – it sends its young off to seek greener pastures. But unlike other cities, we don’t do well attracting the nation’s youth, and experience a minimal brain gain. Unfortunately, this report contains no data to show otherwise. To cut our loss rate in half, we could simply have lost fewer brains, and gained no more.

Anecdotal evidence alone says Buffalo is still not doing well in providing that ultimate carrot to youth: quality jobs. Buffalo has far more intellectual capital than monetary, and this imbalance shows itself in a surge of citizen’s groups, demands for open mic nights for development projects, ironic winter festivals and the Buffalo Expat Network. In cities with the opposite problem, everyone is too busy working and making money to care about much of anything. Young people that do find jobs here are often under-employed, as greying middle managers are stuck in mid-salary positions with mid-salary responsibilities. With a plethora of back office work and few leadership positions available, the Buffalo corporate ladder looks more like a step-stool with not many places to go. As a friend of mine, a University of Chicago trained economist who worked for Citi in Amherst, once said: “If the work is important, it’s not being done here.” He has since moved on himself.

A shortage of quality jobs leads to nepotism and connections completely overwhelming qualifications – if you are an outsider, a recent transplant, and not “from here,” or from the “old neighborhood” in some places still, you have little chance of even hearing about jobs, much less securing them. The City of Good Neighbors culture is friendly to its own and suspicious of others coming to take the few remaining scraps.

This culture changes when jobs are readily available, and enough new blood is regularly arriving to soften old perceptions or break down networks built from grade school. Until Buffalo moves from the “loss” to the “gain” column in these demographics reports, I will be unconvinced we have truly turned a corner. Like I have said before, the solution to many of our problems is Growth.

C’mon Down to Cleveland Town, Everyone

30 May

It’s time to make something similar poking fun at Buffalo.

HT Shredd & Ragan

Detroit = Buffalo. Sorta.

8 Dec

Read this depressing assessment of Detroit’s renaissance-that-never-comes, and just substitute “Buffalo” for “Detroit”, “Western New York” for “Michigan”, and “Bills” for “Lions”.

It’s practically a carbon copy.

When a state lives with a story line of decline for so long, it doesn’t just affect the mood. It becomes part of the culture. Whereas America’s history has been one of expanding horizons, yours has become funnel-shaped. Much like the postbellum South, Rust Belt culture looks backward at an idealized past–a nostalgia not for plantations but for three-bedroom houses paid up on blue collar salaries. (See pictures of the remains of Detroit.)

“It used to be you could get a job at one of those factories, even without an education, and make a decent living to support your family,” says letter carrier Dina Schueller, 33, of Saranac. Now her husband has been laid off from his construction job, and her brother moved to Maryland for work. Like many left-behind Michiganders, she’ll be seeing fewer family members this season.

Detroit still has a lot more sinking to do. Buffalo was built on manufacturing, but the demise of Bethlehem Steel was probably not dissimilar in scope to what would happen in Detroit were one of the big three to go belly-up.

So, yay for the worst being over for Buffalo, ostensibly.

Helping Shrinking Cities through Immigration

11 Dec

I had an unexpected link to my site from the “Burgh Diaspora” today. The post is entitled “Rust Belt 2.0”, and seeks to set up a meeting / collaboration between bloggers in various rust belt cities. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Youngstown bloggers have expressed an interest.

The premise is simple:

Create more H-1B visa immigration into the Rust Belt region:

This might be a good time to propose to Congress/Administration the creation of “High Skill Immigration Zones” in parts of the country that are struggling to making the transition to a knowledge-based economy (e.g., Rust Belt Cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, etc.), and which are progressively depopulating and destabilizing.

Attracting educated immigrants to shrinking cities in the rust belt in order to help the transition from a post-industrial stasis to a knowledge-based economy. It’s intriguing. Sure, it’s hard to attract, say, a young college graduate to come to or stay in Buffalo when the pickings in places like Phoenix or Atlanta are more plentiful and appealing. But what about the eager immigrant for whom Buffalo conjures up no negative connotations whatsoever? Consider:

The United States is undergoing a profound economic restructuring, due to pressures of globalization and the rising knowledge economy. America’s Great Lakes region, once the core of the nation’s industrial production and wealth creation, is losing ground rapidly. At this critical moment, federal investment in U.S. competitiveness lacks a regional focus. Federal policy fails to recognize that national growth is driven by integrated regional economies with the strong underlying assets necessary for talent creation and innovation.

What do you think? Good idea? Pipe dream? Is this the kind of thing that could help Buffalo grow its economy and population in spite of Albany politics? I’m somewhat intrigued and prepared to learn more.