Heartland

Oregon’s Fringes: A New Rural Alternative

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Once the bastion of a thriving rural middle class, Oregon’s rural communities are now barely scraping by. The state’s timber industry employed 81,400 residents at its peak in 1978. At the time, the industry made up 49% of all manufacturing jobs in the state according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Since then, the recessions of the early eighties and nineties, increased land-use restriction, decreased timber supply, global competition and automation of the timber industry have devastated rural communities that relied on once-plentiful timber jobs.  read more »

Postindustrial Strength Brain Drain Policy

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In the discussions of the stimulus and infrastructure problem, little attention has yet been paid to addressing brain drain. Yet for many regions – particularly in the old industrial heartland – no issue could be more critical.

Perhaps the most important investment in regional human capital occurs at local schools. Enterprise looks to the secondary and post-secondary institutions within the area for labor. In this regard, it makes sense to fund better learning with local and state taxes as long as that talent remains within that geography.  read more »

How To Save The Industrial Heartland

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You would think an economic development official in Michigan these days would be contemplating either early retirement or seppuku. Yet the feisty Ron Kitchens, who runs Southwest Michigan First out of Kalamazoo, sounds almost giddy with the future prospects for his region.

How can that be? Where most of America sees a dysfunctional state tied down by a dismal industry, Kitchens points to the growth of jobs in his region in a host of fields, from business services to engineering and medical manufacturing. Indeed, as most Michigan communities have lost jobs this decade, the Kalamazoo region, with roughly 300,000 residents, has posted modest but consistent gains.  read more »

Bailing out on the Dreamland…And Returning Home

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My father, who was from eastern Kentucky, headed with millions of other Appalachian people for the “promised land” after the great depression. The promised land in that day consisted of cities such as Dayton, Detroit, Gary, and Cincinnati, out of which rose great factories that employed thousands on giant “campuses.” They thrived through the vigor of this transplanted workforce – uneducated like my father but full of gumption, tenacity and work ethic.  read more »

Make Sure All That Infrastructure Spending Is Well Supported

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It's the new buzzword: infrastructure.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised billions in infrastructure spending as part of a public works program bigger than any since the interstate highway system was built in the 1950s. Though it was greeted with hosannas, his proposal is only tapping into a clamor for such spending that's been rising ever since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last year. With the economy now officially in recession, the rage for new brick and mortar is reaching a fever pitch.

But before we commit hundreds of billions to new construction projects, we should focus on just what kind of infrastructure investment we should – and shouldn't – be making.  read more »

How About a Rural Stimulus?

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In Pennsylvania, public and private funds mainly are directed into areas where people live and where people vote. As a result urban Pennsylvania has significant advantages over rural communities in securing public funds and private investment.  read more »

Auto Bailout: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

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We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies – once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations – fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkable resiliency.  read more »

Understanding the Geography of the 2008 Election

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Scholars as well as pundits and politicians will study this remarkable election exhaustively. Many, including me, will use county data, because they are convenient and available. From a statistical point of view, counties are lousy units, because of huge variation in size and excess internal variability. But we can’t resist, so here are some at least suggestive findings.  read more »

Up Next: The War of the Regions?

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By Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill

It’s time to throw away red, blue and purple, left and right, and get to the real and traditional crux of American politics: the battle for resources between the country’s many diverse regions. How President-elect Barack Obama balances these divergent geographic interests may have more to do with his long-term success than his ideological stance or media image. Personal charm is transitory; the struggle for money and jobs has a more permanent character.  read more »

Industry, inequality and the middle classes

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The financial collapse dominates the news, but its unregulated rise is not unrelated to the relative decline of manufacturing over the last quarter century, and the outsourcing of much of industrial production. One consequence of this de-industrialization and financialization of everything has been an astounding increase in inequality, a massive concentration of wealth at the very top and the squeezing of the middle classes.

Places that remained strong in manufacturing tend to have had and still have lower inequality than places more dependent on services, lowly to professional, and experienced a smaller change in inequality.  read more »