Lamentation for Detroit

The March issue of Atlantic Magazine on-line includes a very thoughtful and comprehensive article titled, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” by urban theorist, Richard Florida. It is an vital analysis for anyone who cares about American cities and essential reading for those of us in planning, real estate, urban policy and economic development who will be dealing with the enormous changes this economy will bring over the next several years.  Wrenching change will not be limited to the Rust Belt but not surprisingly, one section of the article is subtitled “The Last Crises of the Factory Towns” which begins with this:

Sadly and unjustly, the places likely to suffer most from the crash – especially in the long run- are the ones least associated with high finance. While the crises may have begun in New York, it will likely find its fullest bloom in the interior of the country – in older, manufacturing regions whose heydays are long past . . .

Not surprising to even the casual student of American cities and our industrial economy.  Narrowing in to where the damage is greatest and most apparent, a later paragraph reads:

Perhaps no major city in the U.S. today looks more beleaguered than Detroit, where in October the average home price was $18,513, and some 45,000 properties were in some form of foreclosure. A recent listing of tax foreclosures in Wayne County, which encompasses Detroit, ran to 137 pages in the Detoit Free Press . . . and in December the city’s jobless rate was 21 percent.

Bleak.

Today, I happened to be looking at a new copy of The Bible that I brought home from church yesterday. I happened to open it randomly to the Book of Lamentations, an Old Testament book that I am not very familiar with. With Florida’s article (and likely my own unemployment) on my mind, I turned to the beginning of Lamentations and read the three verses below. I was shaken by how relevant the text is to today. With no intention to imply cause or blame, I have changed only one word in the text to create a sad modern prayer for the people and institutions of this once great American city:

A Lamentation for Detroit.

1 [a]How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.

2 Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
there is none to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.

3 After affliction and harsh labor,
Detroit has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations;
she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

(TNIV©)

The Super Bowl is Tomorrow. Who Knew?!

I am going to a party tomorrow and don’t want to appear more foolish or out of touch than usual. Apparently, the Super Bowl is tomorrow evening so that’s the theme of the party. I wondered why someone would schedule a party on a Sunday evening when people have to go to work the next day. Now I know.  Through some research, I have learned that the Steelers are playing the Cardinals. While the Steelers are still in Pittsburgh, it turns out that the Cardinals have moved from St Louis to Phoenix, who knew?!

This may surprise you, but it’s been a while since I’ve paid much attention to professional football. For example, I also learned during my research that Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Mean Joe Greene have all retired so I don’t really know any of the players for the Steelers.

Football means the smell of Ohio Valley autumn leaves to me so I just can’t root for the Cardinals – there aren’t any trees in Phoenix for Chrissake!! Besides, I grew up in the shadow of the Black & Gold. I always liked that guy that played with half his foot blown off in Viet Nam. What was his name? You gotta love a team that would give a fella like that a chance. Nice bunch of guys, don’t ya think?

So here’s where you Steelers Fans come in. What are FIVE things I should know about the Steelers in order to cover up my total ignorance of the NFL? Nothing too complicated that would be difficult to memorize, please.  It would also help to have two or three things to help me trash talk those good for nuthin’ city hoppin’ Cardinals but don’t worry if you can’t come up with anything or you’re just to polite to diss the competition.

Thanks for your help.

Big Three Bailout and Foreign Automakers

David Broder, in his Washington Post column last Sunday, implied that the opposition to the bailout of US automakers by southern Senators, led by DeMint (R, SC) and McConnell (R, KY) was influenced by the presence of foreign auto manufacturers in many southern states. The column is about politics and not specifically about economic development but it raises important questions for economic developers:

-Is it reasonable to assume that the bailout of the US auto industry (approved administratively by President Bush after the legislation failed in the Senate) will be bad for foreign automakers?
-Will the bailout create a battle within the auto industry between the southeast and the midwest for future jobs and investment?
-Are Tier I and Tier II suppliers of the Big Three likely to migrate south as Ford, GM and Chrysler contract?
-Are the supply chains of foreign automakers insulated from the troubles of the US auto industry?
-How should the economic development profession react?

What do you think?

This was also posted as a discussion topic at http://economicdevelopment.ning.com/forum/topics/big-three-bailout-and-foreign

City Blogs

I’ve added a box on the right titled, City Blogs. This morning, I stumbled across a post about deep-fried candy bars (no joke) from a blog called All Over Albany. AOA is a nice site full of things to do and be proud of  if you find yourself in Albany, New York.  I have also provided the link to the blog (online newsletter, actually) Cincinnati Soapbox, a great site that has done a lot to promote good news in the Queen City. OK, my bias is showing. Cincinnati is my hometown and I know the creators of Soapbox but it’s still a great example of how to do it right.

The use of social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs to promote people and their organizations, businesses, interests and ideas is still in it’s early stages but is expanding rapidly. I am especially interested in how communities (neighborhoods, cities,  regions and states) can use these tools to promote themselves to attract and retain businesses, attract workers and strengthen the connections among the people who already live and work there.

If you know of a blog from a community like this, send me the link. I’ll post them and build a resource for others that want to find best practice examples of how to use the web as an economic development tool.

Do it Now!

The environment demands that we use less oil and find better energy sources for our mobility. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling due to insufficient funding provided largely by fuel taxes. Unfriendly nations are enriched and their hostility is funded by our globally unrivaled consumption of oil.  Raise the federal gas tax now!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/opinion/27sat1.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/us/23works.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

We’ve been here before – Upton Sinclair

Reading & linking through a Paul Krugman commentary in the New York Times led me to this excerpt from Metropolis written by Upton Sinclair in 1908. How many of us will be feeling this way as our ‘leaders’ deal with the current economic conditions?

He was burning with a sense of outrage. He had been tricked and made a fool of; he had been used and flung aside. And now there was nothing he could do — he was utterly helpless. What affected him most was his sense of the overwhelming magnitude of the powers which had made him their puppet; of the utter futility of the efforts that he or any other man could make against them. They were like elemental, cosmic forces; they held all the world in their grip, and a common man was as much at their mercy as a bit of chaff in a tempest.

Maybe I’ll feel better when I rejoin the ranks of the employed.

Invest at home – Infrastructure & Jobs

Bob Herbert of the New York Times gets it. Today’s column makes a forceful case for intense, well planned infrastructure investment as a crucial part of President Obama’s stimulus package.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/25/opinion/25herbert.html?_r=1&hp