Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cities As Manufacturing Advocates

The news reports had a us vs. them feel to them.  The Columbus Business First article about a Chase Bank session with Brookings started out that way saying, "If a U.S. manufacturing resurgence is dawning, it will be cities that lead the revival."  Another article touted the idea that it was the 100 biggest cities that were going to bring manufacturing back in the U.S.  These stories miss the point, and the facts.

Suburbs, and rural areas have, more often, in the past three decades been the places where manufacturing has gone to grow.  Not the big inner cities.  The statistics are clear. 

Anyone who has worked in economic development in the past thirty years knows that instinctively.  Anyone.

The recent resurgence that's occurring in manufacturing is, also, more happening in the 'burbs. 

Demographers like Joel Kotkin have oft pointed out that advanced manufacturing, in fact, never left and never declined in this country.

The Brookings Institution folks know that.  There's another purpose to their message and, on their website, the us vs. them takes a slightly different tone.  Brookings is, actually, turning cities into manufacturing advocates.

Brookings', being pure to the numbers but recognizing the political reality, is careful to use metropolitan areas to refer to their concept of manufacturing rebirth in the cities.  Thus, the tent has grown to include the suburbs too. 

Yes, it's very likely true, 60% of all U.S. manufacturing is located in the top 100 metropolitan areas.  But the geographic boundaries of those areas include some pretty suburban places indeed.  In fact, Brookings, deep in the report, acknowledges the move of manufacturing to less dense areas.  They bemoan it, but acknowledge it.

My community makes the case.  Licking County is suburban and exurban of Columbus yet it is in the Columbus "metropolitan area" so the millions of square feet of manufacturing space and thousands of manufacturing jobs add to the Columbus mix in the Brookings report. 

There's a method at work here.

Clearly, Brookings' has noticed a "new focus on manufacturing" and is trying to help the large cities not be left off the bandwagon as the manufacturing issue is gaining resurgence with national policymakers.

That's not so bad for the suburbs.  It really doesn't have to be us versus them.  That's what the story should be.

More later.

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