Friday, May 11, 2012

Surburbs Gain Manufacturing Ally

As I wrote yesterday, a report got published from the Brookings Institution's Global Cities Initiative this week.  Reports from the session imply a cities vs. suburbs approach.  I contend the report, itself, rises above that though, intentional or not.

Manufacturing, frankly, has become a suburban and exurban function. Center cities lack the large tract sites and workforce makeup to support it like, collectively, the less dense areas.  Still, a great deal of manufacturing is occurring in the "metropolitan areas" even if not in the big, inner cities and counties. Plus, inner cities can be incubators, of sorts, for small, high tech businesses.

It's clear the timing of the report and the media splash behind it is intended to seize some of the growing "focus" on manufacturing back toward big cities. Interchanging the terms cities and metropolitan areas is one way to convince policy makers to remember the inner cities when this new-found attention translates into actual policy.

The report could actually help, in an indirect way, aid the suburbs and manufacturing.

It's no coincidence that policy makers lost their manufacturing focus and, instead, put their bully pulpits behind service industries at the same time that manufacturing was leaving the big cities.

Cities, though they've lost the manufacturing dominance over the past thirty years, still very much dominate state and national policy makers attention.  That dominance can be powerful on both sides of the aisle.   I have been amazed how many even suburban public officials were believing that we weren't going to be a country that makes things even a few short years ago.

One could argue that part of the reason the U.S. let the falsehood that service industries could replace manufacturing as a backbone of our economy came out of that very disconnect between cities' political domination and the economic reality that suburbs are where manufacturing has gone.

It's a bit hard to convince the Mayor of a big city where manufacturing industies employ less than 5% of his or her city's workforce age population that manufacturing is important.

So, it's a good thing if Brookings is able to convince big cities and their national representatives to get back on the manufacturing bandwagon.  There's room.  Get aboard!

No comments:

Post a Comment