Monday, March 25, 2013

Give Me Some of Those Backward-Looking Sensibilities

Joel Kotkin

Richard Florida
I wrote Friday on the Joel Kotkin vs. Richard Florida debate.  I've written before on previous K vs. F clashes.

The debate has hit close to home, here in Ohio, though. There are Ohio issues at the center of this debate. 

Was it just Joel Kotkin that should take it personally with the lumping of his research and writings under the label "backward-looking sensibilities?"

Pick just four issues. Which ones are the backward sensibilities?

Is it the Industrial Heartland? Kotkin has written that the future of America's heartland rests in the rebirth of manufacturing and attracting "returners" back who want to deploy their talent where their heart is--back home in places like Ohio.   Is Richard Florida calling that "backward-looking sensibilities?"

Is it manufacturing?  I'm hard pressed to see where Florida has written anything favorably on manufacturing, and its contribution to the national economy. In fact, he wrote a rebuttal to the State of the Union against a national, pro-manufacturing policy. Are we to assume that Florida believes a bent for manufacturing is one of Kotkin's sensibilities?

Is it energy? Is the burgeoning oil and gas industry another one of those "backward-looking sensibilities?"  Richard Florida's rebuttal takes it on saying, "Our future economic development no longer turns on pumping resources mindlessly out of the ground." Kotkin would argue it does, or at least technologically pumping it out of the ground.

Or is it suburban economic development?  In Ohio, suburbs have, consistently for decades, been the ones leading the economic development impact in our state.  Yet, Florida has been caught predicting, almost wishing for, the demise of suburbs and exurbs.  So, could suburban development also be one of those "backward-looking sensibilities" in his book?

Here's what I think. 

If envisioning a future where the manufacturing and energy sectors are thriving in a revived Industrial Midwest's suburbs are Richard Florida's idea of backward-looking sensibilities, give me some of those.

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