Monday, December 8, 2014

An Upbeat Pairing, But With A Bit Too Much Rust

Joel Kotkin's latest piece in Forbes is jointly authored with Richie Piiparinen and titled, "The Rustbelt Roars Back From The Dead."  It's an upbeat look at the Industrial Midwest, but peppered a bit too much with the "R" word for my taste.

The gist of the piece is focused on the revival of manufacturing which is sparking a revival in the Midwest.  That's contrasted with urbanists, Richard Florida thinkers, and the stereotypes associated with the term "Rust Belt."

You'll note that the "R" term is used as an adjective and one word--rustbelt--and only once used as a proper noun and capitalized outside of a title or subtitle.  That's not just a process observation on my part, it's clearly intended by the authors.

The comparison of the Midwest to the nation was compelling.  The pair wrote, "For much of the past half century, the rustbelt states suffered high levels of unemployment. But today Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin have considerably lower rates of unemployment than the national average."  If they hadn't preceded that paragraph with a couple doses of the "R" word, I would have been proudly smiling.

They take on the "hip and cool" sect too.  "Sure, Cleveland has got a microbrew scene as well, just like Portland. But a pricey pint requires a solid paycheck, which means Cleveland has microbreweries whose products are consumed by people who know microbes, and how to fashion steel, or develop new energy resources. Those tasty brews are consumed by producers."  Again, the best parts exclude any rust references.

Those heck-bent on using "rustbelt" as a pejorative wouldn't like this factoid from Kotkin and Piiparinen:  "In terms of engineers per capita, both Dayton and Detroit rank among the top 12 regions in the country; they have many more, per capita, than Boston, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago."

Overall, I'll still label it a must-read, but while I still encourage Kotkin and Piiparinen to shake the rust.

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