Friday, June 5th, 2009

Mega-Regional Reputation and Other Midwest Miscellany

NCR Leaves Dayton for Atlanta

There was terrible news for Dayton this week as the city’s last Fortune 500 company, NCR, founded locally in 1884, announced it was moving its headquarters to Atlanta. The Dayton Daily News is the place for complete coverage.

This is bad news not just for Dayton, but for the state of Ohio and the entire Midwest. Firstly, it illustrates the plight of the smaller cities of the Midwest, the ones below one million in metro area population that I usually don’t write much about. These cities, including places like Dayton, Youngstown, and Toledo, are often struggling. Unless they are a state capital and/or home to a major state university, they just don’t seem to have quite the scale necessary to operate in the globalized economy. These cities have special challenges and I won’t profess to have answers for them.

Secondly, this is further damage to the economic reputation of the Midwest as a whole. Loyal readers know that I’ve been skeptical of cross-regional collaboration as a panacea (though I’ve also written some positive things about it). However, there are clearly issues that affect the Midwest as a whole. It has, for example, a collective reputation as the Rust Belt that probably only Chicago is able to overcome.

This reputation creates formidable brand headwinds in trying to attract the talent needed to compete in the 21st century. The Atlanta Business Chronicle had an interesting take on the NCR move, with one anonymous source attributing it to talent issues with Dayton. “They [NCR] can’t recruit talent to move to Dayton, Ohio.”

So what, you might say. It’s Dayton. But my town is way cooler than Dayton. Well, the problem extends well beyond Dayton. Consider Ann Arbor. If any city in the Midwest can claim to be a winner in a the knowledge economy, it has to be the home of U of M, the best public university in the Midwest. But according to an article in the Journal, “Despite Ann Arbor’s educated work force, employers here find Michigan’s reputation as a failing manufacturing economy can deter potential hires from moving to the state.”

In short, this thing affects everybody. Even the best regional performers will be fighting horrible brand headwinds as long as the region in which they are embedded continues to fail. It’s like a larger version of what I’ve long said about the Hoosier State, that there can’t be a long term prosperous Indianapolis without a prosperous Indiana.

The lessons of Dayton and NCR are not being lost on people locally and around the state at least. Local blog Dayton Most Metro asks, “Are we ready to wake up yet?

And a columnist in the Cleveland Plain Dealer chimes in with a call to arms for his city.

When Ohio cities lose storied corporate birthrights to the likes of Beijing, Calcutta, or even the green fields of Ohio suburbia, I understand potentially insurmountable market forces at work.

But when we continue to lose to the likes of Georgia, I only recognize underperforming leadership and a criminal failure to anticipate market realities.

In trying to understand the meaning of it all, we should reflect on the somber and lonely sentiments of a Dayton Daily News editorial that noted Wednesday that the city is now on its own.

Closer to home, Cuyahoga County continues to inch closer to its civic funeral. Not only do we continue to bleed off population and shutter what is left of our industrial base, we continue to act in a predictable political fashion that hastens our day of reckoning.

The inability of Cuyahoga County officials to agree on government reform tells the world that Northeast Ohio continues to be no place to do business. Like Dayton, our region remains a corporate cherry-picker’s fantasy.

Soon there will be nothing left to govern in Cuyahoga County.

Technology Rankings

The Milken Institute this week released their “tech pole” study of which metro areas are technology hot spots.

Ed Morrison over at Brewed Fresh Daily put up this nice map:

This study operates on something called “Metropolitan Divisions”, which for some places is the same thing as the metro area, but some big cities like Chicago and Detroit are split into multiple of them. That explains constructs like Lake County-Kenosha. Here are how my Midwest cities stacked up on the top 50:

  • #14 – Chicago
  • #17 – Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • #31 – Kansas City
  • #33 – St. Louis
  • #41 – Indianapolis
  • #45 – Columbus

Milwaukee, Louisville, Cleveland, and Cincinnati did not make the list. Detroit’s core region didn’t either, though the north suburban Warren MD clocked in at #30.

On a related note, Joel Kotkin asks if your city is safe from the tech bust.

Cities Where It’s Good to Be Goth

Even Gothic Beauty magazine is getting into the ratings game, publishing their “Dark Cities 2009” survey in the most recent issue. Here are where Midwest cities came in on the top 25:

  • #4 – Chicago
  • #6 – Detroit
  • #9 – Cleveland
  • #12 – Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Columbus, Ohio got an Honorable Mention.

Downtown Kansas City ROI

Seeking to determine the results from its downtown redevelopment efforts, Kansas City measured its increase in in city income taxes downtown between 2001 and 2008. According to the study, tax revenue is up by 69% downtown versus only 18% city wide. Also up, business license taxes by 49%, as well as major increases in sales, restaurant, and hotel taxes. The article doesn’t say whether rates increased on any of these, but I’d be shocked of they hadn’t on the hospitality side. Overall, revenue is up 46% downtown vs. 33% city wide.

Among the drivers of this are a new IRS headquarters with 3,000 permanent jobs and 5,000 seasonal ones, and a new H&R Block headquarters with 1,600 employees.

Hat tip BlogKC for this article.

Indy and Indiana Get Nice Profile in The Economist

The Economist has an article profiling Indiana this week. It praises the state’s transition process to to knowledge economy while acknowledging the major challenges it faces. It is pretty good at talking about various regions of the state. Here is what they had to say about Indianapolis:

Unlike blighted Detroit, Indianapolis is a lively centre, with sports stadiums and a fine symphony orchestra. Each year the Indy 500 car race draws 300,000 visitors. Mr Daniels, meanwhile, is an excellent manager. He earned the state its first AAA credit rating and has sought new firms by keeping taxes low and investing in infrastructure. Though every state wants to be a hub for life sciences, Indiana really is one, home to pharmaceutical giants such as Eli Lilly and medical-device manufacturers such as Zimmer. Life sciences accounted for 23% of all job growth from 2001 to 2007.

Zoo Interchange Price Tag Shocker

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to rebuild the Zoo interchange in Milwaukee at the astonishing cost of $2.3 billion. That’s not a misprint.

I’m all in favor of investment to improve our highway infrastructure, but something seems out of line here. To put this in perspective, INDOT is widening 11 miles of I-465 on the west side of Indianapolis, including full pavement reconstruction, and full interchange redesign and reconstruction, including two freeway-freeway interchanges. The price tag on that project is a much more reasonably $550 million. Other than the underpowered I-70 interchange, which was reduced to an inferior option to keep the project on budget, this is a pretty much first class project, with very nice, beautiful overpasses, ped/bike infrastructure, etc.

I’d say some a lot more detail is required to explain why this project is so out of sight pricey.

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine is a neighborhood just north of downtown Cincinnati that has an amazing intact stock of historic buildings in an incredibly dense urban fabric. If fully developed, this area would equal many thriving Chicago neighborhoods in density. It has been decayed for many years. For at least the last 15 it has been predicted to be the next hip neighborhood in town, but has suffered many setbacks, not least of which was a high profile race riot in 2001. The area appears to be on an upswing today, so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, here’s a five minute video Urban Cincy points us at talking about the neighborhood, its history, and above all the community and people who live there today.

For those of you who don’t have time to watch the video, here are some teaser pictures that Urban Cincy took of the area recently:

Another Impossibility City

This time it is Evanston, Illinois, which wants to clamp down on the Latino dominated industry of alley scavenging. This is where people in trucks roll through alley looking for scrap metal or other recyclables that people have left out for them.

This is like the ultimate win-win. People get rid of trash for free. Entrepreneurs who may not other wise have good options for earning money get paid. And stuff gets recycled. All done on a profitable, economic basis. What’s not to love?

Apparently the city doesn’t like competition to its monopoly trash hauling service. They feel they are missing out on revenue from the special fees they impose on residents and businesses to get rid to special items. Color me unsympathetic. The city is raising the specter of theft, but as someone who lived in Evanston for 3-4 years, I never once had a problem like this. Everybody knows that in the city you put something out in the alley when you don’t want it anymore and it either gets taken for reuse or recycling, or the city picks it up. It’s clearly a smoke screen. Let’s hope sanity prevails here.

Selling Transit

The Overhead Wire posted three commercials that were used during a referendum campaign to repeal a transit tax in Charlotte. These are extremely effective and demonstrate that a good sales job is a probably one of the reasons Charlotte got its rail system built. These are 30 seconds each. If the embedded videos don’t show up, click here

Perspectives of Denver

To see what a non-Midwest city is doing, let’s check out this outsider’s view of Denver by Greg Heller.

He’s very impressed:

I spent the past few days at a conference in Denver, Colorado. And, I’ll tell you, that city impressed the heck out of me. It’s a medium-sized city (just under 600,000 residents), and you can walk across its downtown in about twenty minutes. While the scale is much smaller than my hometown of Philadelphia, Denver seemed to be doing things other cities are only dreaming of.

Denver has a beautiful and efficient light-rail and bus system. The 16th Street pedestrian mall is vibrant, beautiful, and well-used. A free (!) two-way bus system runs every few minutes to take passengers across the fifteen blocks of stores, restaurant, entertainment, benches, trees, lamps, and chess tables. They also have bike sharing!

Cherry Creek and the Platte River run along the west side of the downtown with an extraordinary set of walking and biking trails. At the confluence of the creek and river, one encounters beautiful Commons Park and a stunning vista of the skyline. The gorgeous Millennium Bridge takes pedestrians from Commons Park to the pedestrian mall. The scenery is beautiful, all the while, surrounded by the Rockies.

The architecture definitely impresses. I am not usually a Daniel Liebeskind fan, but his Denver Art Museum is stunning. The new, edgy buildings of the civic center mix well with the historic architecture of the state capitol and other older government buildings. The Denver Convention Center is also a pretty exciting building (yes, that’s a big blue bear pushing against the wall).

Everywhere I looked there was major public art. This is a city that clearly cares about creating a beautiful place for its citizens and visitors. Meanwhile, a host of new condo and apartment buildings are filling in the landscape, bringing more residents downtown.

But he also notes the challenges:

As I walked for hours around and outside Denver’s central business district, it was clear that despite its stunning success stories, Denver has a long way to go. The landscape quickly transforms from urban to suburban. Walking east out of the downtown, I saw the thriving center morph into a landscape of check cashing and fast food restaurants. Even downtown there is not all that much there yet. Parking lots still dot the urban landscape.

As is true anywhere, all is not sunny in Denver. The city has seen new challenges arise over the past 15 years. The city’s foreign-born population nearly tripled from 1990 to 2000. However, only about 8% of Hispanics in Denver hold a bachelors degree, and the city’s poverty rate is about 18% for individuals. Meanwhile, the state of Colorado had major job loss in the beginning of the 21st century. Denver is facing serious issues of inequality between the minority and white populations, a need for more jobs and affordable housing.

More Midwest

City losing war against sight blight (Tribune)
A nice profile of CTA president Richard Rodriguez (Red Eye)

Small enhancements can make a big impact downtown (Dispatch)
Chase to add 1000 jobs
(Dispatch) – Remember what I said about Midwest BPO?

Day of infamy (Daniel Howes @ Detroit News)
GM bankruptcy is epic fall (Daniel Howes @ Detroit News)
Ford gives model for recovery (Daniel Howes @ Detroit News)

Topics: Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Transportation, Urban Culture
Cities: Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee

37 Responses to “Mega-Regional Reputation and Other Midwest Miscellany”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Reading about the decline of Dayton and challenges that places like Ann Arbor face, I'm interested to get your take on Grand Rapids, MI. It's one of the few cities where you can still see active development downtown and cranes dotting the skyline. Yet it has no of the typical advantages that we would see sustaining a metro its size (capital, state U, etc.). It's still very west-side Michigan conservative and yet has managed to make a name for itself in areas like green building. It's even spawning local efforts to keep the city active.

    Rob Bliss announces next urban experiment: Water balloon fight in downtown Grand Rapids on July 4

  2. The Urbanophile says:

    anon, I don't know enough about Grand Rapids to comment fully, but you may recall that in my long piece on Detroit I said I thought Grand Rapids was the logical hub of western Michigan. I've heard mixed reports. I've also heard a few pockets of good news about Kalamazoo.

    The biggest challenges I see for Grand Rapids are size, location (Michigan, not in the center of the action), and brand. But I know there are some key local companies like Meijer, so who knows? I've never been there but again, have read some stories about positive developments in the region, so best of luck.

    Wish I had more to offer.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To note just one (big) advantage Grand Rapids has over many similar sized metro's in the region (Lansing, for example): Wealthy folks who are committed to the region, and put their money where their mouth is. Many of GR's urban amenities (Van Andel arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Institute, GR Public Museum) probably wouldn't exist without the deep pockets of the Devos and Van Andel family's. One may not agree with their conservative politics, but they've nonetheless helped a great deal in increasing the vitality and relevance of Grand Rapids.

  4. Paz says:

    Amazing to me that they want $2.3 billion for an interchange when the entire Midwest high speed rail system is only supposed to cost $3.2 billion.

    I wonder if Toldedo, Youngstown, Dayton, and even Ann Arbor are suffering in today's economy because they are one-college towns. It seems to me like part of the reason Pittsburgh is doing so well, relatively speaking, is that there are a half dozen colleges and universities rather close to eachother, creating a kind of educational synergy (and population of scale). In the Rust Belt, Columbus is really the only one-college town that seems to be thriving, and that probably has more to do with the state capital factor.

  5. the urban politician says:

    Paz, I've never heard of the "one college town" as a liability. It's certainly not the same as, say, a "one company town" or "one industry town".

    Besides, I'd hardly call the University of Michigan a "college" akin to the kinds of city colleges, specialty schools, vocational colleges, liberal arts colleges, etc that fill the higher education niches of most towns and cities in America.

    Truth is, the University of Michigan does make Ann Arbor what it is, but there's nothing wrong with that, because it's a huge University! Every imaginable field of study is represented at U of M, and its medical center is massive.

    Ann Arbor may suffer from the Detroit stigma, but for the most part, that thriving city is the last place that comes to mind when one thinks about the true ills that mid-sized midwestern cities suffer from.

    Regarding Grand Rapids, I grew up about an hour and a half from that city but have only been there once. I think they would benefit most from linking themselves up to the Chicago megapolis spreading into southwest Michigan.

  6. JG says:

    I always enjoy Midwest Miscellany.

    Kotkin's article is interesting. This thesis is that a large tech industry in city has not shown to be a net job creator. Certainly this flys against conventional thought. When I reading an editorial by him I tend to skeptical and because I question his motives. Resultingly I also question the data analyzed within, but if true, this is a pretty remarkable phenomenon for midwest cities to consider when trying to chose which new industries to build around.

  7. JG says:

    My previous post is embarrassingly littered with spelling mistakes and word omissions. Not cool when I'm being critical of others.

    Additional comment on the $2.3B Zoo Interchange/Corridor Upgrade: This story is not unique to MILWAUKEE and we have read about in cities around the Midwest (and country.) The prior post on LOUSIVILLE and the excessive price tag for their highway improvements further illustrated the point. Our host, the Urbanophile, has posted previously in defense of highway engineers. He may (and probably) is correct that they are VERY well intentioned in their work and do not deserve too harsh criticism. They have many issues to balance in their work.

    Nevertheless, plans that are so heavily built around more lanes, ramps, and wider radius are proving to be expensive and failing in all ways they impact a city, OTHER than traffic. It is time these projects become multi-disciplinary in the planning stages. I encourage everyone to check out (many of you probably watch it regularly.) These are a series of lectures on technology, design, and other arts and sciences that are centered around researchers who have unique ways to look at and solve problems – often times out of multi-disciplinary collaborations. One good example was an artists who via crochet had found a way to represent lines in non-Euchlidian geometry that mathematicians had previously struggled to appropriately display. The point being, something very fascinating came out of the marriage between a traditionally female domestic art and the geometry of hyperbolic space.

    Similar results can happen at "city hall" given these types of approach to planning and decision making.

  8. The Urbanophile says:

    JG, I would always encourage you to check the data yourself if you are skeptical of someone's POV on a conclusion they draw.

    I haven't studied this matter extensively, but let me offer a narrative hypothesis to explain this. Namely that a place like the Bay Area could be adding high paying creative jobs while more than offsetting them with losses in other sectors. To the extent that public policy caters to creative class jobs, and those jobs arrive in enough mass such that they impact the overall urban environment (for example, via increases in land prices), this could simply accelerate the trend of people who don't fit the model getting displaced.

    It's sort of like my "self-destruction of diversity" post. If you continue to specialize in ever more higher value added activities, and niche markets, you can be adding huge economic output to your region while reducing employment and population. The appeal of this in certain circles is obvious.

    Something similar might be playing out closer to home. Chicago's urban core is booming, but the region is experiencing net domestic outmigration.

  9. JG says:

    URBANO: Thanks for your prespective on my comment – you're probably spot on. It seems the BAY area has found a self-destroying circle partially due to high tech, high pay jobs. An increasingly wealthy creative class pushes out the middle class. From Kotkin's article I believe he is alluding to this conclusion, and I probably agree. He is definitely an advocate for the sometimes overlooked middle class family.

    I hope, though, he would not caution against recovering/declining midwest cities from actively growing their high tech industries. I cannot imagine a modest amount of high tech industry growth causing NET job losses in Louiville, Milkwaukee, or Indianapolis.

  10. the urban politician says:

    Urbanophile said this:
    "Something similar might be playing out closer to home. Chicago's urban core is booming, but the region is experiencing net domestic outmigration."

    ^ You've talked about this being a problem before, but there is one question I have about that–is 'net domestic outmigration' really a problem as long as your region is still growing?

    The Chicago metropolitan area's population continues to grow and has done so since its inception, so what's the problem?

  11. Anonymous says:

    The reoccurring comments observing the decline of the smaller midwest cities seems to me caused from a lack of effective political power and scope. Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are still "big" states yet dont wield the power they should based on population and i believe thats because the organized political structures tend to favor the very groups helping erode or even destroy the economic base of this region, that is economic power concentrated in the hands of Labor Unions and pro union politicians. The unionization rate in this country is less than 10% and the companies represented by these unions continue to be crushed by foreign rivals. How long will the business class of the midwest sit idly by while the region is reduced to nothing? Where is the voices of logic and reason? When will the region wake up and realize 1955 will not be coming back and $30 / HR to operate a metal stamping machine is not sustainable? Apparently 50 years of ignorance is a start. NCR has a hard time finding people to move to Dayton because Dayton has chased away all the other manufacturing businesses thus destroying it's business network, once gone it never comes back. Its no surprise NCR chose Atlanta, in the Pro Business new south for it's home. Expect this trend to continue and even accelerate. No amount of academic thinking will lure capital and government interventions only offer temporary reprieves from the inevitable unless the manufacturing base can be freed from the grips of unfair labor extortion. Whithout the manufacturing foundation there is nothing to build a service sector on top of. There's no high tech factories to need hi tech electronics firms to service them, there's no advanced accounting firms to count the profits and law firms to defend the products. When all thats gone, then collapses the hospitals and research facilities that serviced the region. Its a long fall and we are half way down.

  12. The Urbanophile says:

    JG, you can always post a comment on Koktin's articles and ask him to explain. I've seen him respond to things over at New Geography so it isn't a "write only" medium for him.

    TUP, a few thoughts. Firstly, if more people are choosing to leave than to come, then that's an unhealthy sign, IMO. Whether Chicago is growing or not is irrelevant. All but a handful of large metro areas are growing. (According to the Census Bureau, the city is actually shrinking slightly). Also, Chicago is growing more slowly than the national average, so it's heft in the nation will decline as it has been doing for decades.

    Even if Chicago is, in a sense, successful, if it is only successful for some, where does that leave America, the Midwest, etc? Consider: city living is more environmentally friendly. So if we push people out of a place like Chicago, we are adding to the sustainability burden.

    Lastly, success built on a narrow base is inherently unstable and prone to cyclical problems. As prosperity depends more and more on a small group of people, taxation generally falls more heavily on them and their economic output. This renders a city vulnerable to niche exhaustion and wild revenue swings. Chicago's collapse in transfer tax revenue and the resulting financial problems at places like the CTA are an example of this. California and New York offer a more extreme example, where the states are depending on a very few people for large percentages of state revenue and when things like capital gains taxes fall off, it hurts them badly.

    Ultimately, I believe we are better off if we have a broad based success. And I think if people are voting with their feet to leave they are sending a signal that needs to be understood.

    I certainly won't say that Chicago's policies are a failure. Quite the opposite. Chicago has masterfully re-engineered itself for the global economy. It's hard to give an alternate strategy it could have easily followed. But the negative side of it can't be ignored.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Yeah it's no surprise that NCR chose Atlanta. It's amazing what $60 million can get you.

    Blaming unions is bullshit and lazy to do. The South (where I have lived for a decade now) celebrates a backward mentality of keeping taxes low because God forbid we pay for education, infrastructure or any other reasonable thing. It's disgusting. I can only imagine how progessive this country would be without the south dragging it down.

    They also don't believe in science here. My county, Cobb – population over 6 or 700,000 would essentially rather a Bible be their science book in school.

    I went to Catholic schools and we had religion class and science class, each with their own books, but here an irrational theocracy rules and it's all about a warped version of Christianity.

    And yet it's really about taking from the rest of the country…
    Do you see how the Southern Senators trashed Detroit last year all while talking about their foreign car facilities of which my tax dollars and probably yours helped support.

    GA is using stimilus money too in the NCR deal.

    Ohio needs to get its act together no doubt, but it's not a really free market that drove NCR away.

    I think there's a little hope for NC and VA, but GA even with Atlanta is deep south period.


  14. Anthony Bullard says:

    ANON 8:09:

    To call blaming unions lazy, while completely not supporting your argument in any fashion is in fact lazy. Many Midwest industries, steel and automotive the obvious examples, without a doubt suffered a large part of their decline due to many facets of the monopoly power unions held in those industries.

    And having spent the last two years in Texas, I can say that Southerners talk out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to science and technology. Most people in the urbanized portions of the south are pragmatic about the issues and understand that science and technology are what are moving their region(and the world) forward. How you feel about their religious beliefs is your own issue(and to be honest, I might agree with you), but in practice the South has a much better understanding about what it takes to attract and retain business than the Midwest.

    And yes, this has a lot to do with keeping taxes low and regulation streamlined. But, Southern cities, by and large, have found a way to induce the wealthier members of their region to invest into the community in an unreal way. And people view these Boomtowns as a place where they want to plant their flag and stake their claim to prosperity, so they are willing to take risks that you see few entrepreneurs in the Midwest willing to take.

  15. Randy Simes says:

    Thanks for sharing some information on Over-the-Rhine. It might very well be the most important neighborhood in the Midwest and one of the most significant nationwide. I'll be doing an extensive write-up in the coming week or so explaining just that, so stay tuned.

  16. Anonymous says:

    My point about irrational policies related to religion is that (and I noted this) is that it's not just the rural areas, it's suburban too. It's not just northerners moving to Atlanta it's people from small town GA, and from other regional small cities.

    Last fall, these Senators stated that American autoworkers (for domestic companies) make double then workers for foreign automakers which is a lie.

    They include healthcare and pension costs averaged into number.

    Additionally it is never noted how healthcare costs are handled in other countries. It might have something to do with the fact that the burden is less in other countries – much less. In other words it makes sense for business to support healthcare reform, and that is getting on to another subject but it's significant to Detroit that these issues are addressed.

    Instead using code language like "legacy" costs, it would make much more sense if industry were helped with addressing the healthcare insurance crisis in this country etc.

    As for regulations, we can see the dynamic of lack of regulation and the disasters that come from lack of regulations play out in the current historic economic crisis we are in.

    Streamlined is not what I think of when I see the bailing out of financial institutions that are "too big too fail."

    Reasonable regulations in banking and any industry are not crippling, they merely help prevent crippling meltdowns like the one we are in where we ultimately pay a lot more than we would have if businesses had acted more like adults than children running free in a candy store.


  17. the urban politician says:

    The "south" needs to stop patting themselves on the back:

    Less infrastructure = less taxes
    Fewer jobs = lower standard of living.
    Lower standard of living = lower wages.

    Those have historically been the conditions in the "south" but clearly those have been changing recently. More companies and more people will lead to more jobs, higher standard of living, higher wages, more infrastructure with more taxes, etc etc eventually the "south's" advantages over the north will disappear, with the exception of better weather.

    It's only a matter of time before higher tax, higher spending "socialism" will make its way down south–the tyranny of the Church over politics cannot hold up forever.

    Just my 2 cents..

  18. Anonymous says:

    At the risk of stirring up a tempest, the 'union mentality' of many midwestern communities needs to be replaced with a 'can do attitude'; and that 'can do' attitude is one where employees actually work together towards the objective of making the company stronger and more successful. It is not the me-them situation that has prevailed for so long. Likewise, management needs to change its attitutde and adopt compenstaion paractices that do not allow for CEO's (and others in the C-suite) to make ridiculous levels of compensation with golden parachutes.

    History is history…but in the case of NCR (like so many other company's)…when the union won representation in 1971…that was the peak of NCR employment in Dayton. Less than 8 years later NCR employment had dropped from 15,000 to 8,000 and it kept dropping. Some of that was unavoidable due to business cycle but how much could have been saved?

    It is a problem that can only be solved by employees (blue and white collar) working together towards a common goal…how to make the company successful.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Unions emerge in companies that have bad or weak management. Absent a change in that management, those companies will continue to decline.

  20. Alon Levy says:

    JoeP: yes, the South is backward about education funding. So is California. They just gobble the products of the well-funded education systems of New England and the Upper Midwest.

    Aaron: I don't see much mega-regional reputation at play. NCR decided to leave Dayton, not the Midwest. At the same time that Dayton loses headquarters, Chicago is attracting them. You see the same dynamics in the Northeast: Baltimore, Providence, and Bridgeport are shit towns, while New York, Boston, and Philadelphia keep attracting new work.

  21. The Urbanophile says:

    Alon, you may have noted that I had Chicago has an outlier. Maybe too the Twin Cities and Madison. But where else? When even Ann Arbor causes doubts, you know there are troubles.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested to hear from those doing recruiting in Ann Arbor if it's really as much of a problem as claimed by the WSJ. The big problems I've heard for Ann Arbor is the lack of venture funding for potential spin-offs from U-M and homegrown businesses and the need to find employment for the spouses of talent coming to the U-M.

  23. Anonymous says:

    If you really buy that cities have to attract domestic talent (brain gain) then the Midwest is going to have a huge problem. I just spent five years in Chicago – my observation: most of their domestic talent is from the Midwest. People wanted a big city with other young people, away from home but not too far. The ratio of people from MI/OH/IA/MN/WI/IN to anyone from the South, NE or West was probably seven to one or ten to one. If Indy, Columbus, Twin Cities, etc. improve, all that would mean is a slower growing Chicago.

    For cities outside Chicago, your foreign and domestic migrant talent is pretty much equal to the employment numbers at your universities, hospitals, and a few corporate research centers. Jobs brings those people here, making friends might keep them if their job ever changed.

    Most Midwesterners have never asked themselves the difficult question – if you had no family obligations or friendship networks – would you choose to move to the city you're in and settle?

    I like were I live. I like four seasons and snow, but I understand that most people have been trained to hate winter or naturally hate it. The skiing is better out west and in New England. I love our older neighborhoods, but you can find those other places where they aren't overrun with ghettos and criminals. I like freindly people, but I've found friendly people in the South and out West.

    Chicago is an entirely human-built environment. The only natural amenity is the lake. Sky scrapers and townhomes can be built anywhere. The main activity of young people is drinking in bars, which can be done anywhere.

    This is depressing. I hope there are comments from people in the Midwest. I don't want to hear any more from NYC and Sacramento.

  24. thundermutt says:

    "Most Midwesterners have never asked themselves the difficult question – if you had no family obligations or friendship networks – would you choose to move to the city you're in and settle?"

    Already did it…settled in Indy with no family obligations or friendship networks here. Stayed my whole adult life (so far)

    But frankly, Albuquerque is looking pretty good, #1 on today's "Top 10 Places to Live".

  25. Jefferey says:

    The NCR story is starting to sound less a "Dayton" issue and more an issue of a $100M tax incentive + a non-local CEO looking to relocate anyway.

  26. Alon Levy says:

    There are so many lists of top places to live that virtually every city is guaranteed to be #1 on some of them.

  27. Anonymous says:

    For what it's worth, one of the most popular activities for younger people in cosmopolitan places like New York, San Francisco and Boston is drinking in bars.

    A good nightlife is important in getting young people to move somewhere.

    Like a nice built environment it _can_ be anywhere in theory, but rarely is just anywhere.

  28. the urban politician says:

    Anon 8:23 said:

    "Chicago is an entirely human-built environment. The only natural amenity is the lake. Sky scrapers and townhomes can be built anywhere. The main activity of young people is drinking in bars, which can be done anywhere."

    ^ I'm not sure what point you are making here. If you are implying that lack of natural amenities is such a major liability, then why isn't everybody packing their bags and moving to Wyoming?

    The built environment in Chicago is exactly what makes it so appealing, and if people are leaving Chicago to move to the south or west, I have a hard time believing that most of them are leaving to be near mountains.

  29. Alon Levy says:

    Chicago's natural amenities are far better than those of the East Coast. In New York, the closest thing there is to Lake Shore Drive in terms of appeal and affluence is the streets abutting Central Park, the epitome of landscaping and unnaturalness.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I know a score of people who have or plan to move to the west from Chicago, and many cite easier access to nature as a reason for their move.

  31. Anonymous says:

    When we lived in Chicago, it took as much as six hours to get to a half-way decent camping trip. You've got to get out of the city – 2 hours literally – and then drive to southern IL or IN or northern WI.

    The basic principle is flat land=intense farming and no parks. Mountainous (or even hilly) = less farming and more parks or national forests.

    To get someone to move from the West, they have to like Chicago's built environment enough to make a huge sacrifice of outdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, etc.) If you haven't lived out west you might not understand this lifestyle. People go to bed early on Friday night so they can go play in the mountains Saturday morning before the noon lightening storm.

    In the south you can access the mountains, and therefore outdoor recreation, from Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, etc. Even the East Coast, Western PA and Western NY have decent offerings.

    My point is Chicago is full of Midwesterners because the circuses they have built aren't enough to draw from the rest of the country.

  32. Alon Levy says:

    Anon, I don't think a lot of people move to the Northeast for nature, even though New York and Philly offer decent access to the Appalachians and to scenic rivers, and New York and Boston offer decent access to New England ski resorts.

  33. David says:


    There are plenty (would say majority) of West Coasters who rarely go to the mountains, beaches etc because:
    * Traffic
    * Cold water
    * Expense
    Instead they hang out in their neighborhoods just like people everywhere. (in SOCAL the weather is a definite draw). In places like SEA and PDX the weather is not so great.

    The mountains and the coasts are wonderful to be sure, but the Great Lakes and many other man-made (and other lakes) abound in the Midwest/Upper South.

    Lake Cumberland/Red River Gorge/Ky Lake are less than 7 hours from Chicago and those areas provide some of the most beautiful country one could ask for. (as example)

  34. ardecila says:

    re: the Zoo Interchange…

    Have you seen the plans, Urbanophile? I-94 will have a EIGHTEEN-LANE cross-section at certain points, counting frontage roads, collector lanes, and distributor lanes. Onramps will be braided as much as possible.

    This is not the incremental addition of lanes that 465 and 294 are getting, or the Dan Ryan previously received. This is more than a doubling of the existing lanes in some places.

    I don't know if Milwaukee actually needs anything remotely this massive, but it seems like WisDOT has Houston envy.

  35. the urban politician says:


    I think you're overrating the importance of mountains.

    Most people, besides the outdoor enthusiasts that you clearly associate yourself with, don't move because of mountains. And if they do, Montana would have a lot more people than it currently does.

    By the way, I am moving from New York City to southeast Wisconsin BECAUSE of 1) a higher salary/cost of living ratio and 2) the beauty of the Great Lakes.

    To each his own, my friend.

  36. The Urbanophile says:


    I haven't seen the designs of the Zoo interchange, but ought to look them up. It strikes me though that the Milwaukee metro area is basically stagnant in population. Why would a region that isn't growing and probably never will again at a high rate need to invest in super-huge, super-expensive infrastructure in line with a Texas boomtown?

    Moving on, I've got to defend anon a bit. Spend some time in California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, etc. No, not everybody is into the outdoors, but a lot of them area and it is a big draw of the area. Seven hours to backwoods Kentucky isn't going to cut it.

    I know multiple specific people who have moved west or are determined to based highly on access to these recreational amenities. For those people, the Midwest probably can't compete, so let's move on from it.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Urban: 7 hours from Chicago is a bit far…however, those backwoods are 2-3 hours from places like Indy…Wisconsin and the shores of Lake Michigan provide lots of outdoor amenities that are 1-2 hours from Chicago.

    …of course because Chicago is world class and filled with lots of degree'd people making inordinate amounts of money…in 3-4 hours they can be just about anywhere in the country

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