Friday, June 5th, 2009
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.
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.
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.