Thursday, December 15th, 2011

What Does Globalization Mean to Non-Global Cities?

To anyplace that considers itself a “global city” – New York, Chicago, etc – globalization and global competitive reality are the defining lens through which they see their present and future. I happen to think that with the exception of a handful of the most exceptional cities, this is to some extent unhealthy. These cities take too narrow a view. Yet clearly there is an aspect of this global city thing that’s very relevant to them.

But to those smaller places that aren’t global cities, globalization seems curiously absent from the radar. I would define a global city as a place that is a material producer of global city services – financial and producer services related to the global economy – for export. Secondarily we might consider cities that are globally important hubs of transport, culture, political/military power, or of a particular industry.

I notice this big time when I attend events in these two different classes of cities. A civic conference in a global city will be all about globalization, or at least globalization will be used at a unifying frame for everything discussed. A similar conference in a non-global, usually smaller city will be about lots of things, but globalization won’t be one of them. This seems to be true even in very successful non-global cities.

I was talking with someone about this the other day. He spends more time than me in smaller towns and small industrial cities, and notes that globalization is a big discussion point in those places. His take was that for smaller places that have gotten chewed up by the global economy, the menace of globalization was clear, whereas for America’s tier 2/tier 3 type cities, which often tend to be quite successful, globalization hasn’t forced itself onto the radar. That’s not to say that there aren’t people in almost any city thinking about it, but it isn’t core to the civic discourse.

It seems intuitive to me that one of the most powerful economic forces in the world should be front and center for any city thinking about its future. How will they carve out a successful economic niche for themselves over the course of the 21st century?

On the other hand, for these non-global cities, it isn’t exactly clear even to me what globalization means or how they’d react to it. I mean for NYC, it’s instantly clear, but not for these places. Their networks are primarily national and regional, not global. Their economies aren’t based on trading sophisticated financial and producer services. Even though global trade, etc. mean something to them, it’s easy to view it through a traditional civic and economic development lens.

I’m talking about cities like Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin, Charlotte, Columbus, Kansas City, Providence, etc. here.

So I wanted to throw it open and ask the question: what does globalization mean to these cities and how should they be thinking about it?

Topics: Globalization

46 Responses to “What Does Globalization Mean to Non-Global Cities?”

  1. Zathras says:

    (1) Globalization means there is an additional cause of brain drain from non-global to global cities. Handling this problem is very difficult, but the problem cannot be ignored.

    (2) As you say, these cities have not felt the negative effects of globalization. I would add to that sentence “…yet.” There is a rising tier of globalization at the professional services level, and these cities will be hit by this just as much, if not more, than the manufacturing centers commonly considered the targets of the negative effects of globalization

  2. Matthew Hall says:

    Maybe this means that cities with more R & D, manufacturing, and eds and meds will show their strengths increasingly in the years ahead if business services are so easily moved around at the whims of globalized corporations.

  3. Ken Luther says:

    A Louisvillian perspective:

    Disagreeing with Zathras, I would suggest these cities are feeling the negative effects of globalization, the fact is the effects exist and these cities may or may not acknowledge and understand them, they most certainly are present. Most apparently, this can be measured in the downturn in demand for our industrial age manufacturing capabilities and techniques and is just one symptom that is dramatically affecting the city I call home, Louisville, even though I currently am stationed in Germany.

    Speaking of Germany, we can learn a lot from the Germans about how to thrive in this globalized environment as they continually prove. A recent article by Steven Rattner in Foreign Affairs “The Secrets of Germany’s Success: What Europe’s Manufacturing Powerhouse can Teach America” provides a great assessment of their strengths and provides some ideas on how we can learn from their success from both a national and city perspective.

    What I take from Rattners assessment is manufacturing is not obsolete, it just needs a makeover (i.e specialized manufacturing and marquees brands complimented with superior engineering and efficient transportation). New and innovative industry and niche products will allow Louisville to benefit off of existing export markets weather they are regional or global. Importantly, Louisville is constructively positioned to take advantage of global markets due to its strategic position on major transportation routes (UPS air routes etc…) with a solid industrial core. Keys to this future will be the highly skilled manufacturing trained through strong vocational programs within the city (much like GE and Ford have done in the past) and embracing the immigration of highly trained engineers into the city. Louisville has quite a bit to offer in this regard and through a sustained effort, should be able to attract the right skill sets.

    Regardless of the actions taken by smaller cities including Louisville, the pressure of globalization will be unrelenting. The message to my home is adapt and innovate…or die.

    Go Cards!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    You say:
    “But to those smaller places that aren’t global cities, globalization seems curiously absent from the radar”
    and then:
    “I was talking with someone… notes that globalization is a big discussion point in those places.”

    I’m not sure if you are saying smaller cities are not on the radar of global cities or that being a global city is not on the radar of smaller cities.

    Perhaps the larger question you are trying to get at is the role and fate of smaller cities in a globalized world. This seems to me to parallel the question of the fate of the middle class in a globalized world. If jobs that can be outsourced or easily replaced by lower wages jobs in another country, what happens to the middle class? Until we can find some answers for that as a nation and world, then smaller cities may continually struggle. Smaller cities across the U.S. did well in the post-WWII era when the middle class was strong.

    One answer may be in the clustering effect. Perhaps there are niches that small cities can exploit. For example, Columbus is home to a number of national/regional retailers. It seems the governor of Ohio has recognized the significance of this by trying to entice Sears to relocate to Columbus. It would certainly amplify any latent clustering effect that is happening there in the retail industry.

    Of course, the other types of small cities that are doing well are the ones that have good universities or state capitals or a combination. Perhaps the institutional anchors will mean places like Madison will continue do well, while places like Flint, MI will always struggle or continue to wither. Even cities in states that used to do well may always struggle now. Look at the cities in the Central Valley of California. Merced, Fresno, Modesto and others were devastated by the economic downturn. They may never completely recover.

  5. John Morris says:

    I’m not sure what defines a city as “global or non global” Santa Fe is a really small town with I think 70,000 residents but is the second largest art market in the U.S. according to an article I just read.

    My guess is that folks use these definitions as excuses.

  6. Brett says:

    You say:
    “But to those smaller places that aren’t global cities, globalization seems curiously absent from the radar”
    and then:
    “I was talking with someone… notes that globalization is a big discussion point in those places.”

    I’m not sure if you are saying smaller cities are not on the radar of global cities or that being a global city is not on the radar of smaller cities.

    Perhaps the larger question you are trying to get at is the role and fate of smaller cities in a globalized world. This seems to me to parallel the question of the fate of the middle class in a globalized world. If jobs that can be outsourced or easily replaced by lower wages jobs in another country, what happens to the middle class? Until we can find some answers for that as a nation and world, then smaller cities may continually struggle. Smaller cities across the U.S. did well in the post-WWII era when the middle class was strong.

    One answer may be in the clustering effect. Perhaps there are niches that small cities can exploit. For example, Columbus is home to a number of national/regional retailers. It seems the governor of Ohio has recognized the significance of this by trying to entice Sears to relocate to Columbus. It would certainly amplify any latent clustering effect that is happening there in the retail industry.

    Of course, the other types of small cities that are doing well are the ones that have good universities or state capitals or a combination. Perhaps the institutional anchors will mean places like Madison will continue do well, while places like Flint, MI will always struggle or continue to wither. Even cities in states that used to do well may always struggle now. Look at the cities in the Central Valley of California. Merced, Fresno, Modesto and others were devastated by the economic downturn. They may never completely recover.

  7. Brett says:

    Sorry for the double post. Computer error :-)

  8. John Morris says:

    What was Merced’s niche in the first place? I mean I assume it was agriculture. I think we can move the housing bubble communities that never had real economies beyond real estate from the discussion.

    This also brings up the points Jim Russell always does, that we should be looking at saving people and not places.

    The concept of “placemaking”, is important since industries can come and go. In the end what one has is a place, that people themselves have to see as worth staying in and investing in.

    I’ve been meaning to do a series of posts about the Mon Valley. Statistics seam to show, that long before the steel mills closed, huge numbers of people just chose to move out of places like Braddock and Duquesne.

  9. Chris Barnett says:

    One of the most useful courses I had at Wharton was one that imbued in me the notion of “scale” as an important element of analysis. To the extent that a city has enterprises of any kind that operate at national or global scale, they may be somewhat integrated into globalization.

    For instance, Indianapolis is the US headquarters of Rolls-Royce (the jet engine maker). Jet engines are a world-scale industry with only a few specialized manufacturers. Indianapolis is also home of Wellpoint, one of the two dominant health-insurers in the US. And it is also home to Eli Lilly and Dow Agro, two of the couple dozen major players in life sciences. And, of course, Indianapolis is the home of the largest single-day sporting event in the world, featuring drivers from everywhere.

    Indy may not be a “global city” but it is fully integrated into the global marketplace. It isn’t discussed much because it’s assumed in the business community.

    As to making “globalization” part of the civic dialog: to what end? It is the unsophisticated take on globalization that leads to polarization and simplistic arguments. (I assume Aaron may have been referring to Richard Longworth as the person who “always” hears globalization discussions in small towns and cities that are losing their middle class. The unsophisticated crowd wants to blame someone somewhere for the bad things happening RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY!)

    In the meantime, the cities you cite have become home to interesting communities of world immigrants. You’ve previously highlighted Sikhs in Indy. There are lots of Somalians in MSP. And so on.

    Globalization happens, most educated people are aware of it, most accept it.

  10. Matthew Hall says:

    While cincinnati has GE jet engines, P&G, and omnicare, an insurance drug plan administrator. That seems like duplication instead of specialization, to me.

  11. Jon Hendricks says:

    To build on John Morris’s point in comment #5, Oak Ridge, TN is a city of about 30,000 people that is very international thanks to the DOE and resulting engineering firms.

    And to add to Chris Barnett’s comment in #9, as someone who works for a manufacturer in Eastern Tennessee that sells products all over the world and produces products in several countries, educated business professionals here too understand and embrace globalization. There are many companies located in many small towns that understand and take advantage of globalization. Maybe laid off factory workers who blame NAFTA for their lot don’t understand it, but small business owners do. I used to live in rural (micropolitan) Southern Illinois and the economic development crowd and political leadership understands globalization and push for such investments as broadband access in addition to the usual business parks and tax breaks. Koch Enterprises in Evansville, Indiana routinely writes opinions to the local paper demanding better local education so they can hire better workers to compete globally.

    Perhaps what the above article gets at has more to do with the disconnect between business owners and professionals on the one hand and on the other hand lower middle class people displaced by the shift from an industrial economy to a services economy. Perhaps in places like Chicago and NYC there is a threshold number of business professionals so as to dominate the media and the civic conversation, but in smaller cities and rural areas, that threshold has not been reached and so more of the civic conversation is dominated by those with a limited to nonexistent grasp of globalization.

  12. Jim Russell says:

    I see cities such as Indianapolis as successful in a domestic context. The effects of globalization aren’t immediately obvious. They trickle down from global cities. I argue that Indianapolis should be thinking about its relationship with global cities, namely Chicago. The global ambition for these tier 2 and 3 cities amounts to civic hubris, a waste of valuable time and resources. It’s particularly ugly in cities such as Pittsburgh where faded global importance is still burned in the collective psyche of the leadership.

  13. Catherine Tumber says:

    “Globalization” as we’ve known it is short-lived. It is partly a product of neoliberal hubris, partly an outgrowth of speculative bubble culture. It will be trimmed down in the age of global warming and as high-tech knowledge industries and manufacturing are forced into closer proximity. This need for proximity, which facilitates true innovation, is already recognized by firms doing business in China, and the US is losing ground because of it. Smaller industrial cities should prepare for a diversified economic portfolio that includes low-carbon manufacturing (including automotives), high tech, sustainable agriculture, and relocalized retail. I spell all this out in my book Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, just released by the MIT Press. Here’s the website promo:

  14. Chris Barnett says:

    Jon Hendricks’ last paragraph is a pretty good summation.

    What scares me is that the civic conversations of so many cities are NOT about the things Catherine Tumber has highlighted. GM closed its million-square-foot metal stamping plant just outside downtown Indy last year…and the New Urbanist design-based solution was to create a new urban village and a “statement” bridge across the river to connect it to downtown.

    That’s a pretty big disconnect from the reality. A huge facility located next to excellent street, highway, and rail infrastructure should be reused as a place for manufacturing and distribution jobs.

  15. Derek Rutherford says:

    Where do you draw the line on “Global Cities”? Do Dallas and Boston count? They certainly have many characteristics of “Global Cities”, such as corporations and institutions (universities, in Boston’s case) of international importance. That said, they are rarely grouped with NY and London.

    I think a better way to think of this question is by analyzing how much of a metro area’s activity is internationally competitive. In some cities, such as NY and London, most of the city is oriented around such activities or around servicing those who perform them. In a Boston or Dallas, the percentages are perhaps lower but still substantial and crucial to their cities’ prosperity. In a St Louis, the percentage is lower still.

    In this view, a big reason for the stagnation/decline of so many mid-western cities is that (A) the area where they were internationally competitive (mechanical industry and manufacturing) slipped, either in a relative or absolute sense, and (B) little new grew to take its place after about 1960. Lots of people have offered good analyses of the reasons behind (A), but there are fewer good analyses of (B).

  16. As the last few comments have noted, globalization may just be a fad, or at least another bubble of sorts. Those smaller cities which haven’t completely jumped on the globalization bandwagon may actually benefit in the future when rising energy prices, financial and governmental turmoil, and any number of other unexpected factors serves to reign in and maybe reverse a lot of the globalization that’s already happened. As it is, globalization is a cheap energy (mainly cheap oil) outcome, and that in itself makes its permanence doubtful.

    Turmoil could also come from the middle classes devolving to the poor masses. Eventually enough people might realize that globalization and outsourcing is not the best solution for society. We’ve seen how such practices have enriched the upper crust while the middle class has stagnated at best. Eventually it will likely destroy the very market for the goods and services being outsourced anyway. If things get bad enough, we could see policies introduced (hopefully without the need for full on revolution) that starts de-globalizing things that really don’t need to be, and that will create a completely different dynamic in not only the global tier 1 cities but the smaller ones as well.

  17. DaveOf Richmond says:

    Globalization is not a fad that will be disappearing soon. However, there are limits. We see this already in the quality of programmer we get from India – 15 years ago, almost all of them that showed up onshore here were very good, very motivated. But then everyone got on the Bangalore bandwagon, and now they’re skimming the bottom of the barrel. We still get some good people, but they cost more now. The cheap ones are mediocre, at best. Simple supply and demand.

    Thus we see IBM setting up data centers in Lansing MI, Dubuque IA, and Columbia, MO and hiring Americans into them (onshoring, I guess). The type of work is technical, but it isn’t the super top rank “let’s reinvent the world” type of technology that Silicon Valley and Boston do (or try to do). It requires people with good tech skills, but not cutting-edge skills. It pays pretty well, but you’re not going to become a millionaire. These are the kind of things that “non-global” cities can do.

  18. Mark Bardwell says:

    I would dispute the accuracy of the supposedly non-global cities listed here (“Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin, Charlotte, Columbus, Kansas City, Providence, etc.”) I live in DC now and have lived in two of these: Charlotte and Columbus.

    I would call Charlotte a city that isn’t *yet* global, but likely has the capacity to be, and is considering whether it *wants* to be. I think that the answer will be yes to both. Charlotte today has ambitions to beat Atlanta as the capital of the new South. It is, Great Recession-aside, growing at a tremendous pace (almost 26% growth in greater Charlotte during the last Census) with a generally strong economy, has a financial sector far larger than would be expected for a city its size (number 3 in the US after NYC and Chicago, if I remember correctly), and an airport that is similarly impressive. It also has infrastructure plans for a solid mass transit system (at least, by US standards), new high rises, an outerbelt (almost complete), etc. The areas where Charlotte is not yet strong (political clout, higher education, thinktanks and nonprofits, biotech, media, arts, etc.) may determine its ultimate global position, but most of these are things that it has the power to improve–if it chooses to. And it very well might.

    Columbus is an interesting contrast to Charlotte. It is an outlier among cities in the Midwest in that unlike most of them (Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinatti, St Louis, Kansas City) it is a steadily growing city, not a once-great city in decline living off its legacy. It is also almost almost exactly the same size as Charlotte. Columbus, though, has a different mindset. It is regional/provincial–and embraces it. The city’s biggest concern isn’t business or biotech or global events or even higher education per se despite the presence of the behemoth Ohio State University, but instead college *sports* (that it beats its football rival, the University of Michigan). The city is generally content without a major airport or rail transit (the largest city in the US without passenger rail of any kind, even Amtrak. It has scuttled at least one light rail plan and HSR plan each in recent years, ostensibly to keep taxes low). It is, in other words, content to be in the middle: good in every category, great on none.

  19. Matthew Hall says:

    Cincinnati is not “living off its legacy”. It’s MSA population grew 6% 2000 to 2010. It’s GDP has grown to 103 billion and its experiencing billions, with a b, in new city center investment;public and private. It has its issues, but it is not in the same league as detroit, cleveland, or even pittsburgh demographically or economy-wise. Neither is Kansas City, nor St. Louis. This is far to broad a generalization.

  20. John Morris says:

    Somehow, this peice frames the Global vs. Non Global in a very limiting way. Thankfully, most posts on here don’t do that.

  21. Alon Levy says:

    For cities that are close to global cities – perhaps in the same megaregion – globalization is part of a local trend of loss of independence. Providence will never again be the manufacturing hub it was in 1900, but it may just be a secondary Northeast Corridor city with good neighborhoods and easy travel to Boston.

  22. Mark Bardwell says:

    @Matthew Hall: The Cincinatti MSA may be growing, but Cincinatti itself has fallen in population more than 40% since 1950 (503,998 to 296,943). In the 1930s, Cincinatti was so prominent that it was chosen as the site for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s hard to imagine that today. St Louis is in even worse shape. Its population, 319,294 is barely a third of the 856,796 people there in 1950. And while I may have been hard on Kansas City (Buffalo or Pittsburg may have been better choices), it is a leading example of jurisdictional infighting to the detriment of everyone:

  23. Matthew Hall says:

    MSAs are the scale people live and at and which economies operate. Municipal boundaries vary so greatly as to be incomparable. That is why MSAs were invented and are the basis of many public and private economic decisions. Cincinnati(one t) and St. louis are a small part of their MSAs by land area.

  24. Mark Brown says:

    Didn’t Cincy have massive race riots in the 2000s?

  25. Matthew Hall says:

    Mark Brown, No. They were not “riots” and were far from “massive.” A few dozen poor, angry young men, many of whom had long criminal records, smashed some windows and yelled a lot in response to a police shooting of one young man in the Over the Rhine neighborhood. That same neighborhood is now bursting with dozens of new restaurants, shops, and thousands of new residents living in beautifully remodeled 19th century buildings with hundreds more on the way. There is a popular public market, a 19th century public park that is being turned into a 3 acre jewel of a park at the expense of $48 million, a new arts high school, art college, several theaters and many bars and nightclubs. Almost all of this has happened in the last 7-8 years. Soon it will be traversed with a streetcar line connecting it to downtown cincinnati, its new riverfront park/apartment development and later to Cincinnati’s midtown area. If you are going to dismiss places you don’t know anything about, you really should do your homework first. As I suggested to Mark Bardwell, Detroit, Cleveland, and even Pittsburgh, would kill to have Cincinnati’s demographics and economic numbers. They’d love to have several of its urban neighborhoods, too.

  26. John Morris says:

    And also some of Cincinnati’s much more forward thinking about transit oriented development.

  27. Matthew Hall says:

    Hyperbole sells papers and says more about its creators and those it appeals to than its subjects. This was more than 10 years ago, Mark Brown. Let go of the past and move on; Cincinnati has.

  28. George Mattei says:


    The work done in Over-the-Rhine was very much motivate by those “riots” or “A few dozen young men” or whatever you call it. Sure, they weren’t the LA riots, but I think you are under-selling their impact on the City today.

  29. George Mattei says:

    I had some of the same thoughts others here seem to be hinting at. Here’s perhaps a hierarchy that is developing:

    1. Global cities that act as gateways to the world, usually via concentration in a global industry. New York, LA, Chicago, etc.

    2. Feeder cities that produce for and support Global cities-they act as both suppliers and consumers of the goods these cities hawk world-wide. The cities mentioned by Aaron that were the target of this post like Indy are the clear candidates here. They tend to have both wins and losses due to globalization.

    3. Rust belt cities that have been basically left behind. These were one-horse towns, often manufcturing, that now are struggling, and have little near-term vision of how to recover. These are the Flints and the Fresnos.

    Interestingly enough, some cities have shades of more than one of these. Charlotte is a “Feeder City” with a major international banking presence as mentioned above. Cleveland and Detroit are “Rust Belt” cities but with strong niches in some global industries.

    Globalization impacts each of these cities just in different ways. I will use Colubmus, where I live, because it’s most familiar to me:

    -Columbus benefitted greatly from the Bank One-Chase merger, which was a result of the globalization of finance. Chase has 18,000 employees here now, up several thousand from the merger. However, many of them are back-office jobs that don’t require a presence in a global gateway city.

    -Several large manufacturing facilities, such as the Lucent plant on the east side, closed over the past decade. These jobs left for other countries, as its easy to ship their goods through gateway cities for consumption here.

    This clearly shows the push and pull of globalization in a Feeder City. I am sure folks could apply this to many cities and see this pattern.

  30. Jim Russell says:

    @George Mattei,

    The hierarchy you describe is approximately what I have mind. My sense is that the label of “Feeder City” wounds civic pride. The mentality is that every city can be a global city, but on a smaller scale. So Pittsburgh subsidizes a direct flight to Paris. Whereas I think Pittsburgh should double down on its excellent connectivity with DC and NYC.

    The regional ambition is to graduate from Feeder City to Global City. As for the Rust Belt cities, I see the likes of Detroit trying to get back to being a Global City. Feeder City is not an option. It should be.

  31. Thank you all for the comments.

    Regarding Cincinnati, my observation is that its partisans like to have it both ways: history very much matters when the legacy of the past is positive for the present (e.g., the magnificent urban design of OTR or the incredible legacy of cultural institutions) but is discounted when the story isn’t so positive.

  32. I do think that “global city” has become the only paradigm through which people can imagine connecting with the global economy. There are other ways though, and while I don’t have a fully formed idea myself, clearly when it comes to items like increasing ethnic diversity and the need for local firms to conduct business on a global basis, there are things that require locals to have a response, to have some idea of how globalization is affecting them today and may affect them tomorrow and how to deal with it.

    I like the “Feeder City” concept but the name is flawed, IMO. That sort of hearkens back to the days of the industrial economy where the hinterland shipped raw materials and intermediate products to the likes of Chicago and Detroit, which where then combined or processed into higher value added products and shipped out.

    Today, these cities aren’t particularly feeder in that sense. I don’t believe they function that way, except in limited items such as air hubs or some regional cultural hubs. Rather, “Customer City” might be a better word. Places like Indianapolis and Columbus buy producer and financial services from global cities like Chicago.

    Certainly I see huge value in tighter connectivity between places like Indy and Chicago. On the “Feeder” side, the more international flights at O’Hare and the better the operations there, the better for Indy. Similarly for access to Chicago’s cultural products. On the “Customer” side, Chicago needs healthy regional cities to buy the product it produces. So it certainly has a stake in greater regional cooperation and perhaps lending things like Rahm’s star power to more regional initiatives.

    I think smaller cities like Columbus or KC would happily see themselves as playing second fiddle to a Chicago. OTOH, I don’t see that Chicago is interested at all in the Midwest. Rather, it takes great pains to try to pretend it exists as an autonomous city-state no longer burdened by the “shackles” of connectivity to its hinterland. I’ve directly heard high profile people express this notion in many ways, including noting how Chicago transacts more business with international city A versus regional city B, or by explicitly stating Chicago should deliberately avoid any type of regional association in its brand. That city is paying the price for that way of thinking.

    Perhaps there are many things smaller Midwest cities can do that don’t rely on Chicago (or New York or some other global city) taking any positive action. I’d certainly suggest figuring out what these are and trying to make them happen.

  33. Matthew Hall says:

    I hope the urbanophile isn’t suggesting that other American cities don’t also try to have it both ways. Sunbelt towns shamelessly promote themselves while ignoring their cultural emptiness, high rates of crime, and poor quality schools and public services. The story here is that Cincinnati makes an easy target for some, not that it is appreciably worse than dozens of other US metros. Mark Brown doesn’t have the nerve to attack Atlanta, Philly, Baltimore, or Chicago because they are bigger or “more important” in his view, so he sees an easy target for his put downs in cincinnati. Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and other cities have much more fundamental racial and economic issues than Cincinnati. That is the issue here.

  34. Matthew Hall says:

    The investment in Over the Rhine was motivated my many things. The desire of local banks to earn a solid 6% return on real estate loans in the midst of a collapse in suburban real estate, among them. The suggestion that more than a billion dollars was spent purely to cover up Cincinnati’s supposedly high levels of social disorder is preposterous. The same trends of centrally located areas becoming more attractive that can be seen in other cities has brought more professional class people and businesses to Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhod. Cincinnati isn’t the issue here, the attempts of its critics to single it out are.

    These suggestions are yet another example of seeing Cincinnati as an easy target so that some can reassure themselves that no matter how troubled their own cities are, they are still better than somewhere else. But, they’ve picked the wrong target. Philadelphia has experienced a series of ‘flash mobs’ that equal the 2001 ‘riot’. Where was the mass media coverage? The levels of crime in Atlanta, Houston, Philly, Baltimore and St. Louis make Cincinnati look like a Canadian suburb. Where is the reporting of crime in America’s most dangerous cities? It doesn’t happen because it doesn’t feed the need of for-profit media to construct narratives of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ that it can then play on to hype yet more such stories subsequently.

    Isn’t it ironic that outsiders have attacked Cincinnati for dwelling on its past and now it is the outsiders who are dwelling on cincinnnati’s past, while Cincinnati moves ahead with redevelopment efforts including a new city/county redevelopment authority, neighborhood public/private development corporations, a new casino, billions in new private investment in commercial real estate,a new streetcar line,and even commuter rail.

    If you don’t like Cincinnati, don’t come. But, if you are tired of talking about Detroit and are looking for another ‘failed’ city to salaciously obsess over, keep looking. Cincinnati isn’t it. Boring as it may be, Cincinnati is doing alright.

  35. Catherine Tumber says:

    I agree with the Urbanophile that the hierarchy described by @George Mattei and @Jim Russell is largely a relic of the high-industrial past, though parts of the feeder system could still be a viable part of a smaller city’s more diversified economic portfolio in a modified global economy. And modification IS coming, due to both the limitations of globalization’s internal dynamics (e.g, what @DaveofRichmond said) and the effects of climate change. But smaller cities must do more than be “customers” of global city goods and services–otherwise, how are they supposed to pay for said goods and services? Am I missing something here? Restoration of mfg (albeit with smaller, more nimble firms), local foodsheds, and a denser urban fabric, all integrated with vocational and advanced knowledge transfer at local educational institutions,could move these places past the old one-industry-town paradigm and tired debates about knowledge vs. manufacturing economies, while altering the way we think about “systems of cities.” I guess I prefer the term “Complementary Cities.”

  36. MetroCard11 says:

    Aaron, I’m not sure I agree with you on the “second fiddle” theory. As you’ve previously mentioned, cities these days are much more globally connected. Improved transportation and communication channels have helped in creating stronger networks from which cities can draw from. Thus, it doesn’t benefit a second-tier, new age city like, say, Kansas City to play second fiddle to Chicago when they can simply strengthen their own networks feeding off of peer cities like Denver, Sacramento, etc.

  37. John Morris says:

    Kansas City and a few others, perhaps like the Mountain cities and some of the Appalachian cities are outliers.

    On average, America has clusters of cities with short-moderate distances of a few hundred miles or less between them.

    NY/Newark/Trenton/Albany/Providence/Boston/Philly/Baltimore/DC etc..

    Chicago/Indianapolis/Columbus/Cincinnati/Milwaukee/Madison/Toledo/Detroit/Cleveland/Pittsburgh etc..

    Call it whatever, you like but complimentary and synergistic relationships should be the norm.

    This does not mean that certain places can’t be world leaders in particular specialties, but it does mean that reinventing the wheel is dumb.

  38. John Morris says:

    Rocky Mountain and Appalachian cities are different because mountains make travel difficult even if the distances are short.

  39. John Morris says:

    However, I do agree that technology offers the opportunity of anyplace to pop up as a global player.

    I guess, Bangalore might be the best example of that.

    I admire the folks in Youngstown who think they can be a little Bangalore. They might be right.

  40. John Morris says:

    BTW, how would one define Bangalore? It’s not a tier 1 global mega city like Mumbai, London or New York but it is a leading and developing center for IT and services, one of India’s largest exports.

    I guess, the general advice I would give is for any city to be alert and opportunistic. Youngstown, for example seems aware of it’s geographic region and eager to pick up dropped or loose balls as it sees them.

  41. Alon Levy says:

    John, I’d be wary of shoehorning developing countries into a paradigm that’s really about developed countries. India today has about the same GDP per capita as the US around 1900, at which time it had a contiguous manufacturing core, rather than the modern spiky core of global cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.). Thus it makes sense that its economic geography will be a lot like that of old America’s. In China it is certainly the case – Shanghai and Beijing are global cities, but China really has a contiguous core stretching from just north of Shanghai to Guangzhou, rather than a spiky core.

  42. John Morris says:

    Huh? Not sure I get your thinking. India’s poor infrastructure-poor freight rail system is usually sited as a reason most develpment is very spiky with most modern manufacturing near the coasts.

    I do think Bangalore is an interesting example of a place focusing on a business opportunity others didn’t see as a viable option.

  43. Wow, folks in Cincy seem a bit touchy. I’ve lived there. Race relations (particularly trust of city government in the black community)are a bit tense. To say otherwise is just silly. However, Cincy is doing a lot of things right. Though it will be many years before someone convinces me they’ve left the insidious partially hidden conservatism behind.

    Face it, in the Midwest, race relations and figuring out how to actually embrace the power of minority communities is one of the most long-standing and ignored issues in cities today.

  44. Matthew Hall says:

    And folks outside Cincinnati seem a bit hypocritical. It will be years before someone convinces me that Boston or San Francisco have left their insidious lecturing, sanctimoniousness, government know best attitudes behind. It will be years before someone convinces me that Detroit or Buffalo have left their insidious unionism behind and it will be decades before someone convinces me that Atlanta and Philly have left their insidious violent natures behind.

    Let’s just let each other do our things and leave it at that. Face it, I didn’t bring up Cincinnati, others did. I’m just calling them on their selection of Cincinnati as a target on which to project their prejudices and hostilities.

  45. rustyrustbelt says:

    At the moment many of the interior cities are struggling with keeping police officers and fire fighters on the payroll, so long term planning tends to get shoved aside.

    I’m guessing most of the comments above were written by people with at least two college degrees (as do I) and there is a underlying thread of contempt for “working people,” those who are too busy working (or looking for work) to spend time finishing a graduate degree or reading blogs. Being a former union member (laborers) from a blue collar family none of this surprises me.

    Really, really smart people made most of the mess and made most of the mistakes, for which blue collar workers get to suffer. Nice.

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