Thursday, February 21, 2008

Beyond the Burgh: Ontario, Canada, the Great Lakes, the Rust Belt...

Things I should not have missed myself, but Jim R. caught this new comment in the Globe and Mail with another Canadian perspective on the postindustrial Rust Belt economy and specifically a focus on Pittsburgh area firm Kennametal. It is interesting watching the Canadian interest in the Rust Belt, or the industrial Midwest to use less of a pejorative. They know it's a big part of their economy especially considering Canadian international trade into the region, especially for Ontario. I mentioned last month this Canadian article which also looked at the greater Rust Belt economy. I have long been saying that we ought to include our neighbor to the north in many of our discussions on not just the economy, but maybe on everthing. On a good day it's a shorter drive to Toronto than to Philadelphia with no tunnels or mountains in the way. For the obligatory historical factoid: late Pittsburgher Adolph Schmidt was once the Ambassador to Canada even.

and speaking of Canada. Statistics Canada has another great research paper out: Cities and Growth: The Left Brain of North American Cities: Scientists and Engineers and Urban Growth by Desmond Beckstead, W. Mark Brown and Guy Gellatly. You should read it, it really ought to have been titled: "Adopt a literature Major Today".

Might be a good time to point out a few related things many know about already. The indefatigable Jim Russell has inspired the Rust Belt Bloggers network and it even has an upcoming Rust Belt Bloggers convention in Erie this summer. Canada has to be a big part in that discussion. Drive north to Toronto and you will have to pass through Hamilton in Southern Ontario. It may look a bit familiar to many a long-time Pittsburgher. I was on a panel not long ago with Glen Murray, new CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, and his presentation talks a lot about the shared and divergent histories of Hamilton and Pittsburgh.

And while it's not the same thing, there is overlap in the rebounding interest in the greater Great Lakes region as an economic region. Getting a lot of attention these days is the Great Lakes Urban Exchange which has an axis in Pittsburgh with co-founder Abby Wilson. It's been interesting watching a lot of the new interest in the economy of the Gret Lakes region. Much of that being sponsored at the Brookings Institution. Most talk about this as being something brand new. Great Lakes economic development was a big focus back in the 1980's and 1990's. For more on that read the history of the Great Lakes Economic Development (GLED) committee. You read the program from the very last conference in Buffalo to see what was on the agenda. I think one of the last GLED conferences was in Pittsburgh even before the rebounding economy in the late 1990's eventually waned some of the original interest that generated the committee in the first place. 20 years ago, shared economic miasma was the tie that bound many Great Lakes regions, which shared a taxonomy with much of the amorphous 'Rust Belt'. Something I am thinking about a bit is what are the ties that bind a post-Rust Belt Great Lakes Region. It's clearly a mix of old and new, take for example that the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council is still active.

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