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This website is owned and managed by David Hochman as an independent consultant on technology-based (sometimes called technology-led or innovation-led) economic development (tbed). Follow the tabs above to read about me or my work, to sample the services I offer, or to contact me. If you are interested in learning about tbed, consider the short reading list at my on-line bookstore.

My blog starts below.

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Metropolitan geography database updated

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As a service to the economic-development community, I have revised, updated, and relaunched this website’s accompanying database of metropolitan geography components. The tables in this database may be useful to economic geographers and economic developers, particularly those looking for a quick and ready reference to metropolitan areas they are not already familiar with. Some may find the tool useful for scoping out benchmarks or competitors, or for just getting a better handle on already-familiar geographies and their components.

The database is simply a skeleton without actual demographic data, intended to exhibit the relationship among various federal geographies and taxonomies in a way that is not easily available on any single government website. The tables have now been updated with 2013 OMB metro area definitions and 2010 and later Census data files, and every “place” record now includes a Google Maps URL.1 Instructions including video screencasts are here. I hope some of my readers may find this database useful, and I welcome feedback using the contact form or in the comments.2

  1. I built these tables for my own use and reference, and make no warranties of any kind as to accuracy, completeness or suitability for any particular analytic purpose. []
  2. While not implying any endorsement by them, and retaining complete responsibility for any and all errors, I’d like to acknowledge encouragement and/or critical feedback I’ve had from: Martin Grueber of Battelle Memorial Institute’s Technology Partnership Practice; Dr. Joshua Drucker of the University of Illinois at Chicago; Dr. Kent Gardner of CGR; Kevin Jack of the NYS Department of Labor; and Dr. Dror Etzion of McGill University. []
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Book review: Revitalizing American Cities

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On more than one occasion I’ve been approached by economic developers or policy advisors working on behalf small or mid-sized cities. These people want to know how their town can grow so-called new-economy jobs to replace those in traditional sectors that have declined.

Many such cities, particularly the smallest ones, lack a driving knowledge-based institution like a research university, and these are the toughest cases. They may host a primarily instructional undergraduate campus of a big public university, a private liberal-arts college or a community college. While these places do have students, sometimes in ample number, they offer neither a reservoir of promising intellectual property derived from federal R&D  nor concentrations of graduates (and especially postgraduates and professional students) superbly trained in the so-called STEM disciplines or well suited to startup management. As a consequence, these cities have little to offer the investors and business executives who control the allocation of startup and expansion capital in our system. And without financial investment and the jobs it creates, even the best-educated do not remain long: they simply have no choice but to leave upon graduation, deepening a cycle of trouble.

These small and mid-sized places are not the coastal metropolises and cannot easily pursue Richard Florida’s vision1 of dynamism based on coolness, tolerance, diversity, and density (though that hasn’t stopped Florida from pitching to small and mid-sized cities). Nor are they the small-city oases with high quality of recreational life that Joel Kotkin has highlighted (along with their suburbs and exurbs of course) for their appeal to rootless software engineers and other professionals2. No, they are flyover territory in the old, industrial heartland, burdened with all the cares of aging infrastructure and population, but without much taxing capacity left, and without enough private wealth creation to drive a virtuous cycle of renewal or even dynamic philanthropy.

Really, these places are at the mercy of forces well beyond the control of the usual civic and business establishments, and they are desperate for answers. With encouragement from the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative3, many such cities have come to understand they need this kind of guidance. But it’s always seemed that we were flying by the seats of our pants. Data are scarce, good theory scarcer. Experience rules.

When I saw the notice for Revitalizing American Cities — which doesn’t have the words “small cities” in its title but is nonetheless focused on them — I was curious to know what the latest scholarship says. Comprising papers by academics and practitioners, this useful review of current research and thinking is published by University of Pennsylvania Press (ISBN 978-0-8122-4555-4). It is co-edited by Susan Wachter at the Wharton School and Kimberly Zeuli at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit institute created by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter.
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  1. See for example http://www.creativeclass.com/richard_florida/books/books_home []
  2. See for example http://www.joelkotkin.com/content/00832-surprising-cities-creating-most-tech-jobs []
  3. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/07/11/announcing-strong-cities-strong-communities []
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A 220 mph High Speed Rail Preliminary Feasibility Study — prepared for the State of Illinois Department of Transportation by the University of Illinois in collaboration with three private-sector engineering firms — cites in its introduction Gov. Quinn’s “vision to more closely connect the University of Illinois to Chicago” as the animating idea behind an interest in the southbound O’Hare-Chicago-Champaign1 route as a priority for further study, evaluation, and development.

Whether this idea is a serious stab at improving university/industry linkages to a fairly remote campus or only a political stunt is hard to tell. I can find no further reference to the matter in Gov. Quinn’s public speeches or on the website of the University of Illinois system trustees. Regardless, it was a deliberate choice: Gov. Quinn already backs a well advanced project to serve Chicago-to-St. Louis with 110 mph service via Springfield, and there are several other credible possibilities in the envisioned Midwest High Speed Rail network, such as Chicago-to-Minneapolis.

But the idea of connecting the state’s principal city to the state’s own flagship research university at true high-speed (which is to say >155 mph, by all standards except those prevailing in the U.S.) apparently held enough appeal to warrant separate study. Under the vision for operation at maximum speed of 220 mph, rail travel time from Chicago to Champaign would drop from 2:10 on Amtrak currently to just 45 minutes via HSR.

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  1. and thence onward to either St. Louis or Indianapolis []
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