After my last column on hydrofracking, I was asked to participate in a forum at the University of Rochester sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa. In my intro, I quipped that I was the guy invited to defend the despoiling of the earth and destruction of the climate. Nobody laughed.
This issue has stirred a level of religious fervor that is reminiscent of both sides of the abortion debate. Yet common to most consequential policy questions, the hydrofracking issue (like Oscar Wilde’s truth) is neither pure nor simple. I understand the appeal of clarity and simplicity—we would prefer that fracking be either boon or bane. Complexity makes our heads hurt.
Let me make the case for complexity. Read more »
In Triumph of the City, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser attempts to explain why some cities—think New York or London or Bangalore—have prospered, even as the cost of communication has plummeted. The “death of distance” suggests the death of cities. Why do some defy the prognosis?
Glaeser reminds us that cities are “density, proximity, closeness. . . . [T]heir success depends on the demand for physical closeness.” He asserts that electronic communication is not a substitute for face-to-face contact (a proposition anyone who has endured a few conference calls will accept). Even sophisticated “virtual meeting” suites fall short. (Maybe it looks like Nathan is in the same room, but you can’t go out for a beer after the meeting.) Read more »
Governor Cuomo set November 14 as the deadline for the state’s ten regions to submit economic development strategies. Led by Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, many in our community are working furiously to articulate plans, goals and measurable objectives.
While we hope to be one of the winning regions—earning a promised $40 million in state support—the process itself has already been valuable. In my 20 years here, I cannot recall a time when leaders of business and government from the Finger Lakes’ nine counties have gathered to talk about what makes our economy successful and what might make it better. The process would have been even more valuable had it been less of a fire drill—a February deadline would have been better, although still ambitious—but we can be proud of the diligent efforts of the Council members and participants in eleven workgroups. The plans they have developed are a testimony to the vitality of particular economic clusters and the many vital economic institutions in the region.
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For most of 2009, Rochester ranked in the Top 20 in the Brookings Institution’s regular reports on the impact of the recession. Indeed, for 2009, Rochester had the 15th best job report among the nation’s 100 largest metros. New York’s job creation record was the best of the 15 largest states.
By the end of last year, Rochester had slid to #41 and New York State to #11. What happened? Well, not much. In Rochester, at least. Our job performance over the last decade has been quite consistent from year to year: We lost jobs, but never more than 2% in a year. The Great Recession was triggered when the real estate bubble burst, the construction and real estate sectors suddenly cooled and millions found their jobs gone or at risk. Having missed the boom, Rochester also missed the bust and continued the trend of the early part of the century—slow shrinkage as the economy struggled to absorb cuts at Kodak and other large employers. Read more »
I was transfixed by the recent riots in France over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. All the more striking was the participation of high school students in the riots. That, more than anything else, convinced me that France was in trouble.
My suspicions about the French were confirmed after I consulted the OECD PISA scores (that’s the Program for International Student Assessment from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). In the percentage of students performing at an advanced level in mathematics, France ranked 20th, barely ahead of Estonia and way behind educational powerhouses like, oh, the Czech Republic and Liechtenstein. Clearly, these poor young people can’t do the simple math of retirement. If their parents and grandparents are going to continue to retire at the cushy age of 60, the younger generation’s taxes are going to go through the roof.
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