Do You Want to Live in Santa Cruz, Raleigh, or Rochester?

The suggestion that Noah Smith floats at Bloomberg for regional research parks:

Gruber and Johnson envision a string of new federally funded research parks, located in lagging regions of the U.S. They identify a number of economically underperforming cities that are rich in high-quality university programs and graduates — and that have short commutes, cheap houses and low levels of violent crime. Rochester, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, Syracuse, NY, and Columbus, OH top the list.

founders on a simple question. Do you want to live in Santa Cruz, Raleigh, or Rochester? This ill-considered idea rears its ugly head every few years. Thirty-five years ago I stood up in a townhall meeting about plans to build a research park in Evanston, where I had been living for many years, to say something along the following lines:

This is an incredibly foolhardy plan. Evanston does not have the infrastructure to support a research park. Young people cannot afford to buy homes here. There aren’t enough apartments for more people to live in. There is no way to commute in or out of Evanston.

Most people would rather move to Santa Cruz or Raleigh than move to Evanston.

The only enduring legacy of implementing this plan will be to uproot an historic black community that’s been in the location you want to develop since before the Civil War.

After many years of little or no occupancy the idea of an Evanston research park evaporated as silently as it arrived. Its only enduring legacy was to uproot an historic black community that had been in the location in which they plopped the research park since before the Civil War.

The reason that Rochester is in an economic slump is not just because it was a one company town and when that company folded due to management’s failing to read the trends the town dwindled with the company. It was because there just aren’t that many people who want to live in a town that gets 80 inches of snow every winter. Especially when they had other alternatives. And the very essence of the plan the two jamokes want tax dollars to pay for is to provide alternatives.

I’m in favor of more federal spending on research. The way to do that is with a mass engineering project analogous to the space program. I suggest a completely redesigned national power grid. It can be built out incrementally. At least we’d have something to show for it.

3 comments… add one
  • TarsTarkas Link

    Reality isn’t a Field of Dreams. Just because you built it doesn’t mean that they will come. Any more than bribing a company to come to a location means they will stay there forevermore (it just means they accept bribes, and inevitably a bigger one will come along).
    BTW, who benefited from the construction of the park? The politically connected?

  • Who benefited? Some real estate developers.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    In this state there is now only one purveyor of ready mix concrete left. He’s driven or bought out all the smaller ones. You’ll find him behind every growth initiative, roads project, ballpark, parking lot, stadium whether they make sense or not. Growth for the sake of growth, sold by the cubic yard. I’m sure there’s one like that in every state or major city. I wouldn’t say that he’s a bad man, but from where he sits, every large project is good for the community.

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