The Economic High Road

An editorial in Artvoice discusses some salient themes for economic development in Buffalo and Upstate New York that will be the focus of an upcoming conference on September 27-28 in downtown Buffalo called “The High Road Runs Through the City.” The essay begins with some surprising news to me at least that Buffalo was now according to the federal government the second poorest city in the nation (here’s an alternative news source WNED News). Here are some of the main speakers and brief summary of their ideas on economic development from the editorial:

The keynote speaker is global warming activist and author Bill McKibben, whose latest book, Deep Economy, argues for economies built not on growth but on sustainability, not on globalization but on localism, not on “more” but on “better.” Other speakers include Patricia Smith, the New York Commissioner of Labor; Jen Kern, the nation’s leading living wage advocate; and J. Phillip Thompson III, whose book Double Trouble explores the dilemmas of African-American mayors in impoverished cities.

Greg LeRoy, another speaker, is the founder of Good Jobs First and the author of The Great American Jobs Scam, which argues persuasively that states and cities are wasting enormous resources by offering tax subsidies to big corporations in return for promises of jobs. According to LeRoy’s extensive evidence, companies almost never base location decisions on tax subsidies; more often, they decide where they want to locate, and then milk the government for the maximum amount of subsidies by pretending to consider other locations.

The conference also features Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers, one of the inventors of the term “high road economic development,” which he defines as “high-wage, low-waste, worker-friendly, and publicly-accountable.” Rogers has written several books outlining pragmatic steps toward the high road and has organized a group of progressive mayors who are putting high road ideas to the test.


Anyone who frequents to read this blog should take the time to read through the Artvoice article; it hits on several important points that are important not only for Buffalo but for the entire Upstate New York Region. (I wish I had time to discuss it more in depth, but I have kids who need to get to school…)

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4 Responses to The Economic High Road

  1. Pingback: NYCO’s Blog » Blog Archive » Other people's blogs

  2. Strikeslip says:

    A lot of what the “Highroad” author talks about is true in many of our other cities upstate. Substitute Utica for Buffalo and New Hartford for Amherst and the stories would read pretty much the same.

    But the author seems to advocate more programs and more spending on the cities as the solution. I think the solution needs to be much more basic, but it needs to come from Albany: a restructuring of local government.

    We need to make it easier and desirable for Cities and Suburbs to merge their governments. This may seem radical at first because no one wants to lose control over their local government. However, people may accept mergers when they realize they have ALREADY lost control, and mergers can be a way to get control back.

    People with common interests are split into competing groups by municipal boundaries set up before the almost universal availability of the automobile, and by the multiplicity of special authorities, boards, and districts set up to solve special, often regional, problems. Redrawing the lines to connect all the stake holders with common interests should not only reduce costs, but result in better decision making.

    I discussed this at length in a post:
    http://strikeslip.blogspot.com/2007/09/reconnecting.html

  3. AZ says:

    I’m all in favor of government restructuring in theory. At the very least Albany should be in the business of promoting the entire Upstate economy under one umbrella; as it is too often it seems like upstate cities, towns, and even neighboring municipalities are in competition with one another. In such a poor economic climate there’s a sense that it’s a zero-sum game which I think is a major stumbling block to merger and regionalization. But just the fact that, as you observed, you could substitute any city from upstate new york for Buffalo into the article indicates that the current government structures are not working. And the problems are systemic and state-wide.

  4. Gigi says:
    1. TSUNAMII Says:

    where can i find a copy?

    To read the editorial in artvoice, click on the opening phrase An editorial in Artvoice
    or copy and paste this into your browser:
    http://artvoice.com:8080/issues/v6n39/lets_take_the_high_road

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