Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Knowledge Capitals of The World

Sometimes the folks at Brookings that study the world every which way come up with new ways of looking at things and instead of the same old lists of world leading cities, they shook things up a bit and created 7 new categories. This was their thought:
This report redefines global cities. It introduces a new typology that builds from a first-of-its-kind database of dozens of indicators, standardized across the world’s 123 largest metro economies, to examine what really defines a global city—its economic characteristics, industrial structure, and key competitiveness factors.
Larry Gourdine, National Human Genome Center Howard University, 
Sinclair P. Ceasar III, Loyola University assistant director of student life; 
Scott Robertson, Year Up director of corporate partnerships; 
and AndrĂ© Robinson, Mt. Royal CDC executive director 
Photo: Start-up Soiree)

The typology reveals that there is no one way to be a global city. Grouped into seven metropolitan clusters, the distinct competitive positions of the world’s largest metro economies become sharper, as do the peers metropolitan areas can look to for common solutions and investments to enhance economic growth.
List of 123 cities and 7 metrics (Brookings)

The new metrics are good news for Baltimore: The metro area does well in one of those seven categories, that of Knowledge Capital which happens to be also the most attractive metric anyway. (the others are Global Giant, Asian Anchors, Emerging Gateways, Factory China, American Middleweights, International Middleweights,)

Baltimore received high ranking for growth in worker productivity, important published research, internet connectivity and the percentage of the population with a college or higher degree.

Of course, it is nice if Baltimore can find its name in an illustruous list that includes cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC, Zurich and Stockholm, no matter that the list seems awfully random.

Assuming that "Middleweight" isn't as good as "capital" the gloating can grow when one looks at "American Middleweights" and finds Pittsburgh together with Detroit and Indianapolis or International "Middleweights" that include global leaders such as Copenhagen, Rome, Rotterdam and Barcelona.

I am sure that Brookings has good reasons for their list and that Copenhagen and Barcelona won't shed too many tears about the list. But Houston, Dallas, Seattle and San Jose have been celebrating!

The matter isn't entirely trivial as Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Don Fry correctly observes in an op-ed letter to the Daily Record. The new world is a knowledge economy, even though certain presidentail contenders and their followers don't see it that way and parochial nationalism has a global renaissance. Fry mentions Alec Ross, a Baltimore resident who is currently a Fellow at Hopkins, used to be Secretary Clinton's Innovation Advisor and recently became a bestseller writer with his book "Future Industries". Ross agreed to writing a preface to my book about Baltimore that will go to the publisher next week for editing. Fry writes:
Alec Ross, author of The New York Times bestseller “The Industries of the Future” ...believes this economy will be driven primarily by data and information, as much as iron drove the industrial age and land the agricultural age.
Those who develop, own, analyze and deliver valuable information – whether it’s computer code for corporate security or research breakthroughs for new medical treatments – will most likely see their economies thrive and expand, Ross predicts.
Parilla, one of the authors of the Brookings study emphasizes that a lynchpin for success for knowledge capitals will be that there is a workforce of well-educated workers living in the area to compete for jobs in the successful domain sectors.
“Human capital — the stock of knowledge, skills, expertise, and capacities embedded in the labor force — is of critical importance” the study says.

It will be Baltimore's particular role to unlock the vast potential of the many energetic young people locked into disinvested neighborhoods that offer no opportunity. Baltimore's Innovation Village has set out to doing just that.
In my draft book I say: "Decline can be final, but it can become a precursor for a comeback. Nations, corporations and cities have demonstrated that there is a dialectic in decline in which what seemed like a liability can be turned into an asset". This year's book “From Rustbelt to Brainbelt” suggests such a dialectic reversal. 

If sufficiently many forces are engaged in halting downward spirals, real progress is possible. For example Baltimore’s infant mortality rate: In African American neighborhoods it was slashed in half in seven years. 


Embedded in a nationwide economic recovery, Baltimore is at a tipping point. The new Mayor will will have the opportunity to tip the scale in the right direction through subtle but strategic intervention. In housing, revitalization, transportation, production and innovation the people of Baltimore can create virtuous cycles that pull other metrics up as well. The national and global trends of work and production, knowledge and creativity and the importance of good quality of life can support Baltimore’s come back.

But the city cannot solve its problems alone. A city that is attracting young people from around the nation because of its opportunities will force the region to take another look at reinstating a social compact on a regional level. Neither suburbs nor the City can thrive on their own. The unrest has brought these interdependencies into bright focus.


Whether Baltimore will tip towards progress or regression will decide if Baltimore will ever again will show up on Brookings list of Knowledge Capitals.

 Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Baltimore SUN article
Brookings Report