Investors have deemed factory work unworthy of most Americans’ abilities. Growing cities haven’t nor do they pay much mind to the outflow of manufacturing work simply because the compensation for it is so lousy.To a first approximation, that might be true, but the objective conditions that permit the resources formerly devoted to the departing industries to be repurposed must also be present. Consider one example.
Back to Seattle, while manufacturing work to some degree dried up by the ‘70s, this didn’t signal the city’s decline. Soon enough Seattle natives Bill Gates and Paul Allen relocated Microsoft there from Albuquerque, NM, and the city’s fortunes took off. Microsoft employs countless residents, but even that doesn’t tell the full story. That high-paying tech jobs at Microsoft replaced manufacturing work led to a huge jobs multiplier as investment bankers, roofers, lawyers, yoga instructors and baristas rushed into the jewel of the Pacific Northwest in order to meet the needs of Microsoft’s (now Amazon too, among others) rather flush base of employees.It's in your perspective. To some people, Seattle is "the jewel of the Pacific Northwest." To others it is a rain-soaked settlement halfway to Alaska. Detroit is also rain-soaked, but across the river is Canada.
What about cities like Flint and Detroit? They’re not crumbling monuments to the past because the Big Three automakers aren’t doing well, or because the Big Three are not creating enough factory jobs; rather both cities struggle precisely because the Big Three are doing well enough that they still create jobs in Michigan at all. Counterintuitive as this may seem, the sad fact that local and national politicians have propped up GM and Chrysler in order to “save jobs” explains why Michigan’s once important cities are doing so poorly, all the while driving away their best and brightest. As I write in my upcoming book, Popular Economics, to create lots of quality jobs we must constantly be destroying the work of the past.The objective conditions by which as old industries go away, new industries come in are not necessarily the same as the objective conditions by which the best and brightest get driven out. Popular Economics might be worth a purchase, but Richard Longworth's Caught in the Middle well might be useful supplemental reading.