Apparently, the comparative advantage remains in the production of knowledge-intensive products using advanced technologies. Patricia Cohen of New York's Times files a report from The Cities on the Sunny Side of the American Economy.
“It’s pretty clear that some metropolitan areas are doing really well,” said Andrew McAfee, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The ingredients to that formula seem to be some combination of great research universities and knowledge-intensive industries, whether it’s high tech on the West Coast, biotechnology here in the East or clusters of technology and robotics in places like Pittsburgh.”The good news about today's advanced technologies is they're not as place-bound as textiles early in the nineteenth century or consumer durables early in the twentieth. It helps, though, for civic leaders to recognize the economic environment changing.
The Denver metropolitan area has become a showcase of the sunnier side of the American economy. While the region has some inherent advantages, like a spectacular landscape that beguiles outdoor enthusiasts, Colorado had long been held back by a dependence on natural resources as its economic base.
Its transformation into one of the most dynamic economies in the country was led by local business leaders and government officials, who took advantage of existing assets while also raising taxes at times to invest in critical transportation links, development-friendly policies and a network of colleges and universities.Perhaps, as this article is in the house organ for gentry liberals, there's a hint of cheerleading for Creative Class and Smart Growth nostrums. Or perhaps, in the spending on rail transit and entertainment comes an understanding that among the biggest government failures of the past half century we must include Big Highways and Big Sports.
“It’s the outcome of really about 30 years of diversifying our economy” away from fossil-fuel industries and military contractors, said Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. “In the 1980s, we were Coors, carbon and the Cold War.”
With a history of boom-and-bust commodity cycles, Colorado hit bottom in the mid-’80s, when energy prices collapsed. Nearly a third of the office space in downtown Denver, the state’s oil-and-gas headquarters, sat empty. Many of the city’s cultural institutions teetered, and a cloud of brown smog smeared the horizon.
Several measures helped things along. A new rail line that will connect the airport to the downtown and serve outlying industrial parks and a push to support cultural institutions “required people to vote to raise their taxes,” Mr. Clark of Metro Denver said. “This wasn’t something done by the elites.”The challenge is in maintaining taxation at a level that is symbiotic with commerce.
What Denver and its surrounding cities share with other boomtowns is an appealing environment for a skilled work force, which has increasingly meant the difference between prosperity and stagnation.
Such places have become business incubators and magnets for educated millennials. The lifestyles that 20- and 30-somethings often seek depend on a medley of urban living, public transit and lots of entertainment options (which in Colorado includes marijuana, legalized for recreational use since 2014).