NARROW RANGE

When you live in the Rust Belt, talk of Urban Renewal is never far away. With a few exceptions – Chicago, Pittsburgh, perhaps Indianapolis – the Third Wave of Capitalism has not been kind to this area. Pick any of the minor cities of Pennsylvania, Ohio, upstate New York, downstate Illinois, or Michigan and the story is largely the same: all the manufacturing jobs are gone, nothing has replaced them, and everyone who isn't too old or poor to leave has done so.

It's not like we're not aware of the problem. Every city has some sort of pie-in-sky plan about how they plan to attract, you know, all of the Buzzword Jobs. Hi-tech. Information. Knowledge. STEM. Etc etc. The problem is twofold: there are dozens and dozens of cities trying to do the exact same thing simultaneously, and all of them have the same strategy. They throw free tax dollars at private industry and hope that it won't notice that none of the attractive things a business would want are available. The workforce is poor and poorly skilled, the quality of life for transplants would be lousy, and the location has little logistical appeal. I mean, what the hell do the Saginaw, Michigans of the world really have to offer? There's a reason these places are sinking ships.

And the sad thing is, they still have it better than the Dakotas.

Unless you are interested in temporary work in the shale oil industry in North Dakota / Montana, what in the name of god would draw anyone to those places? Don't worry, they can't figure it out either. That is a very interesting link, a story of governments trying to figure out how to sell their states and cities when they have very little to offer that would be of interest to anyone under 60. Wide open spaces? Low cost of living? OK great, lots of places in the US can offer that. And most of them don't have Hoth-like winters that make residents regret being born. And they're not eight hour drives from a major airport.

I like to think of myself as a person who can come up with a few half-decent solutions to problems when I encounter them. And I can honestly say that I have no earthly idea what South Dakota could offer major industries or young, economically successful people to move there. Sometimes a place is perceived as a barren wasteland because it is a barren wasteland. The range of things it can do to attract residents is quite limited, and the range of things that will work is even narrower.

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44 Responses to “NARROW RANGE”

  1. Mo Says:

    Time to give both Dakotas back to the Lakota?

    Then they can tax the oil industry for reparations and environmental repair until oil execs can only afford off the rack suits.

    Oklahoma, you're next.

  2. HoosierPoli Says:

    The Rust Belt will be back in a big way in 20 or so years when the West runs out of water and people have to start living in areas with rainfall again.

  3. Bosh Says:

    Well farming will certainly move to where there is rainfall but if you subtract out agricultural use, there's plenty left over in California for residential use. Just a matter of having the political will to cut off farmers from subsidized water.

  4. joel hanes Says:

    The Dakotas, along with Nebraska, eastern Montana, and Wyoming, were superb bison range, producing billiions of pounds of delicious meat yearly with minimal human intervention (The Natives burnt the prairies periodically). Perhaps this area could do so again.

    And perhaps not: we've flooded much of the Missouri bottomlands that were the richest habitat.

    Still, worth a try.

  5. Jestbill Says:

    All that "selling" boils down to a race to the bottom.
    Who exactly would gain if the Dakotas (or even Peoria) became the next SF?

    Not the locals, they'd be priced out. If the outsiders can get rich quick wherever they are, why not just let them?

    People who keep doing the same thing, expecting different results…

  6. dianne Says:

    The east will have to grow all of our fruits and vegetables since CA. will no longer be able to. I hope the growing season and temps are high enough to do so. The tobacco farmers in VA and KY will suddenly have to begin growing bell peppers by gov't fiat since they will have to not only sustain themselves but all of us. If the water wars and soon to follow food wars begin to impede imports from south of us (the honorable countries will only export surplus food) we may have a problem. I'm beginning to think this is what the TPP is all about. A multi corp will then be able to sell to the highest bidder (us?) no matter what the countries' leaders or citizens want.

  7. bjk Says:

    Harold Hamm recently generated oh about $10 billion drilling for oil in North Dakota. This post makes as much sense as "what is there in Mountain View other than technology companies"?!?!!?

  8. Anonymouse Says:

    My spouse grew up about an hour's drive from Buffalo, and my in-laws still live there. They're far enough away from the lake that they don't get Hoth-like winters, and their summers are certainly more pleasant than the southern hellhole I'm currently living in. The public education is worlds away better than what it is down here, too. They have farming and they used to have a lot of industry (the typical stuff plus Fisher Price toys and various small-ish manufacturing and other businesses left). I can't figure out why things are so dire; the cost-of-living is reasonable and the natives are fairly-well educated. My BIL drives an hour to Buffalo and my SIL drives 90 minutes to Rochester for work.

  9. FMguru Says:

    One of the grimly funniest threads running through ROGER & ME was the way that Flint, MI kept spending buckets of money trying to rebrand and reinvent itself, building a convention center and an auto-themed amusement park/museum and slogans and media kits and commercials, absolutely none of which worked in the slightest.

  10. Mark Says:

    Was I the only one that had to google "hoth like" to know what it meant?

    And what is the point of this posting?

  11. Tim H. Says:

    Dianne, we have a technology in the midwest that enabled our recent ancestors to enjoy fruits and vegetables in the winter, before carbon-intensive hauling of California produce, it's called canning.

  12. Jex Says:

    From the link:

    "Mars," the commercial begins. "The air: not breathable. The surface: cold and barren. But thousands are lining up for a chance to go and never come back."

    Cut to images of South Dakota as the narrator continues:

    "South Dakota. Progressive. Productive. And abundant in oxygen. Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?"

    The final graphic reads: "South Dakota. Plenty of jobs. Plenty of air."

    Progressive? Maybe it's because I live in MN and hear the horror stories, but there are reservations with 100% C section rates where native children are stolen, for profit, by the local governments. This is a state with zero resident abortion providers (a doctor comes in from Minneapolis a few times a month).

    I went to college in ND and as far as tourism and actual activities go, SD is the superior Dakota. At least ND is taking full advantage of having an original land grant university, NDSU (not the Fighting Sioux, don't get me started on UND) to recruit a small amount of high tech industry.

    The only reasons to live in SD are because you already have family there, or because you are so drawn to smoking indoors that nothing else matters.

  13. c u n d gulag Says:

    After WWII, the USA was flush – we were the last economy standing.

    Almost all of the other major nations were devastated by the war.
    But, they caught-up.
    The Marshall Plan helped rebuild Europe – especially Germany – and Asia – especially Japan. This helped avoid another World War – because, unlike after WWI, we didn't punish the nations who were our enemies.

    By the early-mid 70's, most of the world recovered from paying for WWII.

    All of that meant that our manufacturer's had new markets!
    YAY!!!
    But, that also meant that they had cheaper labor pools in those poorer countries.
    Boo!

    So, here we sit.
    We're no longer the world's most dynamic economy. We're still up there, but other countries have caught-up, and/or passed us.

    We have a few choices (and not just in America, but around the whole world):
    -Raise the tax rates on the wealthiest – and eliminate the cap on Social Security,
    -Or, at age 60, require everyone to report to their nearest "Soylent Green" company.

    I'd prefer that the latter not happen, since I'm 57.

    Ok, them's mu $0.02's worth…
    But…

  14. Skipper Says:

    Bosh hit the nail on the head. Nobody is talking about the elephant in the room in CA. Agriculture uses 83 percent of the water and represent two percent of the GDP. The only ones making money off of it are a handful of farmers and mostly giant agribusiness coporations. Some migrant workers manage to get a few bucks to get by.

    On the other hand, tourism is about 10 times more important to the state's economy. That supports tens of thousands of companies — large and small — and provides good salaries to hundreds of thousands of people.

    Yet the state continues to provide subsidized water to agribusiness and impose water restriction rules that threaten the tourist industry.

    Another major drain on water are the millions of Tamarisk trees, non-native trees that were brought in by the railroad. They are invasive, reproduce like bunnies, and are water hogs. One Tamarisk uses more water per year than my household.

    So, send the agribusiness companies to the "heartland." The migrant workers can either follow them, or the state can form a conservation corps and hire the workers to clear the millions of Tamarisks.

    That would leave more than enough water for everyone.

  15. Anonymouse Says:

    @Tim H: there are also entire states like, say, FLORIDA (oranges and grapefruit galore), that are known for growing fruits nearly year-round. Georgia, South Carolina, and even up into North Carolina have pretty mild weather, and get so much more rain than much of California.

  16. wyldpirate Says:

    Dianne, there is not much tobacco grown in Virginian North Carolina or Kentucky anymore. The bottom has fallen out of tobacco production in the use over the last 30 years. There are little towns all over eastern North Carolina that once thrived because of tobacco production and textile industry. They'really practically ghost towns now.

    Half the world's tobacco is grown in China and India. The US is the fourth leading producer and produces about 10% of what China produces.
    http://www.statista.com/statistics/261173/leading-countries-in-tobacco-production/

  17. rustonite Says:

    Ed's depressed about Peoria again. Sweetie, just quit your job, move to somewhere warm, and tend bar. You'll be happier.

  18. charluckles Says:

    I have never been to large swaths of South Dakota, and I am not sure it is a place I would want to live. However the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the worlds most beautiful areas and there is so much history there it's mind blowing. And Custer State Park at the center of it all is the best State Park I have ever been too. If you get the chanceto go, do it.

  19. Whatver Says:

    They got the Black Hills, which is a natural rain generator in a vast sea of drought. There's a reason it's considered sacred.

  20. jharp Says:

    How about Columbus, Ohio? Seems to be holding it's own.

    I have spent my entire 50 plus years living and traveling in the lower Great Lakes and the ONLY city to reinvent itself is Pittsburgh.

    That said I still like them all. Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee…. love the ethnicity, the food. the Great Lakes.

    I'm here to stay.

  21. H.M.S. Blankenship Says:

    bjk & Mark–see comment by rustonite. In response to the question posed in the OP, one solution is being attempted in my native Brownbackistan–casinos, lots of casinos.

  22. a hoosier Says:

    The middle of the country represents the best opportunity for anyone who has to warehouse and ship products. Real estate for warehouses is cheap and the central location minimizes overall average shipping costs. We're seeing a continued boom in that business here in central Indiana….one of the only growth sectors I'm aware of, actually. Plus, the fact that most of the work force that stays behind in places like Indiana are uneducated and used to hard labor makes them the perfect employee pool to draw from.

  23. J Hoyer Updike Junior Junior Says:

    I used to drive a big truck over the road and was amazed at how many cities and towns were almost totally abandoned in this great, exceptional country of ours. The people who clung to those places were desperate to remain viable in some pretty bizarre ways by trying to make their home towns "touristy" or unique in some way by sponsoring a film or art festival. It was sad to see them look into a stranger's eyes hoping to survive one more day in what they once had considered paradise before it was time to pack granny onto the roof of the old Ford F-150 and head to Californy.

  24. Mistergizmo Says:

    I live in the Shenandoah Valley, the former breadbasket of the Confederacy. My town is post-industrial, like many of those in the rust belt; the industries that used to employ 10-15K people are gone or diminished. Our local council members think we can return to the salad days by investing less in infrastructure and education, figuring that a very low tax rate will attract companies offering jobs that require high skills and pay good wages. Meanwhile, they're ignoring the natural beauty of the area, and actually decreased the Tourism Department's budget. Even a one cent rise in the real estate tax this year is facing heavy opposition, and may not pass.

  25. jesse b Says:

    As others have said, the vast middle will boom again when the West runs out of water. It's not just CA. The entire sunbelt is in drought, plus OR and WA. The stickler is that manufacturing has left the U.S. If it does come back, there are expanses of well connected and cheap land to redevelop. In Indiana, the main problem for quality of life (for me) is that there is almost no public land. The people are nice, the cost of living is low, I have access to better farmer's markets than I ever did in the South, there's art, some music, cool old architecture, etc. Unfortunately, the rest of quality of life has been plowed under for corn and soy.

  26. SeaTea Says:

    I love that someone didn't understand the point of this post and then said they had to google "Hoth". All is right with the world.

  27. RabbitIslandHermit Says:

    As a young person who's about to leave a rust-belt town (which for various non-reproducible reasons has done OK for itself) for Minneapolis-St. Paul I found this really interesting. Before deciding to move I looked up Minneapolis in one of those "what is life like in X?" sites. If you can imagine the type of person who's likely to write complaints about cities on the internet you won't be surprised to learn that these sites tend to tilt to the right, and there was a ton of bitching about high taxes and unions and URBAN CRIME.

    It's interesting to see this article confirm my suspicion that basically no one except the people on those forums actually factors state/local taxes in their decision to move to a new area. And what's more, the people on those forums also consistently noted good public services as a strength, even as they managed to not make the connection between relatively high taxes and good schools. I realize that Nowhere, South Dakota, doesn't have anywhere near the same kind of tax base that Minneapolis has, but it seems to me that their best hope is to put as much money as they can into public education and other services to get the reputation of being a great place to raise a family.

  28. mothra Says:

    Yeah, I always, ALWAYS wondered what in the hell those Scandinavian/Russian immigrants were thinking by settling in the Dakotas. Why, oh, why?

  29. Skepticalist Says:

    My Scandinavian relatives said that the family left Sweden to find a place with as bad weather as in the old country. They didn't make it to Minnesota or the Dakotas but their train tickets didn't run out until they reached western, NY. Bliss. It snowed today.

  30. Deggjr Says:

    Diane Ford had a routine about her Scandinavian/Minnesota ancestors who "climbed mountains and crossed rivers to find a place every bit as f* miserable as the place they left".

  31. devtob Says:

    jharp — Columbus is relatively prosperous (compared to Dayton, Akron and other former manufacturing places) for two reasons — a big university and being the state capital.

    Higher education and state government are relatively stable employers of lots of middle class people, and their services cannot be outsourced the same way that manufacturing has been.

    See also Austin, Tallahassee, and Albany, NY, where I live.

    Even small towns/cities in upstate NY (Ithaca, Oneonta, Saratoga Springs, etc.) are relatively prosperous compared to non-college towns thanks to higher education employing hundreds and bringing in thousands of generally well-off student consumers of local services.

  32. Major Kong Says:

    Why not Minot? Freezin's the reason!

  33. chautauqua Says:

    Since a few mentions of Minnesota have been made already, I'd like to point out our newest growth industry – data centers. Apparently the energy costs of cooling vast server farms is enough of a factor that locating them in the cooler northern climes is now the overriding concern. So, we'll not only have most of the potable water in the lower 48, but the DATA as well.

  34. Alex Says:

    Those shithole state ads always remind me of the roving dirigibles from Blade Runner advertising "living off-world".

  35. quixote Says:

    Just an aside to those figuring the middle of the country will go back to growing veggies. There's some variation in the climate models as to what will happen in Cali with global warming. The real world seems to be answering that question on the hot and dry side, but my point is that the models aren't all in agreement.

    However, the models all point to the interiors of continents heating up and drying out to a greater extent that the coasts. You know, 120F days and six month stretches with no rain. Desert conditions. The further south one looks, the bigger the effect. Minnesota may be okay. Missouri is rather red on all the projected maps I've seen.

    The only good news is the forecasts put that a hundred years in the future.

  36. Bosh Says:

    Waaaaaait, wait, wait. Yakima valley is having a drought? Nooooo! That's where all the good hops come from.

  37. Kaleberg Says:

    Sioux Falls, is an exception. Back in the 1980s they built up the telephone infrastructure which also meant training a lot of telephone engineers, installers and repair people. SF became the big call center. If you wanted to answer lots of 800 number calls, you set up in SF. Most of that has moved off shore, but I gather they still do a lot of telecommunications work because they have the workforce and they are centrally located.

    If you look at the places that have done better, they tend to have universities, and usually research universities that piss off government money funding moronic ideas. That's how we develop great new technologies and industries.

  38. democommie Says:

    @ bjk:

    Dear braindead fucking twit.

    Yeah, drilling for oil/fracking has no downside–talk to the folks on the Gulf Coast, NE Pennsylvania or Oklanohomosallowed.

    The piece on PBS about how OK used to have a couple of earthquakes a year and now has several per week is sobering. Also, too, there iis a lot of subsidation going on in places where they've sucked all of the water out of the Ogalalla Aquifer–but then I'm sure that these lefties are full of shit:

    https://water.usgs.gov/edu/gwdepletion.html

    Stick to things you understand, like jerking off. Moron.

  39. Marc Says:

    When I hear a theme like "Die on Mars or live in South Dakota", am I the only one who immediately thought "Hmm, that's a tough choice…"

  40. Ibod Catooga Says:

    I want to poop on Mars and live in South Dakota!

  41. democommie Says:

    South Dakota used to be a place with abundant water, wildlife and good family values. Then Phil Sheridan and his underlings decided to make MurKKKa safe for the corporatists.

  42. Robert Says:

    All of this is making me even more grateful to be living in Oakland CA (and probably not living more than another decade or two). It's going to suck for my kids, though.

    Some wag suggested recently that the Gov and Lege should take all the money they were going to spend on high-speed rail and build a series of massive desalination plants up and down the coast. It would probably work about as well, and the ruined plants would make for a better postapocalyptic hellscape.

  43. Two Below Says:

    What's this lumping of South Dakota with that other place and calling it "the Dakotas?" And what's with someone in Illinois (Illinois!) knocking South Dakota? It appears that what we used to call the Lesser South Dakota Association is winning the perception war. The story was that a tourist in SoDak asks "Does the wind always blow like this?" And the resident replies, "No, it'll blow like this for a few days and then really start blowing."

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