Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

September 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM

The rural-urban divide in innovation

On Sunday, I wrote about the strategic plan being drafted by the Washington State Economic Development Commission to make the state a world-beater in innovation. Seattle and the Puget Sound region already have formidable assets to offer. But even we face major competition from the Bay Area, San Diego, Austin, New York City, Boston and the North Carolina Research Triangle. World competition is also heated.

The state as a whole faces more daunting challenges. The world is not flat, as Thomas Friedman would have it. The winners in the new world order tend to be metropolitan areas. Rural America is generally poorer, less educated, less wired and less attractive for innovating companies. Its economic “wins” are usually things like prisons or low-employment server farms that waste huge amounts of energy. (The New York Times focused on one example in Quincy, Wash.)

Not surprisingly, unemployment in Grays Harbor County was 12.4 percent in July, 12.7 percent in Ferry County and 12.3 percent in Lewis County. These compare with statewide 8.5 percent and 7.8 percent in King County. The old extraction and fishing sectors fade away and little replaces them. Moses Lake has been successful in attracting some companies, but Grant County’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent. Counties with lower rates of unemployment tend to be sparsely populous and helped by agriculture, tourism and government employment.

Much can be done to help the entire state, including enhancing infrastructure and fixing the atrocious gap in college attainment. Agriculture remains a powerful economic engine that can carry its own innovation. And many rural residents like their homes to be, well, rural. But the reality remains that all over the world, urban areas will remain the key innovation engines, no matter how much statewide policymakers want to please a wide constituency.

And Don’t Miss: Shell companies — launderers anonymous || The Economist

Today’s Econ Haiku:

The first autumn leaf

Dropped upon me this morning

Not an Apple share

Comments | More in

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►