PA Doesn’t Need a New “Industrial Revolution”, It Needs to Urbanize More

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I think spending $1.65 billion to bribe Shell to build the ethane cracker facility in PA is stupid for a number of reasons I’ve explained in various other posts, but this quote from Tom Corbett is really a good summation of what I disagree with.

Flanked by lobbyists, labor leaders, lawmakers and gas industry interests, Gov. Tom Corbett this afternoon launched a very public and formal public defense of a proposed $1.65 billion tax credit for Shell Oil and other petrochemical producers, arguing that it could spark “a new industrial revolution in Pennsylvania.”

“Some say Pennsylvania should not invest in our future. They say the gas is here and Shell will come here regardless,” the Republican governor said at a Capitol news conference. “They are wrong.”

Just to keep beating the drum on this, fully 78% of Pennsylvania’s GDP comes from just the top 5 metro regions. The reason productivity is so high in these places is because of agglomeration. They have dense clusters of people and employers, and their economies revolve around people buying high-skill, medium-skill and low-skill services from other people. That is what makes a modern advanced economy so much more productive than a predominantly industrial economy.

So it is very strange that Tom Corbett is putting so much focus on sparking “a new industrial revolution” when the parts of the state that are prospering most are doing so because they’ve moved past the Industrial Revolution.

Further economic and prosperity gains are going to come from more urbanization – moving more people to the top 5 metros, and making it easier for people to get around within and between those metros.

Trying to increase productivity from a very low level in economically stagnating areas of the state is just a stupid use of state money.

Corbett is offering a false choice with this “some say Pennsylvania should not invest in our future” crap. Most of us Cracker opponents are out here arguing pretty loudly for investments in Pennsylvania’s future – but sound investments like, you know, educating the next generation of workers, and upgrading the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure.

One obvious place to invest that $1.65 billion is in expanding mass transit networks in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Both of those cities’ central business districts are seeing pretty strong job growth, and transit ridership numbers are growing, as Daniel Denvir reports.

But both cities’ transit systems are staring down big service cutbacks that are going to choke off that job growth if the state doesn’t come through soon with more funding. The case for state investment there is strong, since making it cheaper and easier for more people to live and work in the fastest growing labor markets is the the bread and butter of economic development. The state should be trying to capitalize on existing successes, not trying to reinvent the wheel.

(Thanks: John Micek)

This entry was posted in Economy, Transportation.

5 Responses to PA Doesn’t Need a New “Industrial Revolution”, It Needs to Urbanize More

  1. Veteran says:

    Urbanization? Can’t be serious. Philadelphia’s murder rate is now averaging six a week. Reading’s rate is at record highs. Chicago? About 500 per year. And the writer’s answer to those facts is to promote greater concentrations of people? “,,,, moving more people to the top 5 metros…”. He evidently views society as one large model train layout where people are to be moved around like figurines. Moved by their betters, the elites who are so highly regarded.

    How about this: let people alone to live where ever they care to? It’s called free choice!

    • Jon says:

      35% of PA’s GDP comes from Philadelphia. If people want more economic growth, the best thing you could possibly do is make it easier, *safer* and more affordable for people to live in and around Philadelphia.

      • phillydrm says:

        Jon, exhibit A of what has to be overcome to achieve your reasonable proposal – “them people live there”. Pennsylvania Pittsburgh and Philadelphia sandwiched around Alabama.

  2. vel says:

    “veteran”, now please show that urbanization causes murders. You see, you make a claim about causation and then fail to support it. There are plenty of murders in the rest of PA too, and they are spread out all over the rest of the Commonwealth. That’s why my sibling is a state trooper and works on murder cases. There aren’t enough local police to go around. The appearance of a high number of murders is a factor of the number of people in a concentrated, not urbanization. And no, no one is saying anyone is anyone’s “better”, nice strawman argument but it’s simply a lie, a poor attempt to create fear.

    As for “free choice”, yep, you can live pretty much where you want, as long as no one else owns that property. But you have to make choices. I live in a city now; I used to live in very rural western PA. I pay higher taxes in the city, but when I call for the police or the fire department they are right there. I don’t have to depend on volunteer fire fighters and then bitch and complain and sue (yep, this happens) when it takes them a long time to arrive since they are coming from other jobs. I don’t have to wait at a car wreck for 40 minutes until the closest state trooper can get there or ambulance to arrive. I’m not wasting money fueling my car constantly to get to work, get groceries, go to a hospital, etc. I’m not trading the future of the planet for some selfish “free choice”.

  3. Veteran says:

    “As for “free choice”, yep, you can live pretty much where you want, as long as no one else owns that property” and “I’m not trading the future of the planet for some selfish “free choice”.

    Sorry to say such statements are far too obtuse for me to comment upon.