University of Minnesota Provost Tom Sullivan advocates bold steps to raise the Midwest's economic profile.
Watch a video interview or listen to a University of Minnesota Moment with Sullivan about the summit.
The bucks start here
Universities look to pull the Midwest together economically
By Deane Morrison
July 3, 2008
It's time for Midwestern states to put aside unproductive rivalries and start working together to raise the region's economic profile. That message reverberated through the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis last Friday (June 27) as provosts from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)--a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago--vowed to join forces to help put its economic house in order. The summit, "Developing a Regional View of the Midwest Economy: Breaking Down Barriers That Impede Regional Progress," attracted leaders from universities, banks, government, and businesses. The University of Minnesota sponsored the event, along with CIC and the Federal Reserve Bank. "Incremental moves won't be enough," said University of Minnesota Provost Tom Sullivan. "We must have bold, creative steps." "Bold" describes the critique of the region by Richard Longworth, a member of the Chicago Council of Public Affairs, who stressed that the Midwest must come together economically. Speaking about "the balkanized Midwest and what to do about it," Longworth noted instances where the states duplicate efforts instead of combining resources. For example, each state has its own bioscience organization; if they were joined, then the Midwest could "lead the world" in this area. And the same goes for money from the tobacco settlement, which could go a lot farther if pooled. "Globalization affects all [Midwestern] states the same--it sweeps across state lines," he said. "The states are too small to compete [in a global market]. We're all in this together, but you'd never know it." Longworth also took issue with some states' habits of "discriminating against cities" and high-minority areas in particular when locating state-funded projects, plus deciding how local schools and governments will work.
"Globalization affects all [Midwestern] states the same--it sweeps across state lines. ... We're all in this together, but you'd never know it.""This is not a partisan issue. Cities should be cut free from state restraints to forge their own future," he said. As cities and states pursue economic development, they should keep in mind that there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, said Arthur Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve. One "wrong way to do economics" is bidding wars between cities for companies, such as when St. Paul lured a company and its 500 jobs away from Minneapolis. "It moved jobs from Minneapolis to St. Paul, but there was no gain to the state," Rolnick said. "But money was spent to lure them." An even better example of wasted effort, he said, is the spectacle of states vying for professional sports teams.