Sunday, November 15, 2009

Get Your Globalization Game On

Jon Meacham ends his introduction to the November 23rd issue of Newsweek with the following sentence:

Globalization is not a zero-sum game, but we need to hone our skills to stay in play.

This month, I've been looking to the Greater Youngstown media to help the Mahoning Valley hone its skills for the globalization game. A column in the Sunday Vindicator suggests that the local reporters are not up to the task. Bertram de Souza thinks that US President Barack Obama should intercede on the Valley's behalf concerning the location of V&M Star's pending expansion. Read Eric Planey's comment, which explains the fundamental misunderstanding of the situation informing the opinion piece.

Houston is one of the sites in the running. Another option is Muskogee, Oklahoma. Given this report, also in the Vindicator, the reader might wonder if all the incentives are necessary. That issue deserves some commentary. Consider what James Duderstadt (director of the University of Michigan's Millennium Project) has to say about such an approach to economic development:

It's basically stupid. We hear over and over from companies thinking of moving here that they don't relocate because of tax breaks. People are going to move here for other reasons, such as the quality of life. Or access to markets. Or because it's a beautiful place to be.

Top officials with the Vallourec Group, V&M’s parent company, met Nov. 2 with Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams at its Paris world headquarters to discuss the proposal. ...

... Among the areas mentioned, Williams said the Valley best suits the company’s needs if it expands.

Williams said Vallourec officials mentioned those assets during the Nov. 2 meeting: the company already has a facility here that employs more workers than its two other North American locations combined; the Valley workforce; the financial incentives put together by Youngstown, Girard and the state; and the proximity of Youngstown to V&M’s main customers in New England, New York, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.

V&M manufactures seamless tubes used mostly in the oil and gas industry.

To me, that sounds like a slam dunk; and I don't mean the financial incentives. I'm still waiting to read how the Marcellus Shale natural gas play is factoring into V&M Star's plans. Perhaps I'm connecting the wrong dots, but the Mahoning Valley journalists are doing little to flesh out a billion dollar story. The scale of context is too small.

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