10.01.2007

Make Stuff

It can be easy to relegate manufacturing to second-rate status in
today's economy. After all, everybody's about bits and not atoms; and
it's the West Coast and Sun Belt that's hot nowadays, while Rust Belt
cities are still recovering from massive factory job losses in the
second half of the 20th century.

But much of the global economy is still about making stuff. Machinery
might mean it takes less humans to make it, and the proficiency of
many developing nations might mean most of the cheap stuff is made
somewhere else. But the US is still far and away the largest producer
of things in the world.

And Philadelphia can still carve out a thriving niche in the business
of making stuff. Witness the transformation of the Navy Yard, a plot
of land south of downtown that is as large as downtown, where big
ships used to be made and serviced, and which is now being positioned
as a hub of 21st-century manufacturing practices:
http://www.philly.com/philly/business/10149442.html.

Full disclosure: some of the orgs involved here are clients of our
firm, and some of the leaders involved here are people I hold in high
regard. Still, I believe it's a true statement and not just my
personal slant to say that this is a good move for our local economy,
both in terms of job creation and commercial activity, but also in
terms of positioning ourselves competitively in the region, nation,
and world.

Once upon a time, we made Stetson hats and Baldwin locomotives and
William Cramp and Sons ships, so many of them and at such high quality
that "Philadelphia" became synonymous with high-end production.
Here's hoping the agglomeration of manufacturing activity at the Navy
Yard makes that a true statement once again.

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