Markusen / CONTRIBUTIONS OF BEN HARRISON
enhanced equal opportunity programs, and yes, selective firm recruitment. But he did not stop there. He went on to propose an 11-point agenda for implementing the program (pp. 82-85). Many of these proposals did, in fact, become policy over the ensuing 15 years.
In his economic development policy work, Harrison departed from much of the public policy literature in rejecting the notion that there is a single common good. His policy prescriptions are thus not addressed only to the state but also to labor and community groups. Harrison is most inter- ested in ways of enhancing the power and prospects of working people, and this prominence of class is reflected in his policy counsel. Unlike much of the new regionalist literature, which cele- brates capital/labor collaboration or focuses on creating cooperative relationships between firms, Harrison’s evolving New England work called for interclass and interracial coalitions and new, place-based efforts to create jobs. The marriage of class and community is prominent in these pre- scriptions, which are preoccupied with what working and poor people’s organizations might do rather than with good government policy per se.
In his economic development policy work, Harrison departed from much of the public policy literature in rejecting the notion that there is a single common good.
In Harrison’s national audience-oriented joint work with Bluestone (1982), the macro policy prescriptions of more public investment, a better social safety net, and radical industrial policy were complemented by those that are pioneered within, or targeted on, regions and localities: plant-closing legislation and early warning systems, worker ownership, and conversion of aban- doned facilities (chap. 8). These latter formed common elements in the agendas of emerging labor/ community organizing committees such as the Coalition to Save Jobs in Massachusetts, the Dela- ware Valley Coalition for Jobs in Pennsylvania, the Community-Labor Organizing Committees in Rhode Island, and the Coalition to Stop Plant Closings in Los Angeles, among others.
METHODS OF RESEARCH AND ARGUMENTATION
Harrison was sometimes disliked by regional economic developers, perhaps because his careful empirical work and powerful language provided effective ammunition for groups trying to prevent plant closings, start and maintain community-based development institutions, and pursue high- road paths to regional growth. Consider the following language, in Lampe’s (1988) introduction to Harrison’s 1974 study:
Although Harrison’s views were colored somewhat by his particular views on labor issues, he presented an intriguing picture of Massachusetts’economy from someone independent of the bias of both the state government and the business community. (p. 74)
Imagine how a parallel passage might sound if it suggested that a Federal Reserve Bank econo- mist’s views might be similarly colored by particular views on business but independent of the bias of labor! As Ned Hill pointed out to me, Harrison’s work was viewed by reviewers and in the New York Times obituary as “intensely irritating but important” (Nasar, 1999).
Harrison, in his research, displayed an extraordinary ability to hone in on the most significant questions and frame them in a way that would make a broad swath of readers, from practitioners to academics, want to read his work. Consider these chapter headings and subheading from Lean and Mean (1994b): Are small firms the technology leaders? Is Silicon Valley an industrial district? and Who is “us”?
His answers to such questions are always empirically grounded. His challenge to the myth of small businesses as significant job creators employed clear operational definitions and elegant data analysis (1994b). His work with Bluestone on “the missing middle” (Harrison & Bluestone, 1988) harnessed highly disaggregated data on incomes and economic regions to show regional patterns of growing inequality in income distributions, linked to differences in industrial restructuring.
By the 1980s, Harrison had developed a method for approaching regional economies that enabled him to identify key sectors and deficits and prescribe tailored economic development solu- tions. For example, on moving to Pittsburgh, he teamed up with Sabina Deitrick on a future-ori- ented study of the region. Their report (Deitrick & Harrison, 1994) advocated three initiatives: a