ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY / November 2001
focus on industrial recycling, or remanufacturing; a selective growth-center strategy within the region, targeted on the Pittsburgh airport corridor; and better skills training for transformed manu- facturing and emerging service jobs, especially for workers of color left behind.
Consider the dramatic difference between Harrison’s approach and that of new regionalist econ- omists and geographers. Economic geographers Storper (1997) and Scott (1998) deduced the sig- nificance of metropolitan economic regions by positing a weakened nation state, but they offer no evidence for this contention. Along with economists Barnes and Ledebur (1998), they argued that metropolitan regions are the new building blocks of the economy. Their depictions abstract from significant (and often antagonistic) economic actors within these regions and omit the strong ties that many local firms, establishments, and industries have with units in other regions (Markusen, 1994, 1996). In contrast, Harrison (1994b) demonstrated the salience of large, global companies whose local commitments continue to wane and whose global machinations are greased by activist national governments.
Harrison’s method of research and argumentation stands in contrast to a disturbing recent trend toward fuzzy conceptualizations unaccompanied by even the pretense of qualitative or quantitative evidence.
Harrison’s method of research and argumentation stands in contrast to a disturbing recent trend toward fuzzy conceptualizations unaccompanied by even the pretense of qualitative or quantitative evidence. Elsewhere, I demonstrate the inadequacies of concepts, such as flexible specialization, industrial districts, and world cities, all of which retreat to a lesser or greater extent from agency and causality in economic development and are difficult to operationalize (Markusen, 1999). In the same vein, the cluster notion as a new economic development approach has been critiqued theoreti- cally by Feser (1998), who underscores the absence of theory, whereas Hill and Brennan (2000), in an energetic effort to identify clusters in northeastern Ohio, find that cluster features embedded in Porter’s (2000) narrative left some important regional sectors out of the running. With Glasmeier, Harrison (Glasmeier & Harrison, 1997) critiqued the notion, implicit in Porter’s (2000) cluster work, that competition between firms in regional clusters will drive successful development.
SCHOLARLY FLEXIBILITY AND LEARNING
An endearing aspect of Harrison’s regional policy work is his ability to learn from experience and change his mind over time. This demonstrates, I think, his strong social scientific orientation and willingness to confront real world evidence, a test to which few of the new regionalists appear willing to submit their work (Markusen, 1999). He was not a brute empiricist because his work was strongly informed by causal theories about actors, their behavior, and constraints in their environ- ments. But neither was he an ideologue. By the late 1980s, for instance, in his “Reassessing the Massachusetts Miracle” article with Jean Kluwer, Harrison (Harrison & Kluwer, 1989) was will- ing to admit that his strongly advocated industrial policies did not seem to be working. They ascribed this to the Manhattanization of New England—the devolving of the state’s competitive advantage onto a small number of business services and the real estate and construction activities that refashion the built environment for these growth industries and their employees (pp. 790-792).
Harrison was also capable of appreciating genuinely new innovations in the regional planning field. In his “Old Wine in New Bottles” (1992), written in honor of Ben Chinitz, he asks whether the new industrial districts’work simply resuscitates the work of earlier urban economists and regional scientists on agglomeration economies. He concludes in the negative, that the introduction of noneconomic variables, such as social connections and networks, and motivations, such as trust, constitutes something genuinely new in the literature.
In this case, Harrison not only welcomed the new, more expansive approach but began to employ it himself in a new round of work on his old topics: inner-city labor market organization and workforce training. Beginning in the early 1990s, he returned to a focus on the institutions that had grown up to serve inner-city poverty areas since the decline of the Great Society programs, especially community development corporations (CDCs) and related institutions such as commu- nity colleges. Applying the network notion and emphasizing social institutions, Harrison (1996) found that maturing CDCs and other community-based organizations engage in several variants of networks that enable them to bridge from their own communities with relatively meager resources to other organizations in the larger region. In joint work with others (Harrison & Weiss, 1998), he