Buffalo Ponders Potential of Innovation Economy

Even as the auto workers struggle to resurrect the spirit of Jimmy Hoffa, the conversation about competitiveness in the Great Lakes region is slowly - ever so slowly - turning from talk about rescuing the industrial economy to dreams of building something much more profitable in the 21st century.

The latest indication of that comes from Buffalo, where, amidst the headlines of the UAW strike, the local newspaper recently ran a story telling how local leaders believe their region can be a real force in the knowledge economy.

“In 10 years, we’re all going to be buying solar panels, electric cars, energy-saving refrigerators and turbines," Paul Dyster, chairman of the citizen’s board advising the Niagara River Greenway Commission, told reporter James Heaney. "We can make them ourselves, or we can buy them from China.”

“We’re at the starting line all over the country," said Jeff Jones, state coordinator for the Apollo Alliance. "Buffalo has as good a chance of any region in the country to take the lead [in the innovation economy].”

Indeed, the creative destruction of the Great Lakes economy marches on. New and radical ideas and businesses are rising - as they have throughout history - that will transform the very nature of the marketplace and leave behind entire industries. And even the longest picket lines the union can muster ain't gonna stop it.