Will cloud technology revive the nation's "dying cities"?

dblacharski

A few months back, Newsweek published its list of "America's Dying Cities," and my hometown, South Bend, Indiana, is one of them. It seems to me, that instead of sitting around and waiting for somebody to start manufacturing Studebaker automobiles again, a more appropriate strategy is to focus on future innovation. Heavy industry in these dying towns isn't coming back, but that doesn't have to be the final nail in the coffin for my town and others like it. Tomorrow's jobs, and tomorrow's prosperity in rust belt towns, will come from small, innovative companies that use the power of cloud computing and unified telecom to reach out far beyond their immediate geography. Yes, it's true that there is still a 40-year-old abandoned auto plant here, but we don't need to define our town by what made it great years ago. What will make it great in the coming decade will be something entirely different. it's easier now than ever to create a high-tech company--and you don't have to be in Silicon Valley any more to do it, and I foresee little Silicon Valleys cropping up everywhere from the ashes of these abandoned factories. Do you think it's possible that the cloud, and the entrepreneurial possibilities it brings, can re-invigorate towns like mine throughout the country?

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spambait
Vote Up (29)

The root cause of us having dead or dying cities is: Work is done where it is cheapest over all from design, to manufacturing, to transportation, to distribution to retail.  Recent (last couple of hundred years) development in transportation, communication and manufacturing technology enable and encourage manufacturing/design etc. to move to lower cost locations, like Japan/Taiwan/China.  In the last decade or so, long distance phone makes migration of call centre/support desk/order desk elsewhere becomes economical. 

 

What cloud computing allows is migration of computers to low cost producers too.  If you look at the cost factors of data centers, low cost locations are where labour, power, space/building, networking are cheap.  Can these dying cities compete in these arenas ?

pwarren
Vote Up (23)

Unlike automobile manufacturing, which employed lots of people from lots of companies making the components for automobiles, migrating to the cloud does not necessarily require a lot of physical hardware, and by definition, the cost benefits come from the commoditization of SaaS (software as a service). This means fewer pieces of server hardware are needed, and the same cluster of servers and software can be used to lease out services for hundreds or thousands of businesses. So no, cloud technology doesn’t initially seem like it will positively affect our dying cities, especially since they will require fewer workers to maintain the cloud hosting facilities, which may be concentrated in just a few geographic regions where there are likely a larger pool of highly-skilled workers who can maintain those facilities. 

RomanZ
Vote Up (23)

Yes, but it will take a change in mindset, both on the part of the workers, and the city fathers. We have created a culture of reliance in towns like that, seeing the big manufacturing companies in a very paternalistic light. But the auto plant, the steel factory, the warehouse, or the labor union isn't your daddy. It's going to take initiative to move from the employee mindset to the entrepreneur mindset. Even for those who don't start companies themselves, the mindset will have to change. We used to, at least for a brief time in history, see these big industrial companies as gods, permanent fixtures in our lives, who would take care of everything and give us employment for life, health insurance, two weeks vacation a year and a fat pension. That's just not realistic. We need to see employers now as transitory partners in a mutually beneficial relationship. Get used to the idea of working for a small start-up, because that's going to be where the jobs will come from.

jimlynch
Vote Up (18)

Hi dblacharski,

I think it would be nice if it did revive them, but I don't see it happening. It's not really going to work as a replacement for heavy industry. Plus older workers couldn't necessarily transition well to it even if it did.

It's much more likely that other smaller businesses will help fill that void and help those cities come back from the economic graveyard.

jimlynch
Vote Up (18)

Hi dblacharski,

I think it would be nice if it did revive them, but I don't see it happening. It's not really going to work as a replacement for heavy industry. Plus older workers couldn't necessarily transition well to it even if it did.

It's much more likely that other smaller businesses will help fill that void and help those cities come back from the economic graveyard.

sandeepseeram
Vote Up (16)

Depends on the pricing they offer compared to operators from Denmark, Germany, Netherlands & Sweden...

 

 

Sandeep Seeram

jimlynch
Vote Up (16)

Hi dblacharski,

I think it would be nice if it did revive them, but I don't see it happening. It's not really going to work as a replacement for heavy industry. Plus older workers couldn't necessarily transition well to it even if it did.

It's much more likely that other smaller businesses will help fill that void and help those cities come back from the economic graveyard.

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