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Small Cities Weekly | 09.08.2023
A New Name, Economic Geography, & Priuses in Buffalo
As part of the work we are doing on the Small City Segment, we send out a brief weekly post of thoughts, links, and research in progress that reflect the week’s work. I’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts, questions, disagreements, or things to add. Please forward this on to people you think might enjoy reading it.
A New Name
When I started this Substack back in January, I thought I’d mostly be writing about frameworks for really early-stage entrepreneurs. My guiding principle for everything I wrote was “turning tools of analysis into tools of creation” - hence the Frame Works, Inc. name.
Nine months later, it has morphed into something that is at the core of my interest in entrepreneurship in the first place - how it can be used to solve overlooked problems for overlooked people in overlooked places. This has taken on the shape of the idea of the Small City Segment and almost everything I write now is centered on it, including this weekly.
So we are changing the name of this Substack from Frame Works, Inc. to The Small City Segment. Not a big change by any definition, but hopefully one that makes this work just a bit more legible to the outside world.
Increasing Returns and Economic Geography, Paul Krugman
Some of the demand for manufactured goods will come from the agricultural sector; if that were the whole story, the distribution of manufacturing production would essentially form a lattice whose form was dictated by the distribution of agricultural land, as in the classic schemes of Christaller (1933) and Losch (1940). But it is not the whole story: some of the demand for manufactures will come not from the agricultural sector but from the manufacturing sector itself.
This creates an obvious possibility for what Myrdal (1957) called "circular causation" and Arthur (1990) has called "positive feedback": manufactures production will tend to concentrate where there is a large market, but the market will be large where manufactures production is concentrated.
This paper is from over 20 years ago, but I came across it after reading an op-ed by Krugman called Superstar Cities in the Age of Zoom. It’s a bit over my head at points, but emphasizes an interesting point that I’ve come across in other reading - so much of where industries end up planting themselves has to do with the slightest differences in initial conditions, that then set off positive feedback loops. More evidence that economic development is more often emergent than it is planned.
A Huge Threat to the U.S. Budget Has Receded. And No One Is Sure Why., Margot Sanger-Katz, Alicia Parlapiano and Josh Katz, NYTimes
Something strange has been happening in this giant federal program. Instead of growing and growing, as it always had before, spending per Medicare beneficiary has nearly leveled off over more than a decade.
As part of my continued research into how healthcare shows up in small cities, I’ve had to learn more and more about reimbursement, especially the dynamics between government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and the private markets. This was a really interesting look into spending per patient and that it has leveled off over the last 10 years - contrary to the well-trodden narrative of the rising costs of healthcare.
A Prius collected air pollution data in Buffalo for a year. New York is analyzing the numbers, Jay Tokasz, Buffalo News
“It’s that hyperlocal data that helps support action,” said Lunden. “Where are pollution levels higher? Where are they lower, and how do we prioritize? Where do we take action first?”
The DEC in December also awarded the coalition a $99,000 grant to build a community air monitoring network controlled by trained residents using PurpleAir monitors at homes, schools, churches and community centers and businesses. Results of the monitoring could be used by researchers, along the lines of crowd sourcing data, said Murawski.
A theme emerging from looking at climate change and other environmental issues in small cities is how they are not the “safe zones” that some people believe them to be compared to larger metros. This article shows the importance of pure data collection to even get arms around what the issues are (something that I briefly mentioned last week in the piece about groundwater issues across the nation). Innovation in data collection, both through technology and incentive systems, is something I’m excited to learn more about.
What I’m Working On
Healthcare Access: Most of my research time is being spent on this currently. My biggest questions/requests at the moment are:
MSA-level data on both insurance and provider dynamics - I have this resource from the American Medical Association, but looking for more
Any resources or people who understand the economic and reimbursement dynamics between specialty services and general services
Small City Industry Niches: I wrote my first exploration of this topic this week, sharing origin stories of speciality insurance in Fort Wayne, orthopedics in Warsaw, and RVs in Elkhart. I’ve got a few more on the docket, but if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
Small City Climate Change & Resilience Data: Building on the last link above, I’m interested in learning more behind the data being used to define climate change and resiliency and how that shows up in smaller cities.
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