I’m currently in Berkeley, California. Besides the good research environment I have experienced here, I came because of the city of Vallejo. Why Vallejo?

In March 2009 I went to visit our old friends the Tanners, here is Jason’s website. They picked us up in San Francisco and we were driving to his home in Folsom. While driving on I-80, he told me that this city we were driving by (Vallejo), recently declared bankruptcy. He told me it was because of the unions (the police and firefighters), they were getting super high salaries, and the city couldn’t pay them. I was like “come on, you always blame the unions. no matter if it is the car industry or the education system”. We discuss the situation for a while, and then I kept it in mind.

The Doctoral School at my university, Aalborg (Denmark), encourages PhD candidates to study abroad for one semester or so. Something I wanted, was to be able to improve my qualitative research on Local Economic Development. I also wanted to go to a place where I could communicate with any problems (sometimes in Denmark is hard for me), a Spanish speaking country or English place would be fine.  So I looked at a few possibilities in my home country, Spain, England and the U.S. But I was looking for a place somewhat similar to Frederikshavn (see Differences and Similarities between Frederikshavn and Vallejo), with an industrial history, and in the struggle of transform themselves. Besides I had to go to a fine environment research, which is what the Doctoral School wants too. That is to a good university or research center.

Fortunately I knew about Richard Walker at UC Berkeley, from some of his literature, I think his publication with Storper is the number 4 most quoted reference in the discipline of Economic Geography. But specially I knew him from listening to one of his classes on line, [that anyone can follow] or the Berkeley podcast on Economic Geography. It’s an introductory class he teaches to undergrads. Because I also have to do the same, I liked to listen to this classes while I cleaned or cooked at home. I used some of his stuff in my classes. By the way he received the Distinguished Teaching Award this semester too. At the AAG 2009 meeting, I went to thank him for putting his classes online, and the inspiration I got from him. He said I made his day :)  I think he remembered me, so when I asked him if I could visit his Dept. of Geography, he agreed to sponsored me. He’s not an expert on Local Economic Development, but his approach to it is really enriching. I’m really grateful to him, and the whole UC system here. He also has given very good insights for my PhD project and research.

So here I came in late February, and I will leave by the end of July. I like Berkeley, which by the way it’s the institution who gives more PhD degrees in the world. I’ve heard around 800 a year, so here they know how to make PhD’s. have been enjoying visiting a few classes, and I’ve learned a lot from seminars and colloquiums they always have around. The case of Vallejo is amazing, and my family is quite happy to be here visiting Berkeley.

Stay tuned, today Vallejo is the canary in the coal mine.

This is the first time that I write in Danish for this blog. But I have some parts that were going to be for a book that most probably I will not use.  This is a book on the Experience Economy in Denmark, it will be published this year in Danish. I’m grateful to Birthe Ømark to assist me with the translation. I hope that one or two Danes enjoy reading this.

Indledning
Byen Frederikshavn kan kort karakteriseres på følgende måde: Den er lille (færre end 25.000 indbyggere). Den ligger i et udkantsområde. Det er Danmarks nordligst beliggende kommune. Industrien er traditionel med skibsværfterne, som var de største arbejdspladser i byen i det 20. århundrede.

Lysfestivalen skal ses som et projekt, der er knyttet til begrebet oplevelsesøkonomi. Ikke kun fordi festivalen stræber efter at lave sjove og mindeværdige oplevelser for såvel byens indbyggere som for besøgende, men også fordi projektet er organiseret af folk, der iøvrigt også er dybt involveret i oplevelsesøkonomien. Der tænkes her især på flere lysproducenter, der er involveret i eksperimentel arkitektur, show-business firmaer samt folk, der underviser i oplevelsesbelysning.

Lysfestivalen kan siges at have dybe historiske rødder, idet mennesker i Norden traditionelt har et særligt forhold til lys. Således er mange festivaler og aktiviteter i de nordiske lande dedikeret til lys i dag. I Danmark kan man nævne ”Lysende Vejle”, ”Lys over Lolland” og ”Lyslydprojektet i Høje Tåstrup”. I en brandingsammenhæng anvendes begrebet Lysets Land om den nordlige del af Nordjylland, som Frederikshavn også tilhører. Dette kapitel beskriver, hvordan Lysfestivalen i Frederikshavn har udviklet sig siden 2004 fra at være en kulturfestival til at være et projekt, der er målrettet iværksætterdynamikken i en sektor i den lokale økonomi, som er baseret på belysningsindustrien. Projektet vil blive diskuteret ud fra et lokaludviklingsperspektiv med særligt fokus på den lokale iværksætterdynamik og den politik, som sigter mod at støtte iværksætteri.

(…)

For ti år siden skabte Pine og Gilmore begrebet ”oplevelsesøkonomi”. Forfatterne hævder, at verdensøkonomien har udviklet sig fra en agrarøkonomi over en industriel økonomi til en serviceøkonomi for endelig at gå over i oplevelsesøkonomien. Pine og Gilmore’s ide er, at produkter og derefter services førhen var vigtigst for befolkningen og økonomien, mens oplevelser nu er blevet langt vigtigere. De foreslår i bogen, at erhvervslivet skal fokusere på at tilbyde oplevelser, fordi denne strategi ”åbner muligheder for ekstraordinær økonomisk ekspansion” (Pine II & Gilmore, 1999). De var imidlertid ikke de første, der fremførte tanken om at tilbyde oplevelser. Tidligere har Alvin Toffler således beskrevet, hvordan ”oplevelsesindustrier” vil blive særdeles vigtige i ”fremtiden” (Toffler, 1970). I dagens Danmark er der forskellige opfattelser af, hvilke brancher der er mest knyttede til oplevelsesøkonomi. Nogle kilder peger på ca. 16 brancher, såsom interaktive medier, events, sport, attraktioner, osv. (Nielsén, 2005).

Pine og Gilmore har aldrig indsnævret Oplevelsesøkonomien til specifikke industrier. De dristede sig endda til at kommentere på feltet planlægning af oplevelser for borgerne. Det følgende eksempel er meget relevant for dette kapitel.

Begrebet oplevelsesøkonomi og lokal økonomisk udvikling gennem iværksætteri
Desuden ”iværksætterforetagender er ikke det samme som små virksomheder” (Hart, 2003), og iværksætteri er hverken synonymt med radikal innovation eller noget helt nyt. Danmark betragtes f.eks. som et innovativt land og samfund (Hansen, 1991) og (Gregersen et al., 2009), men alligevel er innovation mest relateret til trinvis innovation. Langt størstedelen (94 %) af de firmaer, der driver forretning i Danmark, tilbyder produkter og ydelser som er kopieret direkte, eller med små ændringer fra andre (Jensen et al., 2007).

(…)

På tværs af forskellige erhverv i den private sektor bruger mange iværksættere ideer, der er relateret til oplevelsesøkonomi. Også intraprenører i offentlige organer har fået en forståelse for, at borgerne kræver oplevelser og ikke kun basal service. Det betyder, at specielt i Danmarks tilfælde, hvor så mange projekter bliver iværksat af intraprenører, kunne man forvente et samarbejde mellem intraprenører fra den offentlige og private sektor for at skabe flere muligheder for lokal udvikling. Kapitlet illustrerer netop, hvor vigtigt dette samarbejde er blevet i Frederikshavn.

Benneworth (2004) skriver “iværksætteri i udkantsområder er kompliceret, tilfældigt og usikkert” og peger på, at mere forskning i iværksætteri er nødvendig for at forstå lokal økonomisk udvikling i udkantsområder. I den forbindelse skal stedet og dets historie tages  i betragtning. Det følgende afsnit betragter den kontekst, i hvilken den lokale iværksætterdynamik fungerer i forskellige situationer.

’Lock-in’ og måder at undslippe fastlåsheden på

Et berømt eksempel på ’lock-in’ på det teknologiske område er det, der handler om et tastatur. For tiden bruger vi et computertastatur, som har de første bogstaver i det øverste hjørne i rækkefølgen QWERTY. Dette design blev patenteret i USA i 1874. Baggrunden for dette layout var at undgå at de mest brugte bogstaver skulle støde sammen i skrivemaskinen. I dag, hvor vi bruger computere, kunne vi bruge andre tastaturer for at skrive hurtigere, f.eks. Dvorak tastaturer (Dansk Dvorak), men langt de fleste mennesker har lært at skrive i det gamle system, og alle tastaturer laves på den gamle manér. Derfor har vi en historisk betinget ’lock-in’ i QWERTY (David, 1985). Dette paradoks kan også forekomme i den økonomiske udvikling i byer og regioner.

(…)

Der er to problemer med studierne af innovation og læring. For det første, at mange af studierne ”beror på officielle data og derfor ofte mangler den nødvendige specificering og fokus for at kunne vurdere lokale læringsprocesser” (MacKinnon et al., 2002). For det andet, er det studier, der støtter læringsideerne ”baseret på empirisk evidens fra storbyer og bymæssige bebyggelser” (Fløysand & Jakobsen, 2008). Problemet er, at det ikke er oplagt, at storbyers erfaringer kan overføres til mindre byer, som er anderledes i såvel størrelse som råderum. Det er blevet vist, at læringsnetværk har eksisteret i de berømte italienske industrielle distrikter og allerede i 1970’erne i den private sektor i Norge og Danmark i form af erfaringsnetværk eller læringsfællesskaber (Rosenfeld, 2001).

(…)

Alt i alt er der forskellige strategier som en by som Frederikshavn kan vælge for at undgå lock-in. Talrige projekter er da også blevet gennemført, nogle af dem fortrinsvis rettet mod oplevelsesøkonomien, som f.eks. Lysfestivalen. Festivalens hovedstrategi er at forbedre udviklingen for det lokale erhvervsliv eller iværksætterdynamikken gennem lokale initiativer. For at kunne gøre det, og under hensyntagen til Frederikshavns kendetegn, synes ideen om midlertidig geografisk nærhed for at stimulere læringen blandt byens aktører at være passende. Det er derfor relevant at finde ud af, hvordan denne nærhed er organiseret, hvem der er involveret, hvor lang tid de samarbejder og hvad resultatet bliver.

(…)

Konklusioner
I alle vestlige lande er der mange byer, som befinder sig i en fastlåst situation (lock-in). Akademikere fra forskellige felter har forsøgt at dokumentere og foreslå måder til at slippe ud af denne fastlåshed eller lock-in situation. Desværre findes der ikke megen litteratur, der omfatter provinsbyer. Dette kapitel har fremlagt vidnesbyrd fra en lille by i et dansk udkantsområde.

Det påstås i dette kapitel, at byen har skabt en Lysfestival ved at benytte sig af oplevelsesøkonomien, specifikt i belysningssektoren. Projektet er ikke blot en festival, men har adskillige bestanddele, som har fremmet lokal læring, og i et bredere perspektiv kan det højne den lokale iværksætterkultur og økonomiske udvikling.

Referencer

  • Benneworth, P. 2004, “In what sense ‘regional development?’: entrepreneurship, underdevelopment and strong tradition in the periphery”, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 439-458.
  • David, P.A. 1985, “Clio and the Economics of QWERTY”, The American Economic Review, pp. 332-337.
  • Fløysand, A. & Jakobsen, S.E. 2008,”Searching for embeddedness of innovations in rural areas: a practice turn”, Conference Paper from Regional Studies Association: “Regions: The dilemmas of integration and competition?” 27-29 May 2008
  • Gregersen, B., Linde, L.T. & Rasmussen, J.G. 2009, “Linking between Danish universities and society”, Science and Public Policy, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 151-156.
  • Hansen, N. 1991, “Factories in Danish fields: How high-wage, flexible production has succeeded in peripheral Jutland”, International Regional Science Review, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 109.
  • Hart, D.M. 2003, The emergence of entrepreneurship policy: governance, start-ups, and growth in the US knowledge economy, Cambridge University Press.
  • Jensen, M.B., Johnson, B., Lorenz, E. & Lundvall, B.Å. 2007, “Forms of knowledge and modes of innovation”, Research Policy, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 680-693.
  • MacKinnon, D., Cumbers, A. & Chapman, K. 2002, “Learning, innovation and regional development: a critical appraisal of recent debates”, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 293.
  • Rosenfeld, S. 2001, “Networks and clusters: The yin and yang of rural development”, Exploring Policy Options for a New Rural America, pp. 103-120.
  • Tofler, A. 1970, “Future shock”, London: The Bodey Head Ltd.
  • Nielsén, T. 2005, Kultur- og Oplevelsesøkonomien i Region Nordjylland, Aalborg Samarbejdet.

I’m looking at these two cities areas. Frederishavn is a small city of roughly 25,000 inhabitants in North Denmark, with some dependent towns around. Vallejo it’s a city in California 4 times bigger than the Danish one.

For several reasons that I will lay out, I think Frederikshavn has some interesting lessons to learn from Vallejo. Perhaps, it can also be the other way around.

I’m not really doing a comparative study. However I’m going to say some of the differences and similarities between these two places. (See a map of the two)

Differences

  1. Vallejo is considered by some, part of the San Francisco Bay Area. So it’s geographically close to a population of 7 million people.
  2. It’s in the United States, and it’s regulated with its Federal (national) and State (California) laws.
  3. American socieconomic characteristics.
  4. Historical traits of U.S. western city (with booms and busts).
  5. Very diverse population. Frederikshavn has a less than 5% of its population non-white, Vallejo has only 1/3 of its population white, the rest is quite mixed (1/4 Asian,  1/4 African-American, and the rest from different races. Hispanic are 15% aprox.)
  6. Vallejo has a very nice weather :)

Similarities that Vallejo has with Frederikshavn:

  1. Blue-collar town (with all that this implies)
  2. Train got there at the same time (1869 in Vallejo and 1871 Frh.) by the end of railways boom.
  3. Its coast and train arrival are the two most important factor to explain the existence and development of both.
  4. Industrial oriented during all 20th century
  5. Shipyards highest employer during mid 20th century (In Vallejo were mostly military)
  6. Shipyards closed in the 90’s
  7. Traditionally military “Navy town” (Base closed in 1996 in Vallejo)
  8. It can be considered in the “periphery” of innovative regions, supplying people there
  9. ‘Little brother syndrome’ compared to relatively close bigger cities
  10. Even though they’re not a rich town, they have a decent living standard on average
  11. Important recent political changes (political tension).
  12. Recent change of Mayor (2008-09)
  13. Strong emphasis in ‘experience economy’ (recreation, tourism, culture, etc.)
  14. Town in the middle on the way of bigger city-regions (“strategic” geographical position)
  15. Strong focus on fostering entrepreneurship, with partial success
  16. Powerful unions
  17. Regarded as a lesser city by the bigger cities
  18. Education scores are lower than average
  19. A high number of young people leave
  20. Relative violent reputation
  21. There is a small marina
  22. There is a ferry service
  23. Crucial building projects have not started because of lack of funds
  24. Current higher unemployment than average
  25. Recent serious economic troubles
  26. A few groups of very active citizens
  27. They are the poorest rich (The Bay Areas as well as Denmark are very rich places compared to the rest of the world).

I have been updating this post. The more I have studied Vallejo, the more I found similarities.

Frederikshavn vs. Vallejo

February 5, 2010

My plan here is diverse, and I have to admit that I have not fully planned. But I’m going to specially look at the city of Vallejo, as you can see in my description (Local development and the socioeconomic factors of Vallejo, CA). This city has many differences with the city I do research for (Frederikshavn, Denmark) but that also has many similarities. Stay tuned for more details.

Here I put two maps of the area that I’m interested in. Note that in both maps, south of the black square is where I have my offices (Aalborg and Berkeley). Maps are on the same scale courtesy of Bing Maps.

Municipality of Frederikshavn (North Denmark)

City of Vallejo (California, USA)

This is an update: (see Differences and Similarities between Frederikshavn and Vallejo)

And I have had not time to write. But I will. First, Joe Pine was here at Aalborg University three weeks ago. It was a very good presentation. I’ll tell about it. Also 4 days ago, David Plouffe, the chief campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and other interesting leaders, presented in in a business leader seminar. They told me it was outstanding, I missed so much I did not go.

Anyways I just want to put a video here about a new upcoming event in Frederikshavn. Perhaps it’s not that exciting as the other two, only perhaps. It’s about the yearly Blues Festival of Frederikshavn. They just put it online.

I have not written here as I have been busy teaching, writing and preparing my study abroad for Spring 2010.

In my last post I said I was going to the Festival of Tordenskjold. Here is a little more about who was this guy Tordenskiold. I have to say I had a great weekend. I found it very interesting because I have been following the preparation for several days. I have talked to over 40 people and learn many things about their networks and how they work. I aim at publishing the results if you’re interested.
I calculated myself in the three days and I think there were 35.000 visitors, but I don’t have the official data. But I know there were around 1000 volunteers, the majority of them dressed for the occasion in 18th century clothes.
Here is me and great Tordenskjold, I (and my wife, taken the picture) were dressed as peasants.

Tordenskjold and me at the end of Friday's play

Tordenskjold and me at the end of Friday's play

Here are more pictures of the festival. In photo doesn’t look that big, but the big boat a replica of the time, was really impressive. At least for a non-ocean guy like me.

Yesterday I spent the day doing some qualitative research in Frederikshavn. They’re preparing the Tordenskjold Festival. I think it’s going to be pretty cool. I will be there. I interviewed and talked to a dozen of people. People love this city project. It’s the whole community engaged. I might give you a summary next week. For this 12th edition, they expect 40.000 visitors.

Looking at other numbers, the picture does not look that good. We all know that tourism figures all around the world are doing bad. Here the thing seems to come in the worse moment. Since 2003 the tourists coming by ferry (most Norwegians and Swedish) has been declining from 3.545.000 to a around 2.000.000, with a steady yearly decrease. This year will probably be the worse.

A worker in a downtown restaurant was telling me that the last year they made, 35-40.000 dkk (5.000 €) a day. Now they’re down to 7.000 dkk a day. That’s quite a thumping. Needless to say, they’re quite excited about the Tordenskiold Festival starting tomorrow.