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.

Last week, Mikael Kau the Director of the Project EnergiByen (The Energy Town) in Frederikshavn, came to give a presentation about the city. It was organized for a lecture for the Urban Planning students, but many phd students (some of them friends of mine working in this project or similar), professors and few other well dress people join the meeting. We were around 50 people. He made a presentation in English, because the master level is taught in English and maybe almost half of the students are usually non-Danish speaking.

I really enjoyed the presentation and following discussion. It’s a great project. It gives an identity to the town to be the “be the first medium-sized city in the world to be exclusively supplied with electricity, heat and power for transportation from renewable energy sources”. The date for this will be 2015, and the 25.000 people of the main city, also called Frederikshavn (out of the 65.000 of the municipality), will be getting al the energy from renewable sources. One of my favorite features it’s the citizen interplay with the project, which I believe it’s crucial.

The city was greatly impacted in the mid 90’s when the shipyards closed and 7.000 direct employments were lost. This was a great shock for the city. Around that time it started loosing population and many feared for the fate of the town. In 2006, the Energy Camp, where many energy specialists join, recommends Frederikshavn, for its characteristics to become a renewable energy town. The city officials embraced the project and the national government supported them.

We all hope this is not only a Public Relations project, this has to be a real one. In one way reminds me when Kennedy told the American people, who were feeling depressed by the Soviet Union having the total lead of the spatial race, that the USA will put the man on the moon. In its proper scale people of this small city can feel they can become a beacon for the renewable energy planning.
Out of the many technical questions that I did not get, one professor criticized the project saying that it’s not actually 100% renewable, because out of the trash that will be incinerated, much is not renewable (plastic and paper), but anyways, I think it would be impossible to separate what is renewable and not. The other issue is the cars and trucks. The city can not force the public to have electric cars, but they at least will offer the possibility of stations of hydrogen and/or methane (I’m not quite sure about these resources right now).
Until the end of this summer when the speculation forces put the oil price from almost 200$ to 50$; During these recent years the European zeitgeist has focused on renewable energy because of the global warming. Nobody knows what will be the consequences of the climate change, the Americans are more skeptic about it, while in general the Europeans are more afraid of its consequences (from what I’ve seen specially the Spanish and Dutch… no comments). You can clearly see the difference in a low consumption car advertisement in the US and in Europe. In the US, says “you will run more miles”, and the pundits like to say that the Arabs are the ones getting advantage of the American people (sic). While in Europe this car commercial will say something like: “A greener car, no contaminant”. With the European pundits saying that the global warming is imminent. Anyways, the point is that this EnergyByen project, has been quite influenced by the global warming thing, but regardless of what would happen, I’m confident that Frederikshavn is on the right track. Of course, now we have to hope that private and public interests, with the citizens make it happen.

This project affects the story of Frederikshavn, and I’m sure that if successful will put the city in the map. The city will be attractive for citizens and tourists. I hope for the best.

Unemployment in Denmark.

August 14, 2008

Crazy low unemployment in Denmark

( 2006-2008 ) Crazy decrease of unemployment in Denmark

Unbelievable. I always heard that unemployment rate could never be below 3.5% or so, because that is frictional unemployment. But during these last months is going quite low. I guess is because the way they measure it at Statistics Danmark. Or is sound proof of my macroeconomic class 101 about the Phillips Curve, that is the direct realationship between a high employment and high inflation.

An important area of my research is to look at cultural and engaging activities for the city of Frederikshavn. The activities that the city has carried during the last years have been pretty cool and innovative. One of them has been the Festival of Tordenskiold.  I will quote supervisor who explains about it:

The Festival of Tordenskiold started in Frederikshavn in 1998 and has been organised as an annual summer festival in the city since that year. From a humble start in 1998 in 2007 more than 25,000 people visited the festival which had 1000 local participants and activists. The historical core of the festival is a sea battle in the year 1717 in which Tordenskiold participated as a twelve year old boy. The festival is constructed as scenery at the harbour, with the water as an important element. A theatre play involving sailing ships, rowing boats, guns and canons and the wharf, as well as people dressed up in XVIII century clothes as king and nobles, soldiers and mariners, represents the culmination of the festival. Many people dress up as XVIII century peasants, vendors and street performers and serve food, sell arts and crafts and give little performances of different kinds during the two days of the festival. Sailing ships from different countries visit the harbour during the festival. The visiting ships are actors in as well as part of the scenery of the festival and the theatre play. Some of the ships are also attractions, inviting people to experience their beautiful interior. Only since 2004 the city council has put the festival on the budget with a salary for a coordinator. Until then it was run by volunteers and based on private donations. (Lorentzen, January 2008)
 

Well this last weekend the 2008 Festival received more than 30.000 people. Which is a great sign that the Festival is doing better every year. Unfortunately I didn’t go, as it coincide with my moving to my new place. I feel bad about it, next year I will go 100% sure. Anyways, it seems people did not miss me to have great fun…

Oh, I forgot to tell you. Torden, in Danish means Thunder, and Skiold, Shield. From what I understand is the title that it was given to this brave guy (Peter Tordenskiold) who defended the city. That was in 1717.

In a way reminds me the ideas shared by Gilmore and Pine, in their last book Authenticity (2007), about celebrating key dates for a place.