Recession Will Change Our Economic Geography The recession's reshaping the country in surprising ways, according to author Richard Florida. In an article for The Atlantic, he writes that this crisis "marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life."
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Recession Will Change Our Economic Geography

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Recession Will Change Our Economic Geography

Recession Will Change Our Economic Geography

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington sitting in for Neal Conan. An economic upheaval like the one we are currently experiencing can lead to permanent changes in the way we live our lives. In the March issue of the Atlantic, Richard Florida looks at how the country's economic landscape will shift as the result of the recession. In "How the Crash will Reshape America," Florida explains why financial centers like New York and Charlotte may still flourish while the Rust Belt may be breathing its last gasp. And some Sun Belt cities, whose economy depended entirely on the housing bubble, may never recover entirely. Regional urban centers may eclipse the popularity of suburbs, and renters may overtake homeowners. Later in the hour, should we prosecute teens for "sexting?" But first, the geography of recession. What's happening in your area? Have you left your home in search of a booming economy? Tell us your story. Our number here in Washington, 800-989-8255. The email address is And of course, you're always welcome to join the conversation at our Web site. Go to, and click on Talk of the Nation.

Richard Florida studies prosperity at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto, and he joins us from member station WLRN in Miami, Florida. Good to have with you us.

Mr. RICHARD FLORIDA (Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto): It's great to be on, Lynn. Thanks for having me back.

NEARY: Now, you begin this article by saying that you believe this recession will not only mark the end of a chapter in American history but will really end a whole way of life. What leads you to that conclusion?

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, I think we all realize that economic crises - and actually I think, come not to like the word depression at all, and I kind of think of them as economy resets. We all know that they reset asset prices, you know, the great segment you just had with Mark Zandi on housing and mortgages. We all know - the waves of kind of technological innovation, and older, inefficient firms and companies fail, newer ones rise. What we don't know is that they really have a profound effect on our geography, and in particular not just on with cities and regions of the country's rise and fall, that the way into the crisis actually is bound up with the way we live and the way we spread ourselves out over space, and the way out also has a geographic component. And what are the article tries to say is we had better be aware of it, because the way we live, how we live and where we live is in for a big change. And over the next decade or two, we'll see that play out.

NEARY: Well, before we get into where we are now, can you just briefly give me some examples from the past, so people can get a sense of what it is you're trying to say of how economic forces have shaped our geography, shaped where we live and how ...

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, there have been two significant economic resets, or what people use to call depressions. One happened in about 1873, and depending on who you read, lasted all the way to about 1896. We went into that economic reset as a fairly agrarian, rural country. Now, industries like textiles and the railroads were rising. We came out of that reset as a massive industrial country. We saw the rise not only of new industries, but we gave rise to these mammoth industrial cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Buffalo, and then a little bit later, like Detroit. The next one was the, of course, the crash we all remember, that I talked about in the article, my dad, who lived through it, used to tell me so much about as a young boy. And we went into that as a nation around industrial cities. My grandparents immigrated to New York City and then ultimately, ended up in Newark, where I was born. But coming out that of crisis, and I think what really helped us...

NEARY: That was the Great Depression you're talking about.

Mr. FLORIDA: That was the Great Depression, from about 1929 until after World War II. Coming out of that crisis, people say, well, the war helped us and it built our economy. And of course it did, and Keynesianism, right - we're all talking about Keynesian demand stimulation. But really, it was a rise of suburbanization and all the government effort to kind of spur mortgages. We invented the modern mortgage during the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt did it. We invented this system of a Freddie Mac and - actually it was Fannie Mae at the time. But we also created incredible incentives and subsidies for highways. And so, what really saved us and created all that demand for the industrial products was suburbanization.

They used to call it - it's a funny name for people listening in - Fordism, named after Henry Ford. Part of Fordism was the mass production of cars coming off the assembly line. The second half of Fordism was the mass consumption of all those things, because we were a suburban nation. And it's clear that this same crisis is going to change, again, the way we live and the way - and where we live and how we live.

NEARLY: And it seems to be what you're saying is that this era of suburbanization, that that is what's coming to an end, the growth of the suburbs, and that that's really no longer sustainable.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, again, for folks listening in, this is kind of a nuanced point, and I want to make it as clearly as I can. It's not like suburbanization is just going to be over. I think the history of capitalism is a history of the more intensive use of places. So we first had little farming communities and then we had, you know, towns near the farm. Then we had these giant industrial cities, then we had the suburbs around the cities. Now we're going to have these combinations of cities and suburbs increasingly dense. My best way of explaining this, since you're in Washington, D.C., is look at how Washington, D.C., area has grown over the past decade. It's not just a city with suburbs. It has, you know, the Tysons Corner area - which people would know - Arlington, Virginia, or Bethesda, Maryland. It's becoming denser and there's, like, a subway and a metro and people are moving in towards the city. It's not that the suburbs don't exist. And then of course, in Washington, D.C., it's actually part of this Boston-New York-Washington corridor, which is all becoming bigger and denser. That's what I'm talking about. It's not the end of suburbanization, it's actually a denser and more compact and more concentrated way of living, which is, in a way, bigger than suburbanization ever was.

NEARY: All right. You sort of referred to it, I think you called it sort of metro regions or is that how you put it?

Mr. FLORIDA: We call it the mega region. There is this fabulous geographer named Jean Gottmann. He's - the late Jean Gottmann. He talked about megalopolis, right? The classic one he called BosWash, the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, 50 million people, $2 trillion in economic activity; ChiPitts, running from Chicago to Cleveland to Pittsburgh; Greater London; Greater Tokyo. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about. And about 40 of these mega regions in the whole world account for about two-thirds of economic production and nine in 10 of our technical innovations. They are going to become the way we organize ourselves, not just a city and a suburb, but a set of cities and suburbs in these very dense and actually gargantuan mega regions.

NEARY: We are talking about the geography of recession with Richard Florida. And we're going to take a call now from Tessa(ph). She is calling from Detroit, Michigan. Hi, Tessa.

TESSA (Caller): Hello. Yeah, I'm calling from Detroit, Michigan, and my neighborhood is really disappearing.

I live right near, literally two blocks, from a Chrysler truck assembly plant and a GM stamping plant. And there are empty houses up and down my block now. Just bought the house two, three years ago almost. And I would love to hear some comments from your guest about what's going to happen to my neighborhood, what are his predictions, because we're wondering, do we get out? Do we stay? And I'll take the answer off the air.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call, Tessa. You don't have very good news about the Rust Belt from your article, from what I can tell.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, it's not something I'm particularly happy about. You know, I lived for 17 years in Pittsburgh, and I'm a big fan of the city. And my wife, who's with me in the studio, is from Greater Detroit. In fact, visiting with us are her brother and sister and her brother's wife. Her whole extended family lives in Greater Detroit, and we spend a lot of time there. I think the fact of the matter is that economic trends have worked terribly against Greater Detroit, and I think there's one of two things that can happen. I don't think Detroit can rebuild itself from the ground up alone, although I think there are a lot of people in the region who are trying. I think it's got to connect itself to the mega-region better. And I think it has to either connect itself to Chicago, which is kind of draining away the great talent; you know, young people from Detroit and the Detroit suburbs end up in Chicago. Or perhaps it could hook itself up to Toronto, where I live. But on its own, it's no longer - I saw it in Pittsburgh, and it took a generation or two for Pittsburgh to get over the body blow of losing that steel industry. And the point, Tessa, is, it's no longer that a region can be a self-contained economic actor. It has to be connected to the rest of the world. My honest advice to Tessa is, if you're depending on having a permanent job for a lifeline, and that's not in Detroit, you have two options. Either you could move to a place that has more economic opportunity, but what I find a lot of people doing, and, In fact, we have a lot of friends in Detroit that are doing this, who are freelancers or work on projects. They love living in Detroit. They have family there, they get affordable housing, but then they commute on an irregular basis to work elsewhere. I think either way can work, depending on what's the best thing for you.

NEARY: Right. Because you know, when I was reading about what you were saying about the Rust Belt, and specifically cities like Detroit and then I kept thinking, well, what becomes of those cities? I mean, I think that Tessa's call spoke exactly to that. She's saying, should we leave, should we abandon the city? Does a city like Detroit get abandoned?

Mr. FLORIDA: No, I don't think it gets abandoned. I talk about that in the piece in The Atlantic. I think there are lots of people who want to stay there because they like it, because they're close to family and friends. And certainly in Pittsburgh, I had tons of friends who were commuting to work in other places and I actually, Tessa, I talked to, I gave a talk to the airport directors conference. And I actually had a long conversation with people who knew airports and I said, will Detroit Airport remain viable? They said, absolutely. It's an efficient airport, it's an effective airport, so that airport provides connective fiber. But I think finding local employment is going to be a lot harder. So you either have to say, can I commute to work - by plane, perhaps - or do I have to look for a place that has a better set of economic opportunities for me? And that's a personal choice.

NEARY: And when you say the city has to connect up with another major metro center, then what are you saying by - then they have to think about highways, they have to think about - how do they connect up with another...

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, I'm actually writing - at the institute, we're thinking a lot about this. We were invited by the premier of Ontario, who is our version in Canada - I'm an American, but we live in Canada - of a governor. And what we talked about was how to build a kind of strategy for Ontario. Windsor is the sister city of Detroit, and one of the things we're thinking about is high-speed rail, connection between Windsor and Toronto, and the ability to move people very quickly. And you can see it on the East Coast corridor. This is a great example for Tessa. If you think about Washington, D.C.'s, growth, of course, it's a federal complex and it has great technology industries. But it's also, in a way - and I say this most gently because I loved my time in Washington, D.C., and I don't want to get anybody upset - it's kind of a suburb of New York now...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FLORIDA: Especially for media and broadcast. A lot of great media people are moving because it's affordable. Editors I've worked with said, the heck with living in New York, it's too expensive. I'll move to Washington, D.C.; it's got a great intellectual climate. That's the kind of thing I'm thinking about for the Midwest. Could cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, which are quite livable, quite affordable, have beautiful neighborhoods, I mean, you'd die for the housing you can get, can they be connected to other, more thriving economic places?

NEARY: We're talking with Richard Florida about the geography of recession. What's happening where you live? Give us a call at 800-989-8255. You can also drop us an email, the address is We'll continue this discussion in a moment. I'm Lynn Neary. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Richard Florida is our guest. We're talking about how this recession might reshape how and where we live. His article in The Atlantic is titled, "How The Crash Will Reshape America." He also did a little guest blogging for us today. You can read more about the economic reset he says we face in this recession, that's at And what's happening in your area? Have you left your home in search of a booming economy? Tell us your story. Our number in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our email address is, or join the conversation at our Web site. Go to, and click on Talk of the Nation. Let's take a call now from Caroline, Caroline is calling from Oklahoma. Hi, Caroline.

CAROLINE (Caller): Hi. How are you?

NEARY: I'm good. Thanks.

CAROLINE: Thank you for taking my call. I reside in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and we are definitely, you know, experiencing a little bit of the recession, as is most of the country. But I mean, in all honesty, my geographical area is still very prosperous. I have numerous friends that are buying and selling their homes - you know, numerous friends who are still having, you know, very high levels of prosperity in their jobs, in their economic situations. And so I think it's important to not get caught up in all the negativity that, you know, resounds with the talk of the recession and you know, the collapsing of the economy. I think it's really, really hard to see kind of the positive ends, and I know that most all geographical regions are experiencing it in some way which, you know, obviously, the Midwest is as well. But also, I think it's kind of important to note the positive, that not all areas are, you know, under a deep depression and not all areas are under, you know, extreme economic stress. And so I just wanted to provide a different perspective from my geographical location that, you know, things are pretty good here.

NEARY: All right.

CAROLINE: Yeah. Positive aspects.

NEARY: And Richard Florida, then some areas of the country are probably being hit worse than others, obviously. And thanks so much for your call, Caroline.

Mr. FLORIDA: Caroline, you're absolutely right, which is part of the reason I wrote the article. And have a look at it, it's at The Atlantic online and at our Web site at, and obviously linked through the NPR site. One of the things we talked about - we actually used Mark Zandi's data. So that's just amazing that we had these two segments. We actually looked at the 381 metro areas across the United States. Most of them were in deep recession. A handful were not. One was the one I mentioned, greater Washington, D.C., which seemed to be holding up fairly well. The other ones were Texas and Oklahoma regions and particularly, Oklahoma City. So one of the things the article says is that these Rust Belt centers, the Sun Belt centers that grew by just building up housing, they're going to be hard hit, but other areas of the country may weather the storm very well.

And let me just say one other thing, where we live in Toronto now, literally right up next to Buffalo, you'd hardly know a recession was going on. Banks are lending, houses are being sold. So, one of the points of this article is that - in this piece, in this framework, is that the effects of the recession, or the reset, will be very differently felt across regions.

NEARY: But why would an area like Oklahoma City, where that caller just called from, why would that be in better shape than other parts of the country?

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, the simple answer is oil and natural resources and processing energy. So they've been able, because they specialize in those activities, to have a little breathing room. Not going to say that that won't catch up to that region of the country eventually, but they've been able to weather the storm and may only now be lapsing into recession, a year after most of the rest of the country.

NEARY: All right. We're going to take a call now from Craig(ph). He's calling from Laramie, Wyoming. Hi, Craig.

CRAIG (Caller): Hello. Thanks for taking my call. I am a fellow Michigander, and I moved out West because I was just having a hard time with - I was underemployed in Michigan, and my tax burden was really high. And I moved out to the Rocky Mountain Front Range region to be a part of a, kind of a high-tech boom. And I just wanted to know, is this kind of a bellwether? Am I in a place that's where I'm going to start seeing a lot more people coming?

NEARY: Will people be moving to Wyoming, do you think, Richard?

Mr. FLORIDA: Probably. I mean, it's a relatively sparsely populated state. It has some economic opportunity and obviously, it's affording economic opportunity. One of the - the book I wrote recently, which I don't talk about in the article, is called "Who's" - it's interesting, so many of the callers, it's called "Who's Your City?" And that - you can find the stuff on my Web site. But basically it said, every one of us needs to make this decision and take it quite seriously. You know, we think a lot about jobs, we think a lot about relationships. We don't often think very clearly about where we live. I think what this recession shows us is we have to pay a lot more attention, because even though we may love a certain area, it may not offer us this economic opportunity.

And this point about being underemployed, I've heard it so - I've seen it. I saw it when I lived in Pittsburgh. So many incredibly talented people who had so much to offer couldn't get a fabulous job. I mean, my wife, who is sitting right here, my wife, Ronna(ph) - I hate to put her on the spot - after she left Michigan and moved to Washington, D.C., she got three fabulous jobs in great succession, you know, doubling and tripling her salary, and she had a wonderful job in Michigan. She worked in the arts and culture field, but by the time she came to Washington, D.C., she had multiple job offers, and people were dying to get - and she felt great. You know, people really want me and that - I can use my skills, and I can apply them.

I think this question of being underemployed can make people miserable. So, I think you have to think about that, and if there's places that'll use your skills and make you feel more welcome, you have to go for it - even if you miss that place that you grew up.

NEARY: Now, one thing I want to ask you about, something you said in your article is sort of counter-intuitively, you say that city -a city like New York, which is a major finance center, will continue to survive. Charlotte, North Carolina - why is that? Given that you would think those would be cities hard hit by this particular recession.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, it's probably the New Yorker in me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FLORIDA: I went to Rutgers College, where I learned English as a second language.

NEARY: But you also said Charlotte, too. You said, Charlotte, North Carolina as well seemingly...

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, boy, have those guys played their cards right. I mean, they've really, really played their cards right and surfed this. I mean, I talk about that in the piece. I mean, they have such a thin margin there because they're so financially dependent, much more so than New York. But they've been able to put it together and make sure they have banking going on. New York is a different ball of wax. I mean, I think - and I'm going to put myself on the line and I hope callers come after me, because I love all callers - I think this was good for New York, and I think New York had become too financially dependent. There's this wonderful professor at NYU, Tom Philipod(ph), who says how much the wages in finance just skyrocketed and became unreasonable. I think New York can go back now to being a broadly kind of interesting, innovative, entrepreneurially creative place. You know, it's been a big, great and diverse and creative city for two centuries. I don't - I've never thought of New York as just a financial center. I've thought of it as a place for media and entertainment and arts and culture and new thinking and intellectualism. I think this is a good thing. I mean, even though it'll be painful for the city, I think it's a good thing, because it's going to force a real reset. And you know, I've gotten so many emails from people saying the same thing. I hope that New York can get its head and screw it back on straight, and become a prosperous and creative place like it's always been.

NEARY: All right, let's take a call from Hugh(ph), who is calling from Oakland, California. Hi, Hugh.

HUGH (Caller): Hi. So the interesting duality that Oakland has is that it's a little bit like New York or San Francisco, across the bay, in that it has white collar and Clorox and some other good companies, and then it has the poor and blue-collar community that's a little bit more like Detroit. So up in the hills and the white collar, San Francisco-oriented communities, you know, things are still relatively OK. But in the blue-collar areas, the, you know, the jobs are even harder to find than they have been in the past.

The city council, before the crash, had been effectively supporting real estate development everywhere. And now that, all that's come to a halt. So given that situation, what does a city like Oakland do to address both the middle class and the working class in this interesting duality, and who don't necessarily understand each other?

Mr. FLORIDA: What a great question. And it just speaks to the uneven impacts of this recession and reset. We've actually tracked all recessions in the post-war era and their impacts on different groups of workers, white collar and blue collar. Maybe you know, typically in a deep recession for white-collar workers, the unemployment rate may go to 5 percent. For blue-collar workers, it may go to 12 or 15 percent, and that's now doubled. This duality is even accentuated now because our economy is shifting away from a manufacturing economy to a white collar, professional, knowledge driven - or what I call a creative economy. And in some ways, it's the same kind of shift we went through when we moved from an agricultural to an industrial economy. We are now moving into a post-industrial kind of innovation and knowledge-driven economy. This is a central issue for the new president and the Congress. And the question is, how do we, one, create jobs for lower-skilled, blue-collar people? And two, how do we grow an economy that makes everyone feel included? And I have two things on that, just very quickly.

One, I think we have to make manufacturing jobs much more knowledge-intensive. Companies like Toyota have done that.

Two, I think we need a massive effort to upgrade our service economy. To re-employ - my dad used to tell me a story, Lynn. He said, Richard, when I started manufacturing work in the 1930s, my job stunk. He said, I had low pay, I had very little benefits. I came back from World War II, and my job magically turned into a high-wage, high-benefit, Social Security job that I could buy a house and put you through - two boys through school. We made manufacturing jobs good jobs. We have to undertake a national effort to make service-economy jobs good jobs, who employ just those people the caller mentions today.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for your call, Hugh.

HUGH: Thank you.

NEARY: We're going to go Tia(ph) in Bakersfield, California, now. Hi, Tia.

TIA (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Hi, go ahead.

TIA: Thanks for taking my call. I guess, I was wondering if you could clarify your response to Tessa. When you were talking about communities sort of dying and people commuting to other areas to work, how will that address quality of life and sustainability of natural resources?

Mr. FLORIDA: Oh, Tia, you ask such a profound and important question. And I think the only way we're going to do it is to connect these mega regions better, and to get less dependent on the car and much more dependent on things like high-speed rail.

One of the things my piece talks about, Tia, which I think you'd find interesting, is that we have to move away from single-family homeownership to rental housing. Here's the kind of thing I have in mind. Tessa loses her job. She needs to relocate. She quickly finds some opportunities in another - not - another part of Detroit. She can find a new rental house quickly in a neighborhood where she could walk or bike or take public transit to work. That's the kind of future I'm envisioning. Far less car dependent, far less dependent upon single family-owned homes. Either using high-speed rail or other forms of mass transit, pedestrian travel, bicycling to get to or from work, because we just can't afford this from a sustainability point of view, but also from an economic efficiency point of view when we're wasting so much of our time commuting long distances to and from work.

TIA: Great, thank you.

NEARY: Thanks for your call. I think that's probably the most radical thing that you suggest in this article, and that is that government policy should not be used to support home ownership but should be used to support renters. And that, to me, is real shift in the way we think as a society.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, you know, the system that we have of single family-owned homes worked spectacularly well for our post-war growth machine. I mean, I grew up in one of them in North Arlington, New Jersey. My dad had the same job from the day he turned 13 - could get working papers, he had to help his family during the depression - to the day he retired at 65. My mom and dad bought that house in 1959. They lived there until they passed away, 40, 50 years in the same home.

Now, today, just think about it, the average American may have as many as seven or more jobs. The average young person changes jobs once every couple of years. We move a lot more. We're a highly - before the crash, about 40 million Americans were moving each and every year. But how are you going to have a flexible economy which allows people to - which is sort of the hallmark of America's dream, this flexible economy where people can move to opportunity - if they're tied to these houses, and in particular, tied to these underwater houses. So one of the things the article says is, let's get people out of this burden. Let's encourage renting. And I think we're going to see it. Whether I'm predicting it or not doesn't matter. I think we're going to move to much more flexible forms of housing. Just like, you know, people lease cars or rent so many other things that we use in our lives. I think increasingly, we're going to come to find that it just makes sense from an economic point of view for us to be - have a much more flexible form of housing. We can rent a house and if we have to change our job, we move on to the next one.

NEARY: We're talking with Richard Florida about the geography of recession, and you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

All right, we're going to go to Heather in Cleveland, Ohio. Hi, Heather.

HEATHER (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Go ahead.

HEATHER: I'm calling to hear about the guest's view on the medical economy in Cleveland, Ohio, and you know, the possibility for different transportational opportunities like he was talking about and possibly like ferry issues on Lake Erie.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, Heather makes several points. Let me address at least one of them. The medical economy in Cleveland is quite fantastic. I mean, obviously, with the Cleveland Clinic and all the health centers and medical centers - Cleveland has quite capacity there. But one of the things we found, which is very interesting, is almost every city has strength in medicine and education. We sometimes at our institute joke, we call it meds and eds. What really drives economic growth, though, is another specialty, whether that's high-tech in Silicon Valley, whether that's entertainment and media in Los Angeles, whether it's oil and natural resources in Oklahoma City. So meds and eds can provide a great base for your economy, but they're not going to grow it.

Boy, I think the idea of moving people around on the water through fast ferries is a marvelous idea. And particularly where I thought it had a lot of traction, although it didn't work out financially, was moving people from say, Rochester, New York, on a fast ferry to a place like Toronto, which has a booming economy. But I think the use of water transit and fast ferries in certain instances can make a lot of differences, and get people off, you know, get them off the highways, and get them commuting in a better way.

NEARY: All right. We're going to try and get one more call in here. We're going to go to Cliff(ph). And Cliff is calling from Tucson, Arizona. Hi, Cliff.

CLIFF (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

NEARY: Go ahead.

CLIFF: I'm actually driving back from Phoenix, where I just listened to Barack Obama's speech on mortgage, his solution on the mortgage crisis.

NEARY: That's great.

CLIFF: But my call is about a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is also an American but a professor of urban planning in Vancouver, Canada. And we were talking about some of the problems with the housing crisis here in Arizona, particularly in Tucson and Phoenix, where we had such urban sprawl, and I asked what his prediction was for that in Arizona in the next 20 years. And he said his prediction was that those place are going to become slums and that instead of having inner-city slums like we usually think of, they, we're going to have suburban slums, and that the centers of these towns are going to become much more the vibrant centers. And I'm curious what you think about that, particularly for Arizona?

NEARY: Thanks for that interesting thought. I going to, we only have a minute left, so go ahead, Richard, see if you can respond to that. Thanks, Cliff.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, I think he's right. And that's one of the things the piece talks about. There's a great urban designer at Carnegie Mellon, where I taught, named David Lewis. He told me this 20 years ago, when I first became a professor. He said, you think urban renewal of the inner cities was a big project? He said, the greatest urban-renewal project this country, the United States, will ever face, much bigger than renewing our inner cities, will be adaptive reuse and the urban renewal and rejuvenation of these new slums, what's going to happen to so many of these suburbs, not only because they're sprawling and wide ranging but just low-quality construction.

NEARY: Richard Florida, so good to have you with us again.

Mr. FLORIDA: Well, it's great to be with you guys.

NEARY: Richard Florida wrote "How the Crash Will Reshape America" in the March issue of Atlantic monthly. There is a link at I'm Lynn Neary, it's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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