Jeramey Jannene
Book Club

The Smartest Places on Earth

Rust belt cities might be the real emerging markets, but is Milwaukee one of them?

By - May 25th, 2016 11:09 am
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The Smartest Places on Earth

The Smartest Places on Earth

Where are the smartest places on the planet? Authors Antoine Van Agtmael and Fred Bakker argue they’re in formerly declining industrial cities like Akron, Albany and Dresden in their new book The Smartest Places on Earth: Why the Rustbelts are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation. Tracking centers of innovation in Europe and the United States, the authors explore the key factors present in creating modern day economic engines. Their travels led them to identify a number of “brainbelts,” where a combination of forces is present that is leading to the creation of smart products that are transforming industries.

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute said that the book “upends conventional wisdom about how the global economy works and which places are primed to thrive and prosper.” While David Swenson of Yale University said “this extraordinarily well-researched book challenges the conventional view of a developed world in relative decline.”

Milwaukee, however, does not appear on their list. How does the city get there and what needs to happen? We will convene for discussion and a social hour on June 27th in the backroom of My Office, 763 N. Milwaukee St, at 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend, the discussions are informal and open-ended. If you don’t finish the book, don’t worry. Come to listen, learn and engage.

The book is available from Amazon, the Milwaukee Public Library, and bookstores everywhere.

To stay in the loop about future book club news, sign up for our Book Club mailing list. To help us better plan, please RSVP on Facebook, although it’s not required.

Bonus Book

Because this book is shorter than most of our past books, we’re recommending a second book for attendees. Building off of past books like Start-Up City and Streetfight, The Responsive City explores strategies for community engage through “data-smart governance.” Written by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Harvard professor Susan Crawford, the book looks at many of the innovative policies put in place during Goldsmith’s time under Michael Bloomberg (when Goldsmith served there as Deputy Mayor) as well as examples from Boston and Chicago. At only 208 pages, the book is short and thought-provoking.

Buy it today

About the Authors

Antoine van Agtmael is senior adviser at Garten Rothkopf, a public policy advisory firm in Washington, DC. He was a founder, CEO, and CIO of Emerging Markets Management LLC; previously he was deputy director of the capital markets department of the International Finance Corporation, the private sector oriented affiliate of the World Bank, and a division chief in the World Bank’s borrowing operations. He was an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center and taught at the Harvard Institute of Politics. Mr. van Agtmael is chairman of the NPR Foundation, a member of the board of NPR, and chairman of its Investment Committee. He is also a trustee of The Brookings Institution and co-chairman of its International Advisory Council. He is on the President’s Council on International Activities at Yale University, the Advisory Council of Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Alfred Bakker, until his recent retirement, was a journalist specializing in monetary and financial affairs with Het Financieele Dagblad, the “Financial Times of Holland,” serving as deputy editor, editor-in-chief and CEO. In addition to his writing and editing duties he helped develop the company from a newspaper publisher to a multimedia company, developing several websites, a business news radio channel, a quarterly business magazine, FD Outlook, and was responsible for the establishment of FD Intelligence.

Previous Books

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2 thoughts on “Book Club: The Smartest Places on Earth”

  1. mbradleyc says:

    Milwaukee isn’t on the list because of the usual snobbery. Who cares? We are doing just fine. Milwaukee is knocking it out of the park.

  2. M says:

    mbradleyc: It may not just be snobbery by the authors, especially if the book is as well researched as described (and Akron, for one, has long been the butt of jokes by snobs). Milwaukee indeed has much going for it. However, it’s completely in the dust in terms of business start-ups (37th of 40) and some other key indicators.

    Anecdotally, young innovators report that Milwaukee is not a great place to try to get a toehold and make things happen since it’s still such an old boys club. The snobbishness factor may be more among the power elite. The authors report that “brainbelts” are highly collaborative, open and fueled by visionaries and connectors. It seems there are younger people with those qualities here but much of what happens in Milwaukee is reportedly still done in tight elite circles behind closed doors. I hope we don’t drive away the people we need most.

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