Loss of Manufacturing Jobs a Golden Opportunity in Shenzhen

Shenzhen Undercover makes an important point about how losing an essential sector of the economy can actually be of benefit:

…as much as this economic downturn in the globalized economy has hurt a lot of export-driven businesses, and its workers in Shenzhen, it’s really helping Shenzhen transform itself to what it wants to become. For the past 2 years since I’ve been living here, there has been a constant trend and push by local officials to develop Shenzhen as a city dominated by high-tech research rather than lower value-added manufacturing. It wants to go from labor intensive, basic and easy things like the toy industry to industries higher on the totem pole of innovation.

As much as Shenzhen was able to get its start from being that factory town “across the border” for Hong Kong businessmen, its goal is to move away from that persona into an international city of something other than toys, eye glass frames and furniture. It wants to be a city on the same scale as Beijing and Shanghai, or better than Singapore.

This article got me thinking about the United States. What locations stand to transform for the better from the rotten economy, and how? (Comparing the US to China at this point may be apples and oranges, but I think the point is valid for any location.)

Off the top of my head, I think of my state of residence, Colorado, which has been focused on becoming a green energy hub for quite some time. The energy crisis has served to hasten its transformation in interesting ways. Environmentalism is embedded in the culture here, leading to a strong greening trend that manifested in a few different steps:

1) An off-the-grid housing development trend, mostly designed for high-end suburban or urban sales.

2) A rash of green small businesses, such as solar panel installation shops, grew around this trend.

3) Increasingly, government policies targeted at greening the energy system are gaining a popular hold (for example, my town has a lottery offering several thousand dollars for people installing solar panels on their homes. First you install, then you enter the lottery, which pays for around half of the installation fee).

4) More people greening their homes means more small business to get the job done. Ideally, a few regional and national powerhouses will emerge from those small businesses and feed the state’s economy, which is definitely suffering.

I wonder what other states and cities have new economic drivers waiting in the wings.

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  • Hey Drea,

    The challenge for Colorado is multifacted:

    1) China and other countries have far more need to develop these technologies than the US. Countries like Australia, with abundant sunshine and almost no domestic hydrocarbon sources, feel the pinch more than we do.

    2) States like California and Arizona already have much more aggressive government programs (and strong regional sell/install/service infrastructure) for green stuff.

    But, hey, the more the merrier, and the faster new technologies come on line!


  • exactly. this is also why Obama wants to invest soo much money on infrastructure and clean energy.