Advanced manufacturing can thrive, as Grand Rapids shows

【双语】美国中小企业 America’s Mittelstand-书迷号

A better example, says Mr Bartik, is Grand Rapids, Michigan, “the most successful intensive manufacturing city in America”. It once made furniture and car parts, but since 1985 has been transformed by a project called “the Right Place”. Change came from the ground up, starting with 13 businesspeople from banks and philanthropy, including the Van Andel and De Vos families, who wanted to make their home more attractive. The early idea was to get existing firms to stay, but later it became to lure newcomers. The burghers first restored the town centre. They built a 12,000-seat arena that hosted big-name performers like Elton John. Hotels, restaurants, coffee bars and other entertainment flourished. Students flocked in. The Van Andels set up the Van Andel Institute, a bioscience cluster. Michigan State University opened a big medical school to train health-care staff. Michigan Tech University set up a branch.

巴尔季克说,一个更好的样本是密歇根州的大急流城(Grand Rapids)——“美国最成功的密集型制造业城市”。它曾经制造家具和汽车零部件,但自1985年起被一个名为“适宜地”(the Right Place)的项目改天换地。改造从零开始,由来自银行和慈善业的13位商人发起,包括范安德尔(Van Andel)和狄维士(De Vos)家族,他们希望自己的家园变得更具吸引力。一开始的想法是让现有企业留下来,后来变成了吸引外来者。市民们首先重建了市中心。他们盖了一个1.2万座的体育馆,请来埃尔顿·约翰(Elton John)等著名表演者。酒店、餐厅、咖啡馆和其他娱乐场所蓬勃发展。学生们蜂拥而至。范安德尔家族创建了范安德尔研究所(Van Andel Institute)这个生物科学集群。密歇根州立大学设立一个大型医学院来培训医护人员。密歇根理工大学在这里开设了分校。

Manufacturers were pressed to modernise. Birgit Klohs, a German transplant who has run the Right Place since 1987, says “We’re still a manufacturing centre, like the Mittelstand. The bulk of our success is in advanced manufacturing, in family-owned, mid-sized firms in their third or fourth generation of ownership, just like in Germany.” She seeks foreign ideas. In the 1980s a Japanese adviser showed car-suppliers Toyota’s lean techniques. She leads forays to Germany to study “Industry 4.0” (high tech in factories) or Israel to see how to work with startups.

制造商被迫开展现代化改造。自1987年以来一直负责“适宜地”项目的德国移民比吉特·克洛斯(Birgit Klohs)说:“我们仍是一个制造中心,就像德国的“中小企业”(Mittelstand)。我们的成功主要源自先进制造业,源自家族拥有的第三、第四代中型企业,就像在德国那样。”她寻求外来创意。在1980年代,一位日本顾问向汽车供应商展示了丰田的精益生产方式。她带队前往德国学习“工业4.0”(工厂高科技),去以色列观摩如何与创业公司合作。

As important, foreign investors are urged to come to Grand Rapids. Again, the German connection helps. She says there are 136 foreign companies, including 50 from her former homeland. The city “makes a point of attracting foreign, especially German” firms, she says, “as we saw something in common”. The results are exceptional. The Grand Rapids metro area has more than 1m residents today, up from 740,000 in 2000. New types of manufacturers flourish, such as makers of medical devices and equipment. Ms Klohs’s group lists 79 suppliers of personal protective gear, such as face shields, masks, hand-sanitisers, swabs and more, currently in high demand.


The city is a model for deployment of social capital. Researchers have tried to understand why some collaborative efforts succeed but not others. Part of the answer is that, as with the Mittelstand, many firms in the Midwest are owned by families with a passion for their home towns. Mr Katz says Midwesterners benefit from a “deep commitment to place”. He notes how many institutions with huge endowments there are, including MacArthur in Chicago, Heinz in Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett (son of Warren) foundation in Decatur.

这座城市是社会资本部署的典范。研究人员过去一直试图弄明白为什么有些协作成功了,有些却没有。答案一部分在于,和德国的中小企业一样,中西部的许多企业都是由对故乡充满深情的家庭拥有的。卡茨说,中西部人受益于一种“对地方的全心奉献”。他指出那里有众多拥有巨额捐赠的机构,包括芝加哥的麦克阿瑟基金会(MacArthur)、匹兹堡的亨氏家族基金会(Heinz)、克利夫兰基金会(Cleveland Foundation)和位于迪凯特市、由巴菲特的儿子运营的霍华德·巴菲特基金会(Howard G. Buffett Foundation)。

One research paper contrasts the fortunes of Allentown in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, with the dim outcomes in Youngstown, Ohio, in the years since the 1970s. In Allentown the main concern, as in Grand Rapids, was to create conditions so firms would stay and grow. In Youngstown (as with Foxconn in Wisconsin) there was a narrower focus on helping a particular industry, in its case steel. The long slog of creating the right eco-system seems more likely to pay off than the short-term effort to pick a winner in a declining business.■

有一篇研究论文对比了自1970年代以来宾夕法尼亚州利哈伊谷(Lehigh Valley)的阿伦敦(Allentown)的致富之路和俄亥俄州的扬斯敦(Youngstown)的惨淡结果。和大急流城一样,阿伦敦注重创造条件让企业留下来并得以发展。而在扬斯敦(和威斯康辛的富士康一样),关注点被更狭隘地放在了帮助某一个特定行业上——在扬斯敦是钢铁。看起来,长久而艰辛地打造出适宜的生态系统要比短期花些力气在一个衰退的行业中选出赢家更可能获得回报。