Thus began a remarkable two-year journey to reassess the conventional wisdom that the US and Europe are yesterday's story and to determine whether there is something profound that is happening that points the way to the creation of the next economy.
In The Smartest Places on Earth, van Agtmael and Bakker present a truly hopeful and inspiring investigation into the emerging sources of a new era of competitiveness for America and Europe that are coming from unlikely placesthose cities and areas once known as "rustbelts" that have, from an economic perspective, been written off. Take, Akron, Ohio, whose economy for decades was dependent on industries such as tire manufacturing, a product now made cheaply elsewhere. In Akron and other such communities, a combination of forcesincluding visionary thinkers, government initiatives, start-ups making real products, and even big corporationshave succeeded in creating what van Agtmael and Bakker call a "brainbelt." These "brainbelts" depend on a collaborative style of working that is unique to the societies and culture of America and Europe, since they involve levels of trust and freedom of thinking that can't be replicated elsewhere. They are producing products and technologies transforming industries such as vehicles and transportation, farming and food production, medical devices and health-care.
For several decades American and European industry focused on cost by outsourcing production to those emerging markets that can make things cheaper. The tide has now turned, as van Agtmael and Bakker report, to being smart, and the next emerging market, may, in fact, be the West.
Alfred Bakker, until his recent retirement, was a journalist specializing in monetary and financial affairs withHet 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, and a quarterly business magazine,FD Outlook, and, responsible for the establishment of FD Intelligence