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'Aerotropolis' and the University
May 1, 2011 - 8:00pm

How dependent is your university on airplanes and airports? The degree to which we are all tied into the jet economy is probably bigger than any of us realize.

The main argument of Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next by Kasarda and Lindsay is that the economy of the 21st century is defined by velocity and inter-connectivity. The aerotropolis is the airport plus the factory plus the city. Production, distribution, logistics, and increasingly residences and services get built around the airport.

Think airports in Dubai and Dulles, Atlanta and Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Singapore. Goods, people, and ideas move at the speed of the jet, with a premium placed on proximity to airports (and international supply chains) when deciding where to locate a new business, factory, or increasingly the family home.

Question: Who travels the most for business?

Answer: People who work in technology.

All of our Skyping, Adobe Connecting, WebEXing, and Linked-Inning has increased our professional circles and contacts. We can meet and collaborate online, but we need to spend time together face-to-face to develop trust. Attend more online conferences and you will find yourself flying to more face-to-face meetings. Technology increases the advantages of easy access to airports.

Think about the following questions:

  • How many professional meetings do you fly to each year?
  • How many visits by the companies you currently or potentially do business with involve an airplane flight by someone from a given company (or you flying to see them)?
  • How much flying involves students? From the initial campus visit to trips back and forth from school to home? What percentage of those trips are by plane vs. car, and how has that changed over the years?
  • How often do our alumni come back to campus? Do they fly?
  • When is the last time you purchased anything (probably from the Web) for work? From server to laptop, it was probably built in Asia and shipped to your campus by air.
  • To what degree is higher ed, institutions that are used to thinking about as place based, tied into the airplane and airport economy?

Aerotropolis is one of those essential books necessary to make sense of how globalization, urbanization, and technology are changing how we will work, live and play. Some other books beyond Aerotropolis that I'd put on my "must-read" list include:

What books would you add to this list?

Next up for me is Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World by Doug Saunders. Maybe you will join me in reading this book?

What are you reading?


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