CLEVELAND (TDB) -- The Federal Reserve Bank's economic research unit has dug up data that reveals -- contrary to a lot of doomsaying -- the Rust Belt isn't filled with dim bulbs after all. Patent activity in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Cincinnati triangle "remains vigorous", according to Fed economist Robert J. Sadowski. In fact, the output of inventors in the region accelerated in the mid-1990s before taking a recent dip, as has the U.S. total.
Where the region lags is in electronic patents -- the computer, communications and chip industries centered in 18 counties primarily clustered near Boston, San Antonio and California's Silicon Valley. The Rust Belt seems to have largely missed that wave, except for a pocket from Dayton down to Lexington, Ky. Still, Sadowski said the Ohio region remains remarkably innovative:
"Until the mid-1990s, patenting in the Fourth District exceeded that in the U.S. on a per capita basis. However, in the late 1990s, patenting rates began to accelerate across the nation and within the district, but the acceleration at the national level was greater . . . If patents in the electronics industry are excluded from the comparison, the Fourth District actually has more patents per capita than the United States as a whole from 1975 through 2003.
"Fourth District patenting activity remain vigorous. As mentioned earlier, the District has a higher per capita rate than the national across the entire 1975-2003 period when electronics industry patents are excluded from the comparison. Although the District lags the U.S. average in electronics patents, it remains highly competitive in innovation across most broad-based industry groups, especially chemicals and machinery."