Rustbelt cities such as Akron are becoming the unlikely hotspots of global innovation, where sharing brainpower and making things smarter—not cheaper—is creating a new economy that is turning globalization on its head. Co-authors Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker will discuss Akron and other such cities showcased in their book, The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation, at the Hudson Library & Historical Society’s Distinguished Speakers event.

After coining the term “emerging markets” and building his multi-billion dollar investment firm around non-western surging economies, van Agtmael, along with renowned European journalist Bakker,  reassessed the conventional wisdom that the US and Europe are yesterday’s story and began to see signs that the tide might be turning. In The Smartest Places on Earth, the co-authors present a case that America and Europe are in a new era of competitiveness coming from unlikely places— those cities and areas once known as “rustbelts” that have, economically speaking, been written off. Using Akron as an example, they explain a combination of forces—including visionary thinkers, government initiatives, start-ups making real products and even big corporations—have succeeded in creating what the authors call a “brainbelt.” These “brainbelts” depend on a collaborative style of working that is unique to the societies and culture of America and Europe.

“Akron glitters like never before in these illuminating pages,” says Kirkus Reviews. Former Managing Editor of the Washington Post Robert G. Kaiser says, “This eye-opening account of innovation in unlikely places will raise the spirits of anyone discouraged by the gurus who keep telling us the future belongs not to the established democracies of the capitalist world, but to emerging powers mostly in Asia. I found their arguments, and the facts they have gathered to support them, both intriguing and convincing. And their book is fun to read.” Strobe Talbott, President of The Brookings Institution, calls the book, “the smartest book on one of the most important and promising trends in the American and global economy.”

Antoine van Agtmael is senior adviser at Garten Rothkopf, a public policy advisory firm in Washington, DC and was the founder of Emerging Markets Management LLC; previously he was deputy director at the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”) and a division chief in the World Bank’s borrowing operations. He taught at Georgetown Law Center and Harvard Institute of Politics. Mr. van Agtmael is a board member of The Brookings Institution, the NPR Foundation, Magnum Photos and the Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Gallery and is also a member of the President’s Council on International Activities at Yale University and the Council on Foreign Relations. His earlier books are The Emerging Markets Century and Emerging Securities Markets.

Alfred Bakker, until his recent retirement, was a journalist specializing in monetary and financial affairs with Het Financieele Dagblad, the “Financial Times of Holland,” serving as editor-in-chief and CEO.

The Entrepreneurship Series is sponsored by The Burton D. Morgan Foundation. The Learned Owl Book Shop will provide copies of the book for purchase and signing.

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