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Lecture: Dr. Jonathan Michael Feldman, Stockholm University and SMART Fellow, University of Michigan

September 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

With increasing national attention being paid to both job creation and manufacturing, activists, planners and politicians have promoted “green jobs” as a way to confront the economic, environmental and energy supply crises. Major cutbacks in defense spending may also create incentives to diversifying into mass transit, as happened during the post-Vietnam period and presidency of Jimmy Carter. In 1892, the Michigan-Peninsular Car Co. emerged as the largest single manufacturer of rolling stock in the United States. Walter Reuther, Governor William G. Milliken, Phil Power, Robert Goodman and Michael Moore are some of the people who have either advocated Michigan or the auto industry’s diversification into mass transit.

Yet, despite the hopes for more manufacturing and green jobs from the Obama Administration, news reports and government data show the former in decline and relatively few green jobs. Despite the promise, the advocacy of green jobs has often involved a rhetorical stance not always grounded in either the material reality of firms or the unique constellation of factors that make such job creation more or less likely in specific sectors or regions. Visiting professor Jonathan M. Feldman, Associate Professor at the Department of Economic History at Stockholm University, and U-M SMART Fellow, has engaged in extensive studies of mass transit producers. He will explain some of the key factors underlying success and failure within firms and regions trying to promote mass transit manufacturing.

About Jonathan Feldman

Dr. Feldman has studied factors influencing mass transit manufacturing in the United States, Canada, Sweden, South Korea and Japan. His transit manufacturing research has been discussed in The New York Times and published by The American Prospect, the International Labour Organization and a compendium on post Cold War economics. His research examines innovative platforms that support transportation technologies and manufacturing. The purpose of his study is to investigate how to promote green jobs and manufacturing by examining the case of the mass transportation, with a focus on different kinds of rolling stock (trains).

Using the case of the subway manufacturing sector, Feldman’s research examines: (a) why domestic U.S. manufacturing declined, (b) the rise of foreign-based transnational suppliers into the U.S. market and an associated domestic content regime, and (c) potential and actual strategies to promote domestic production. He is also studying how light rail markets and supporting spatial planning has emerged in Portland, Stockholm and London. In Michigan, Feldman is particularly interested in potential synergies between mass transit markets and the larger automobile supplier chain and workforce, how companies developed new innovations, products, and strategies supporting U.S.-anchored jobs.


SMART, Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation, is a project of UMTRI, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Its steering group represents a breadth and diversity of departments, institutes, and initiatives related to sustainable transportation at the University of Michigan. SMART catalyzes and undertakes research, demonstration projects (living labs), education, and global learning exchange on a range of issues related to the sustainable future of transportation. For more information, go to http://um-smart.org/blog or contact Managing Director Susan Zielinski at susanz@umich.edu


September 20, 2011
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm