I’m in an exclusive book group. Well, it isn’t exclusive in the sense that we have such high standards that admission is limited to a select few. In fact, in that sense, it’s a quite inclusive group – anyone can join. All you have to do to be eligible is be willing to read exclusively non-fiction and to attend monthly meetings at seven a.m. In other words, not many people want to join.

The group has existed, I believe, for more than thirty years. I joined about twenty years ago, and I’ve developed a well-earned reputation for having strongly held opinions on almost any subject. I have particularly strong opinions about the books we read, even, in some cases, if I haven’t read the book. My book group friends weren’t surprised that I’m writing this blog – they just see it as Mark being Mark.

Last year as Christmas approached, my family asked, as always, “what gifts would you like.” A first-world question with which many of us are familiar and to which few of us have good answers. Last year I realized that I would like to receive hard copies of the books on my book group reading list. For many years I’ve bought hard copies but didn’t want to spend the money or waste the paper. Sometimes I’d track the book down at the library, or I’d buy a Kindle version. I was saving paper or money, but I didn’t enjoy the reading as much. I like the hard copy, and now I get to enjoy the hard copy and my family has the satisfaction of giving me something I’d like to receive.

And so it came to pass that on Christmas morning this year I became the owner of a copy of The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti, copyright 2012. Moretti is a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve read the introduction, and my book group friends will not be surprised to find that I already have strong opinions about the book. I like it.

Moretti’s book is about what he calls the Great Divergence – the fact that across the United States and much of the developed world, innovation is driving the economy, and innovators increasingly are clustering in relatively few, amazingly vibrant cities. Although many people have thought for decades that technological development would tend to de-urbanize the world by allowing people to spread out and work from any place they liked, the reality has been quite the opposite. It turns out that the innovators want to be together in the same geographic areas, and so we have Seattle and Boston and Austin and the like in the U.S. and similar, larger examples in other parts of the world.

The result, according to Moretti, is that we have “brain hubs” that are “growing, adding good jobs and attracting even more skilled workers. At the other extreme are cities once dominated by traditional manufacturing, which are declining rapidly, losing jobs and residents. In the middle are a number of cities that could go either way.”

“A number of cities that could go either way”? Sound familiar? Greater Hartford, that’s us. We’re not “growing, adding good jobs and attracting even more skilled workers.” But Hartford almost never was nor is now a city “dominated by traditional manufacturing.” We’re something else. We’re a 19th century financial capital that transformed itself into a 20th century insurance powerhouse and that still has the fire-power to become a significant player in the 21st century northeast corridor intellectual and innovation hub. The future is right here, waiting for the people of greater Hartford to create it, but for now, in Moretti’s words, Hartford is one of those “cities that could go either way.”

Greater Hartford is in competition with cities around the country, a competition to be the kind of innovation hub that attracts more innovators and creates jobs and community wealth. Greater Hartford has some advantages in that competition, such as location and the intellectual, educational and business sophistication of its population. We also have some disadvantages, such as location (yes, I just said that) and what I’d call, to be delicate, a shortage of entrepreneurial energy. Another disadvantage, as I’ve been saying, is how we govern ourselves.

Greater Hartford’s future is here, waiting for us to create it. We need some big ideas, to be sure, but we have no shortage of creative people. We just need to get to work.