Perhaps your city wins the macroeconomic lottery like Waterloo, Ontario did. For every Waterloo, there are hundreds or thousands of struggling communities such as Hamilton, Ontario. Will all these urban residuals shrink into oblivion?
No, they won't. Joel Kotkin explains why:
Despite all the "back to the city" hype, New York over the past decade suffered one of the highest rates of out-migration of any region in the country. Young singles may come to New York, but many leave as they get older and have families. An analysis by the city controller's office in 2005 found that people leaving the city were three times more likely to have children than those arriving.
With all due respect to the many immigration advocates (I count myself as one of you), NYC Mayor Bloomberg's plea for immigration reform serves an obvious end. The Big Apple is domestically unsustainable. Most global cities are.
Young adults and international migrants are adaptive. They have to be. How else can anyone explain why the going rate for human smuggling to New York from China is $10,000? How can a recent 23-year old graduate live in San Francisco as an intern during the day and busboy at night? People figure out a way to access the greatest opportunities.
As for young families, the best manage to live in the most exclusive suburbs with nationally renown schools. The motivation to leave the city is very strong, regardless of class. Kotkin points out, Manhattan is not for mothers.
New York City's failings spell opportunity for Pittsburgh (or any other backwater city looking for an opening). I'll use Mike Madison's 2010 projections to define the carrot:
6. Demographics: The Pittsburgh media will search for good news in Pittsburgh’s modest but growing Latino and Indian and South Asian communities. More often than not, they will miss the story. New grocery stores are interesting and colorful and fun for shopping; new professionals migrating to Pittsburgh have a greater bearing on the region’s prosperity. 2010 will be Pittsburgh’s year of the woman (women?) in leadership, across politics, business, and the nonprofit sector.
Ask Mike to explain his prediction. I interpret it as too much attention given to anemic immigration and not enough celebration of Pittsburgh's concentration of smart women. Pittsburgh could be, if it dreamed so, the city many families wish New York would become.
Global cities are anti-family. They also ignore certain industries. Again, Kotkin:
More than anything, the plain-vanilla neighborhoods that represent New York's real future will require policies that create a broad array of economic opportunities. Right now New York is so overregulated and highly taxed that only the most high-end business, such as big media and financial firms, can possibly thrive. The city has neglected its smaller firms, typically engaged in such activities as food processing, furniture making, and garment production. Traditionally these industries were run by Russian, German, Polish, and Italian immigrants; West Indians, Latinos, Koreans, Chinese, and South Asians do much of this work today. Over the past decade, the number of self-employed immigrants in New York has grown even as the number of self-employed among the native-born has dropped.
A good example of this kind of Global Squeeze, is Youngstown native Nanette Lepore's plea to save New York City's Garmet District:
When I was in high school, my parents decided to build their dream house, modern and expansive, in a rural area of Youngstown, Ohio. That summer, my brother and sister helped build the house with my father, his brothers, Raymond and Henry, Grandpa Lepore, Uncle Joe, and various relatives that would make an appearance to work their area of expertise. The house of cedar had as the centerpiece an amazingly beautiful brick wall of rustic, oversized bricks salvaged from an old steel refractory. They were all craftsmen at work with a legacy of pride in creating. Toward the end, when the house was roughed in, Grandpa McGarry and his son, Bob, installed beautiful oak cabinets that had been built at Grandpa's workshop. He even designed an intricate parquet for behind the cabinets, like the surprise of a beautiful lining in a coat.That summer I didn't go to the building site very often, choosing instead to stay at home and sew. It was a form of rebellion against moving to what I perceived to be a backwater country school. Now as an adult I realize that all the heart and skill that went into building our home made it a place to be proud of!I often think about the impact my family craftsmanship had on me. It gave me the tools I need to create and be fearless without limitations. Knowing that one has the potential to build something from a pile of raw materials is empowering. It's a gift that our children might not receive.Eighty percent of my products are made in America in a 10 block radius from my office in New York City's Garment Center. They are assembled by skilled craftsmen who also immigrated here with a trade just like my family. I treasure being able to watch my product develop from a roll of fabric into a beautiful garment hanging in a shop. That garment was designed in my studio on 35th street, the pattern digitized on 38th street, then passed to a cutter around the corner, then bins of cut work trundled to a factory on 39th street, to then be sewn together. All the while each step being closely monitored by my staff.My company alone keeps about 10 factories busy. Those factories make up about 300 jobs in New York City. However, the landlords, the restaurant and hotel union, and the developers want to annihilate our 100 year old Garment Center. Their vision is one sprawling, mall-type maze, from Time Square to Macy's. The homogenizing and "mall-i-fying" of our city continues. The landlords are pushing hard against the city to free up the New York City Garment Center zoning.
If Bloomberg won't listen to Ms. Lapore, then perhaps a Rust Belt city will. Pay attention to the shifting urban geography. Pittsburgh could be that agent of restructuring. There are diaspora connections to leverage. Thousands of talented people leave global cities every year. What is your city doing to attract them?