Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cool Won't Attract Talent

In terms of economic development, better urban environments don't matter. I fail to see the value in place-based approaches and I'm not sure there is much gain in contrasting it with people-based community development. In any grand theory of urbanization, there is only one question to address:

In essence, they arrive at the sensible conclusion that cities are valuable because they facilitate human interactions, as people crammed into a few square miles exchange ideas and start collaborations. “If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons,” West says. “They’ve come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That’s why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.”

Moving to a city often entails a lower quality of life. Yet people still come. It boils down to the economic development of people, not place. Even if your hometown offers everything you require to prosper, there is still value in leaving. The risk of relocation is the hallmark of an entrepreneur.

In fact, I'd argue that leaving is more important than the destination. You'll end up with a network of people who have done the same thing. You surround yourself with like-minded risk-takers. You go to the city to find that kind of community. You don't move there for a more walkable neighborhood. That's absurd.


Eve said...

I'm in love with cities because of the way they look and feel. I moved downtown when those around me were definitely not like minded. The fact that I can walk, ride a bus, spend no time commuting is the life I planned. I believe the truth about what drives people to live in cities is somewhere between the two. Yes, surely, cities would not exist without people. But the better they become physically, the more populated they become.

Jim Russell said...

But the better they become physically, the more populated they become.

What "cool" does is increase capacity. Downtown amenities allow for more talent to pack into a smaller area. When we look at successful cities, the attractions are a result of the impressive talent density. Redevelopment efforts point the arrow in the other direction. That's a mistake.

All urban amenities being equal, what attracts people to certain cities?

Eve said...

That is a really big question. I can tell you what attracts me. Great public spaces AND people. Both. 50/50.

You can't swat down all redevelopment efforts. They may not answer all problems but they can help with some. Sometimes redevelopment is necessary just for people to have decent lives. So I'm not sure how you can say that "Redevelopment efforts point the arrow in the other direction". Redevelopment efforts should be supplementary and can be essential. I think perhaps that you and I are thinking about redevelopment in different ways.

I believe the answer to your question lies somewhere in between the two - people and place. Fill up an ugly city with talented people (like Cranberry) and I'm afraid you are not going to entice me there - ever.