Sunday, August 31, 2008

Minneapolis Miracle

With the upcoming Republican National Convention, Minneapolis is receiving plenty of global attention. The Twin Cities have come a long way over the last 20 years and this metro is now an important destination for talent. An article in the Financial Times describes the boom in Richard Florida terms, making a dubious claim in the process:

How did the Twin Cities manage to avoid the exodus that has weakened other centres? The Cities are lucky to have a robust and diverse business community, unlike many neighbouring states, which have historically been dependent on manufacturing and agriculture. But the jobs are just a part of it. Government and business also have invested heavily in educating the local population. A strong tradition of philanthropy has made the region a cultural powerhouse. And those outlays have transformed a spot occasionally called America’s Icebox into a magnet for young talent.

Minnesota has a reputation for being unusually progressive. It was one of the first states to adopt an income tax – in 1933 – and also pioneered spending liberally and equitably on schools. Whether this approach can be directly traced to the values Norwegian and Swedish immigrants brought with them when they poured into the region in the late-19th century is unclear. What is indisputable is that it helped produce a well-educated population. In 2000, Minnesota had the highest percentage in the US of residents with a high-school diploma, and the seventh-highest percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree.

These graduates don’t have to leave the state to find a well-paid job. Unlike Detroit, which is dominated by one mega-industry (car manufacturing), the Minneapolis-St Paul economy looks like a cross-section of the US marketplace. Its 18 Fortune 500 corporations include Target; 3M; medical device maker Medtronic; and food producer General Mills, maker of Cheerios and Wheaties.

Cleveland and Detroit are two city centers mentioned as victims of the key demographic exodus. The story of attraction to frigid Minnesota is compelling. But the tale of out-migration is a myth pedaled by advocates of the Creative Class strategy. Shrinking cities boosters are also part of the problem.

I don't have any best selling books to legitimize my brain drain crusade, but I do have numbers. They will do in a pinch. The US Census looked at the domestic migration of the young, single and college educated from the period of 1995-2000. In 2000, the MSAs of Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul had about the same total population. However, about 2,500 more of the young, single and college educated left the Twin Cities metro than left Cleveland. But double of this golden demographic moved into Minnesota's largest city region than relocated to Greater Cleveland.

If there is proof that Florida's 3 Ts (talent, technology, and tolerance) helps keep the Creative Class from leaving, I've yet to see it. On the contrary, the bulk of the evidence says otherwise. Yet, as the article in the Financial Times represents, we continue to read about empty promises of how this strategy will stem the tide of out-migration. Nonsense.

1 comment:

The Urbanophile said...

Minneapolis metro had net domestic outmigration last year.