Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rust Belt Renaissance

I've written about Pittsburgh as a Rust Belt outlier. Indianapolis is also separating itself from the postindustrial pack. Cincinnati might be poised to be the next city to join this economic turnaround cohort:

Cincinnati's 4 percent growth in young adults surpassed rates in several similar cities in the Midwest. Young adults grew 3 percent in Columbus and Indianapolis from 2005-07, and 2 percent in Louisville and 1 percent in St. Louis. The young population was down 1 percent in Cleveland. All have reputations based on old-economy businesses, and a lack of mountains or beachfront to attract a young, active population.

But Cincinnati lags some of the cities it aspires to become, in terms of being a destination for young professionals. Austin and Nashville both experienced a 9 percent growth in young adults from 2005 to 2007. Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C. - two cities often held out as examples of thriving mid-sized metropolises - experienced slow YP growth during these years, but that's likely because they grew rapidly in the 1990s.

Stories of growth should be put into such a context. Cincinnati looks good when compared to other Rust Belt cities, but it has a long way to go before it can compete with an Austin. The region's overall population is up, which is more than I can say about Pittsburgh. But like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati is an under-appreciated urban gem:

... Cincinnati is such an incredible city, one like no other in America. Every time I go there I am blown away by what it has. This isn't just another American sprawlburg, it's a place with amazing character. I'm not the only one who feels this way, as Mike Doyle's long take shows.

I encourage you to read that entire post from The Urbanophile. The critique is that the Cincinnati region is guilty of under-appreciating itself. The question shouldn't be about how to become Austin or Nashville, but how to leverage its unique assets. There's Richard Florida cool and then there's Rust Belt chic. Indeed, Cincinnati is a shining example of America's great urban frontier.

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