From the Executive Editor of New Geography [dot-com], we get an interesting insight to the true engine room of economic growth in the USA – small cities.
The conventional wisdom is that the world’s largest cities are going to be the primary drivers of economic growth and innovation. Even slums, according to a fawning article inNational Geographic, represent “examples of urban vitality, not blight.” In America, it is commonly maintained by pundits that “megaregions” anchored by dense urban cores will dominate the future.
Such conceits are, not surprisingly, popular among big city developers and the media in places like New York, which command the national debate by blaring the biggest horn. However, a less fevered analysis of recent trends suggests a very different reality: When it comes to growth, economic and demographic, opportunity increasingly is to be found in smaller, and often remote, places.
Hmm with the government rolling out the Ultra Fast Broadband Network, and with a bit a luck a private consortium building the second Trans-Pacific fibre optic cable soon; what is happening in America will happen here. That is over-emphasis on Auckland as the primary engine room, and under emphasis on our regions and small centres being the engine rooms to New Zealand.
This year’s edition of Forbes’ Best Cities For Jobs survey, compiled with Pepperdine University’s Michael Shires, found that small and midsized metropolitan areas, with populations of 1 million or less, accounted for 27 of the 30 urban regions in the country that are adding jobs at the fastest rate. The three largest metropolitan statistical areas that made the top 30 — Austin, Houston and Salt Lake City — are themselves highly dispersed with sprawling employment sheds.
Rather than the products of “smart growth” and intense densification, almost all of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas — including larger ones like Silicon Valley and Raleigh — tend to be dominated by suburban-style, single-family homes and utterly dependent on the greatest scourge of the urbanist creed: the private car. But many of the smaller are
The Best Cities for Jobs was an interesting read in its own right, however of note is the quoted section I have placed in bold.as also punch above their weight in myriad ways, spanning a host of industries. Another red cross and fail to smart growth? And I see Houston got mentioned again after I did a scoop piece on the city with its Municipal Utility Districts last week on VOAKL. Although I do sense to the editor’s auto-centric views coming across here where I am a tad more balanced than that (always need a mix).
Among the 398 MSAs we ranked for the list, energy towns dominate the top of the table: Odessa, Texas (100,000), took first place; followed by Midland, Texas (population: 111,000), in second place; Lafayette, La. (fourth, 114,000); Corpus Christi, Texas (sixth, 287,000); San Angelo, Texas (seventh, 92,000); Casper, Wyo. (10th, 54,000); and Bismarck, N.D. (21st, 61,000). These cities’ economies have expanded steadily over the last few years, beneficiaries of a great boom in fossil fuels that, unless derailed by regulators, will continue for the foreseeable future.
Now ironically David Farrar has just written a piece on similar stuff here in New Zealand at his Kiwi Blog site, at the same time I am also reading on the Fossil-Fuel Neo Boom in the USA and Australia is about to get a bit ugly with the Shale Gas industry due to go tits up like the housing market did after the Sub-Prime mortgage collapse in the USA. Commentary on shale gas will be run at a later date through the new International Scope page here at VOAKL.
But some of the other best cities for jobs make their livings in different ways, such as No. 12 Glens Falls, N.Y., riding growth in business services and tourism; and No. 15 Columbia, Mo., which is primarily a college and government town. Several smaller communities have bounced back strongly with the recovery of manufacturing, including No. 3 Columbus Ind., No. 11 Williamsport, Pa., and No. 19 Holland-Grand Haven, Mich.
Just a quick bit there that it’s not all about the hydrocarbons with small city engine room growth.
We see is a very different reality than that often promoted by big city boosters. Large, dense urban regions clearly possess some great advantages: hub airports, big labor markets, concentrations of hospitals, schools, cultural amenities and specific industrial expertise. Yet despite these advantages, they still lag in the job creation race to unheralded, smaller communities.
Why are the stronger smaller cities growing faster than most larger ones? The keys may lie in many mundane factors that are often too prosaic for urban theorists. They include things such as strong community institutions like churches and shorter commutes than can be had in New York, L.A., Boston or the Bay Area (except for those willing to pay sky-high prices to live in a box near downtown). Young families might be attracted to better schools in some areas — notably the Great Plains — and the access to natural amenities common in many of these smaller communities
Basically both the big city and the small city have advantages and disadvantages to them – depending on one’s needs at the given time. At the moment, the big city (Auckland) is where I live due to employment, civic and lifestyle opportunities that the city offers in compared to our smaller cities like Wellington and Hamilton (that is the benefits outweigh the costs at the moment)
This trend towards smaller communities — unthinkable among big city planners and urban land speculators — is likely to continue for several reasons. For one thing, new telecommunications technology serves to even the playing field for companies in smaller cities. You can now operate a sophisticated global business from Fargo, N.D., or Shreveport, La., in ways inconceivable a decade or two ago.
I just mentioned above that the roll out of the Ultra Fast Broadband network will open up opportunities in New Zealand, well the USA proves that it can and will as it has done for its smaller cities over here. Telecommuting could even help cut down on some of our traffic congestion here in Auckland. Although telecommuting is not the magic bullet for crap urban/transport planning/design/management that we have here in Auckland (as sectors like Manufacturing can’t use telecommuting per se).
Another key element is the predilections of two key expanding demographic groups: boomers and their offspring, the millennials. Aging boomers are not, in large part, hankering for dense city life, as is often asserted. If anything, if they choose to move, they tend toward less dense and even rural areas. Young families and many better-educated workers also seem to be moving generally to less dense and affordable places.
I wonder if Auckland Council has done a demographic study for the next fifty years to see population and socio-economic trends that would have a major influence on our urban and transport planning. Be one expensive bugger if we planned and built the city that caters for the wrong city-wide demographic…
What does this mean for investors, companies and individuals in the coming decades? For one thing, Wall Street, which tends to obsess over a handful of high-cost, dense, urban markets, may seek out new opportunities in faster-growing smaller cities. Prices tend to be lower and competition for prime space less intense, and the demographic wind is at their backs. Companies looking to expand may find not only a welcome mat from the locals, but also an expanding workforce in these generally more affordable places
Could not sum up the conclusion any better. Although we need to address a few things at Central Government level as well in helping rolling out the welcome mat.