Do cities really care about their economic future? Or does he just not pay attention when you tell him something to do? Did the decline in corrosion belt, say, be due to bad luck or economic hardship?
Some cities may claim to be self-sufficient, their resources based on hard work and vision. The case could be made that Los Angeles, blessed with a beautiful climate but far from natural water sources, should not have grown to be the city it is today. Similarly, one could argue that Las Vegas should never exist. Both cities benefited from their original advantages – sunlight in Los Angeles, a Las Vegas game – to establish themselves. Then he quickly transformed it into a leading place.
On the other hand I like to call it wind-swept cities found to be hit by external forces. Perhaps Detroit and Cleveland, or Orlando and Tampa, would have reached a climax if major economic change did not suit them, but it is not possible.
This can cut both ways. Some cities with hurricanes are being boosted by global forces such as rising technology or technology. Small but minimal changes – air conditioning, straight lanes, increased tourism – can have far-reaching consequences.
Some cities with a hurricane are more likely to be affected by the change. As more and more wealth grows, they find that they have the tools and resources that are needed in the past. Many Rust Belt cities were hit by the disaster, packed with old equipment and unskilled workers to find new economic jobs.
The most successful US cities, I would argue, were the ones that benefited from the economic transformation and the advancement of their benefits and smart mobility. Compare Seattle with Detroit. In the late 1800’s, the two cities were in one location. Detroit was a busy port on the Great Sea and one of the busiest in the country, shipping millions of tons of cargo. He was a world leader in the shipbuilding industry and a steel-burning stove, known as the “American stove.”
This put Detroit in a good position where the car was manufactured. The city had a handful of skilled tradesmen and enthusiasts. Moving from the shipyard and the stoves to the automotive industry was not a major leap for them.
Detroit, whose industry became an integral part of the “Arsenal of Democracy” that won World War II, would have continued to create a booming defense business. Instead, the federal government looked to big car manufacturers to crack down on manufacturers. However, those companies declined and began to focus more on automotive. In contrast, Seattle wisely chose to go from shipbuilding to commercial aircraft after World War II, under the direction of a Boeing airline builder, and then build his professional career to create a thriving professional business.
Successful stories like Seattle are rare, however. In many cases, cities have had something in common with the opportunity to speak. The proliferation of Boston High Schools led to the transition from the port city to the more elaborate resort. Some cities have taken advantage of their position as head of state, a major university building, or to have academic and medical institutions to do the same. Atlanta, Austin, Nashville and Phoenix appear to be in line with the bill.
No one wants to believe that aphorism, “standing on the third floor and thinking they hit three times” applies to them. We all want to be recognized for the efforts that lead to success. But the proverb is also applicable to more cities and peoples. Although the big cities have benefited from the best decisions, many others – perhaps many – have just fallen into economic crisis as the winds of economic change changed.
The next “big thing” could easily confuse issues of economic success. They may not be particularly pleased when their successor cities begin offering advice on how to revitalize their economy. One skill that all city leaders can do wisely is to learn with a little humility.
Information From Other Authors at Bloomberg Opinion:
• Michelle Wu of Boston is the Mayor of the First Presidency: Matthew Winkler
• How to Change the Western Design Problem: Adrian Wooldridge
• Floating Cities Can Be One Solution to the High Seas: Adam Minter
This post does not represent the views of the editorial team or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Pete Saunders is a regional and economic development manager in Richton Park, Illinois, and a town planning consultant. He is also the editor and publisher of Corner Side Yard, a blog that focuses on social issues in the American cities of the Rust Belt.
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