Civic Capacity: Some cities have it, other do not

The Wall Street recently published an interesting comparative piece of two cities in Michigan: Ann Arbor, a city with promise and Warren, a city in decline. The article, Ann Arbor and Warren: A Tale of Two Economies, not only addresses the need for cities to move beyond the automotive industry as the economic driver, to a more diverse group of innovative industries, it also shows the difference civic capacity makes in fostering growth. During my travels as the Project Coordinator at Greater Ohio, I have witnessed the decline in civic capacity throughout the entire state of Ohio. As big box stores overtake mom and pop businesses, the city loses the people who traditionally fill civic leadership roles. Ann Arbor is fortunate to have the University of Michigan and has wisely invested in this asset to create more jobs and spur innovation. New technology companies crop up and there is a supply of leaders to improve the quality of the city and offer residents a safe and unique culture.

"Over the years, the city [Ann Arbor] developed the types of schools, cultural institutions and amenities that made it an attractive place to live and work. Google, whose co-founder Larry Page attended the University of Michigan, opened an Ann Arbor campus in 2006. About 70,000 people commute to this city, about 40 miles west of Detroit, each day.

Accio Energy got its start in 2007, based on plans two of the founders hatched at Zingerman's Deli, Ann Arbor's renowned gourmet-food destination."

In contrast to Warren which "has the largest concentration of auto workers in the country, job transitions are more difficult to make. Just one in five of Warren's workers between the ages of 25 and 64 holds a bachelor's degree or higher, a relic of the days when a college degree wasn't necessary to find a job that paid well. By comparison, three-quarters of Ann Arbor's work force has at least a college degree."

There are leaders in Ohio's cities, however they can not go it alone and will need to grow in numbers and in strength in order to make an impact.