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The Core Vitality Imperative

The Core Vitality Imperative Post by The Urbanophile

You can’t be a suburb of nowhere.” – Bill Hudnut

What does a healthy urban core mean to a region? Maybe the difference between success and failure. On the jump, a look at urban core and regional job growth for selected cities*, ranked by percentage job growth in the core county from 2001 to 2009.

Notice a pattern? Clearly, for these cities at least, core county performance is an excellent proxy for overall regional performance. I’m not making a statistical claim here, but the data for these cities is suggestive. I think it also foots with our common sense view. How many thriving metro areas have a core city/county that is going down the tubes? I can’t name one.

The Dynamics of Growth and Decline

It might be easy to dismiss cities like Cleveland and Detroit by simply calling them dysfunctional. But that misses the point. Of course they’re dysfunctional. All struggling cities and organizations are dysfunctional, or they probably wouldn’t be in that state. What’s more, rather than just dysfunction causing failure, which is sometimes true, it’s also true that failure causes dysfunction. As a city (or company or other organization) starts into decline, it fails to attract customers, top talent leaves, and operational and financial issues creep up. In this regard the civic dysfunction noted in places like California is as much as product of decline as its cause.

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