The importance of core urban areas to a region’s economy is the
subject of a post today from the always thoughtful Aaron Renn, who
blogs at The Urbanophile.
Renn examines data that suggest job growth (or decline) in a metro
region’s core counties is a good indicator for the overall health of
those regions. Renn argues that it’s important to keep a close eye on
what’s happening in the urban core in order to forestall the kind of
catastrophic decline we’ve seen in places like Detroit and Cleveland.
But he refuses to subscribe to a polarized vision that pits suburbs and urban areas against each other (unlike, say, Joel Kotkin). Renn writes:
Don’t let your city center end up looking like this. Photo: Bob Jagendorf via Flickr
It might be tempting to view the suburbs as the “bad guy” here. I
reject that view. In a growing community, it isn’t reasonable to
believe that all the new residents and businesses are going to land in
a fixed area. And clearly, despite an optimistic trend towards urban
living being back in fashion, the suburbs continue to have a hold on
the desires of large numbers of Americans, particularly families with
I want to bring the central city up, not pull the suburbs down. A
great city needs great suburbs. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s
room for regional solutions or other matters. But especially in a
struggling region like the Midwest, we need every part of a region to
understand its role on the team and bring its “A game”. Pitting city
and against suburb is like beggars arguing over table scraps. The real
competition is between, not within regions, on a global basis. And even
that competition need not be a zero-sum game.
If we start taking an antagonistic point of view towards the
suburbs, especially in regions like the Midwest and South with strong
suburban traditions and little political demand for pro-urban policies,
we’re just asking to fail, practically speaking.
Take a look at his post. As always, there’s a lot to think about there.