Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Who’s Your Chi-Pitts?

Here’s an excerpt of an interview where I discuss some of my favorite Midwest cities – from Dayton to Pittsburgh by Tracy Certo of Pop City and Soapbox:

Help me better understand the connection between living in a powerful mega-region like Chi-Pitts but in a city in that region that’s in transition.

Chicago’s growth really sucked up all of the services and headquarters functions and lawyering and financial and accountancy that used to be done in the Detroits, the Pittsburghs, the Cincinnatis, the Akrons, the Toledos. Chicago has become in a way the business and financial center for the Chi-Pitts regions, and it’s become extraordinarily expensive.

So, one can make quite a nice life in a Cincinnati if they find ways to connect to that Chi-Pitts mega region. The places in the mega region that are really at an advantage are places like Ann Arbor. So, the college towns in that mega region have a particular advantage.

How can a city in this mega-region, like Cincinnati, Detroit or Pittsburgh, better compete in the global economy? Is it a matter of amenities or mindset or both?

First of all, I think they all have this great advantage, in a nearly 2 trillion dollar mega region which is one of the most innovative on the planet. They’re also close to the second largest mega-region on the planet, the number one in North America which is the Bos-Wash (Boston-Washington). The question is how do they want to compete?

I was just in Cincinnati and in Dayton, another city I love. They’re historical centers of innovation, every one from steel innovation to aluminum innovation, to electronics, to the Wright Brothers, to the car. This is one of the greatest innovative and entrepreneurial centers in the world. They have probably one of the greatest clusters of universities, in the history of the planet. They’re producing phenomenal talent, but unfortunately, that talent leaves. So, in Rise of the Creative Class, I said the one thing that it needs to become is more open minded and tolerant. It needs to be more diverse and inclusive.

Some of that’s happening in certain parts of the region. More foreign people are moving in, though not enough, in the Cincinnatis and Pittsburghs. They’re becoming more open minded to the gay and lesbian population, though by no means, not enough. I don’t think it’s a question of making jazzier restaurants or hipper bike trails. I think it’s a question of being more open-minded.

Another thing the region suffers from is really poor leadership. And I think the reason that is, it really bears the imprint that as the economy is changing to newer things, away from manufacturing, the leadership still reflects that top-down, vertical, 1950s organization mentality so you get these conflicts between old-style democratic political machine and business-led organizations. Those conflicts become very dysfunctional. I think one of the other things is that if older cities could achieve better leadership, leadership that was more in tune with the future.

We were working with 30 community catalysts in greater Dayton a couple weeks ago and I was blown away by what’s happened in downtown Dayton. It’s a more interesting and exciting place, filled with arts and restaurants and renovated houses and buildings. But too how these thirty catalysts, black, white, young, old, Hispanic, Latino, how much they cared about making their city better. And I think that’s the kind of thing you see in parts of Ohio and Illinois, there’s this incredible sense that people care, and I think unleashing that energy in people is really key.

The rest is here.

One Response to “Who’s Your Chi-Pitts?”

  1. tgasper Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wef3Asr-_Uo or
    http://www.wkef22.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/wkef_vid_193.shtml or

    I’ve lived in Dayton all of my life. I’ve traveled to a lot of cool cities around the country and some in Europe, but have always put them under a “great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” category. Love the climate of Southern California, but not the congestion and cost of living – the people just don’t seem real to me and maybe that’s because many of their body parts aren’t! Florida – too humid, parts are too old – or too family oriented (young kids & Disney) and the water just isn’t the Caribbean. Anywhere in the South – bugs are way too big for me. Smokey Mountains? Pretty neat but wouldn’t want to deal with an ice storm. NYC – can’t deal with all the concrete, I need grass & flowers. Chicago – they do a great job with flowers everywhere, but three hours from one side of the city to another is not my idea of quality of life.

    I love Dayton. It’s easy to get around – our version of a traffic jam is 4 cars slowing down to 65 mph (which is very annoying). I love Univ of Dayton basketball in the winter months. Wright State’s theater. If I wanted to go see the Reds (but why?) I could get there in an hour; two hours to the Pacers; 3 hours to the Browns or Cavs. Seems a little far when you think of commute times to a Daytonian, but after spending time in Atlanta, I realize that’s not unusual. In fact, within a two hour drive time of Dayton, we are the same population size as Atlanta – without all the traffic & daily hassles.

    My kids are raised; I’m into my second business venture (revitalizing neighborhoods) and my hubby has started his second software venture. I like that Dayton is small enough you can run into people you know just about anywhere – but it’s also big enough that at times we can be anonymous.

    The people are real, friendly, down to earth – but highly intelligent, creative & passionate. So I included the three links above – one is about Dayton in general. Two are about my particular pet project – the neighborhood four generations of my family grew up in…South Park. The real one, not the cartoon version – although we have quite a crew of characters as well! It’s a real neighborhood. Where people donate a kidney to someone living down the street, and the rest of the neighborhood pitches in and cooks three meals a day for five weeks for both families while the two patients recover.

    They look outside their window in the winter and see a single mom struggling to get her toddler on the back of her bicycle to ride to the store IN THE SNOW. An email goes out and next thing you know the single mom has a car, insurance, a better bike and carrier, clothing & toys for her daughter, and money for a deposit to get a new apartment and out of a bad relationship.

    It’s pretty cool stuff. And a great place to live. And if I get bored or the winter drags on – it’s easy to go elsewhere for a break. But mostly I like to just hang out with friends from South Park who spent a lot of time trying to figure out not just how to make their neighborhood better, but how to deal with social issues and help each other out.

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