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.