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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, November 25, 2006

Please take them and the Starbucks they spawned

Take your Starbucks and your venti mochas
with you.

Cities Compete in Hipness Battle to Attract Young

Published: November 25, 2006

ATLANTA, Nov. 24 — Some cities will do anything they can think of to keep young people from fleeing to a hipper town.

In Lansing, Mich., partiers can ease from bar to bar on the new Entertainment Express trolley, part of the state’s Cool Cities Initiative. In Portland, Ore., employees at an advertising firm can watch indie rock concerts at lunch and play “bump,” an abbreviated form of basketball, every afternoon.

And in Memphis, employers pay for recruits to be matched with hip young professionals in a sort of corporate Big Brothers program. A new biosciences research park is under construction — not in the suburbs, but downtown, just blocks from the nightlife of Beale Street.

These measures reflect a hard demographic reality: Baby boomers are retiring and the number of young adults is declining. By 2012, the work force will be losing more than two workers for every one it gains.

Cities have long competed over job growth, struggling to revive their downtowns and improve their image. But the latest population trends have forced them to fight for college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds, a demographic group increasingly viewed as the key to an economic future.

Mobile but not flighty, fresh but technologically savvy, “the young and restless,” as demographers call them, are at their most desirable age, particularly because their chances of relocating drop precipitously when they turn 35. Cities that do not attract them now will be hurting in a decade.

“It’s a zero-sum game,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, noting that one city’s gain can only be another’s loss. “These are rare and desirable people.”

They are people who, demographers say, are likely to choose a location before finding a job. They like downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options. They view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication.

The problem for cities, says Richard Florida, a public policy professor at George Mason University who has written about what he calls “the creative class,” is that those cities that already have a significant share of the young and restless are in the best position to attract more.

“There are a dozen places, at best, that are becoming magnets for these people,” Mr. Florida said.

That disparity was evident in a report released this week by the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which showed Atlanta leading the pack among big cities, while other metro areas, like Philadelphia, hemorrhaged young people from 1990 to 2000. (In this competition, surveys that make a city look good are a favorite opening salvo.)

In that decade, the Atlanta study said, the number of 25- to-34-year-olds with four-year college degrees in the city increased by 46 percent, placing Atlanta in the top five metropolitan areas in terms of growth rate, and a close second to San Francisco in terms of overall numbers. Charlotte, N.C., also outperformed Atlanta, with a growth rate of 57 percent, the second highest in the country after Las Vegas.

(Demographers point out that Las Vegas started with very small numbers and still ranks last among major cities when it comes to the percentage of its 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree.)

Well. Las Vegas is the last city where you can get a union job and make a good living without a degree.

A lot of black people, a high school friend was one, was lured to Atlanta and lasted four years. Why? Because it was still Atlanta. People still judged you by the church you went to and there were still some jobs you couldn't get if you were black.

The problem is cities are looking at superficial means to attract residents, when the deeper issues, poor services, bad schools, determine were people decide to live. Austin will always be cooler than Dallas because Austin has a thriving tech community, artistic scene and music industry.

And people make that decision early in life. UT Austin, NYU, UCLA, Berkeley, Boston College get a lot of people who plan to make their lives in those areas, at least to establish their professional life.

I met a ton of people who went to NYU so they could live in New York City, I never met anyone who went to Cornell or Colgate to live in Ithaca. People dream of living in New York or the Bay Area since childhood. Atlanta isn't one of those places.

I have a friend who grew up in New Orleans. Still loves the place. But it was too poor to support his future.

Atlanta had become a black mecca from the 1980's, but the problems living there are evident, traffic , the school system, jobs.

If given a choice between Portland and Seattle, what would most people choose? Portland is a wonderful city, but it is isolated. Seattle is on the water a short hop to Vancouver, BC. It's less isolated.

A lot of these cities would do better to improve local services than trying to appeal to people who want to kayak to work, windowshop at Tiffany's or see Steve Earle live.

Jen here. Had to throw in on this one.

First, let me say that this article makes me want to barf. The fact that some city official would say that (young creative class folks) "view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication" right along with "downtown living" shows a complete lack of understanding as to how "creative" neighborhoods really happen. NO, it's not a "build crappy coffeehouses and overpriced foodie boutiques and they will come." In Real Life, you need a pervasive culture of tolerating difference and learing for its own sake in the first place. You also need affordable, equitable housing, not $1800/month slumlike studios that used to house lower-middle class workers before they got evicted when the 'hood got "hip."

Something about the whole article reminds me of suburbanites who live in parts of Westchester and Rockland that were once wooded and full of wildlife, but now paved over with uniculture lawns and nearly identical landscaping. Of course, these are the first folks who set up birdfeeders and butterfly gardens and other crap to imitate a tamer version of the "great outdoors" (and then go to national parks and try to pet the grizzly bears).

Yeah, take ultra-conservative social policies, push back some former slums and repave it, throw up a few prefab "museums" or a gallery "district" where there was none, build luxury condos, and pretend that the best and the brightest are going to start fleeing New York, SF, LA, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Research Triangle, etc. to live in your little zoo for fancy queers and exotic darker folks who eat funny food. 'Cause remember, a taco stand run by illegal Salvadoran contractors is a symbol of the decay of the American way of life, but Thai food is sophisticated (until the proprieter's kids start to do better in school than the locals and make them look bad).


Oh yeah let me add--my Dad got re-married in Lansing, and you know what? All I saw was a typical little college town with all of the generic trappings of hipness--a decent bookstore, the inevitable "alternative culture/hippie knicknacks/polite headshop," and a cafe or two. I think that anyplace with an aggregate IQ of over 100 is going to have its little "alternative/queer/artsy" district. That doesn't mean anyone would want to live anyplace outside of that little artificial knot.

posted by Steve @ 10:07:00 AM

10:07:00 AM

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