He makes two main points. First:
"The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the "Next Youth-Magnet Cities" as drawn from the old "hip and cool" collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.
It's not just the young who will flock to the blue meccas, but money and business as well, according to the narrative. The future, the Atlantic assured its readers, did not belong to the rubes in the suburbs or Sun Belt, but to high-density, high-end places like New York, San Francisco and Boston.
This narrative, which has not changed much over the past decade, is misleading and largely misstated. Net migration, both before and after the Great Recession, according to analysis by the Praxis Strategy Group, has continued to be strongest to the predominately red states of the South and Intermountain West."
More important, the key group leaving New York and other so-called "youth-magnets" comprises the middle class, particularly families, critical to any long-term urban revival.
I think there is good news and bad news for a place like York in Kotkin's essay. The bad news is that we happen to find our city trapped in a state with seemingly intractable systems that work against the success of older communities, and that, as a whole, is a “donor” to the migration patterns he describes. The good news is that we probably don’t need to spend so much time beating ourselves up that we’re not Austin or Portland – that we’re not hip enough to attract the ballyhooed “creative class” – and focus on the message that for plenty of families, value and jobs matter more than hip coffee shops and jazz clubs. I’m not arguing against those things – they are a proper part of creating a downtown “Market District” that offers the quality of life that is needed to attract a certain segment of the population, and they are good for our downtown. But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture either.
At the end of the day, York County has a couple of things going for it that are as much good fortune as they are clever economic development:
1. A great location on the edge of the Northeast Corridor, with excellent transportation access to some of the wealthiest markets in the world.
2. Relatively inexpensive land and a lower cost-of-living than is found in those markets.
With those two factors as the backdrop, the City of York has a couple of things going for it:
1. An absolutely fantastic built environment with a downtown and neighborhoods that bear all the attributes of a great urban place.
2. A shifting demographic, cultural and energy-cost climate (that will last probably 30 years) that will be far more favorable to walkable, urban places than the last 30 years have been.
It’s our job to stop apologizing for ourselves and our city (and our schools, and our taxes, and our crime) and take advantage of the above factors with an economic- and community-development strategy that looks at how to change the game based on where the market is headed. Let’s make ourselves a great urban place and let the other chips fall where they may. Today would be a good opportunity to start.
- Eric Menzer, YorkCounts chairman of the board