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The Urban Core as Regional Economic Indicator

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:

4096645456_c149cbb7af.jpgDon'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 kids.

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.

More good stuff from around the network: FABB Blog on the decline in teen drivers. M-Bike.org on the definition of "safe." And Copenhagenize on advertising in a bicycle culture.