I have the pleasure of spending the next day and a half at Urban 2.0: The Next Generation of Jobs. As someone with a long interest in cities and urban spaces, and as someone who follows the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s work, I’m very excited to be attending and writing about this event.
With the (north) American economy stagnant, and business and industry in transition, it’s an interesting time to be discussing the future of cities, and their role in the economy. Most would say that cities have made a comeback in the last 20 years, after experiencing a decline in the previous four decades. Thinkers like Richard Florida have argued cities (and mega-regions) attract and hold on to the best talent. Christopher Leinberger has predicted the suburbs will be tomorrow’s slums. Yet, there is still evidence that suburban growth (economic, not just population) outpaces that of cities. And even in the core of most cities, you’ll find empty storefronts with remnants of businesses that have fallen apart (I think I’ve seen a closed or closing Borders in every American city I’ve been to the past two years). New developments are half-built or stalled before ground is broken.
With that as a context, here are five questions on my mind, and the themes that will frame my posts over the next two days.
• What are the industries of the future that will drive urban (and economic growth)? Is there a place for industry and manufacturing? Is there a place for agrarian pursuits, traditionally found outside the city core?
• How do we build economic capital in lower-income neighbourhoods, and empower traditionally marginalized groups to reach greater economic success?
• How does a(n inner) city interact and relate to a larger regional economy?
• What’s the role of business, government, NGOs, and every day citizens in making this happen?
• What will the city of the future look like?
Some of the brightest, most talented urban thinkers are in the room today and tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.