Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an interview with NPR laid out the case as well as anyone that vibrant central cities are central to future economic vitality. And that public investments in those central cities is essential to staying competitive. You can read the transcript and/or listen to it here.
In the interview, Emanuel said:
I cannot think of anything more fitting at a critical juncture for our urban centers because, as we all know, I think over the next 30 years the real economic competition and competitiveness and growth will come from the top 50-plus cities or major metropolitan areas around the globe. … For the last 20-plus years, companies looked at kind of the campus style model. What’s now happening is density, which cities have is a huge strategic economic advantage. A, it saves on energy costs. B, the type of workers companies are looking for are educated. They love good nightlife, the cultural life, the entertainment that comes with living in an urban center.
Emanuel then put his words into action with a $7 billion dollar infrastructure investment initiative to build the new Chicago. You read that right: 7 billion with a b. In a time when small government is suppose to be the key to economic growth, Emanuel knows that is not true. So he is investing in key public assets that are essential to future prosperity. You can read the Mayor’s speech here. Worth reading.
Emanuel makes the case this way:
The decisions we make in the next two to three years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 20 to 30 years — the type of City our children will inherit. By neglecting to invest in our infrastructure for nearly four decades, we have allowed Chicago’s foundations to decay and our strengths to decline. We know that as long as our city rests on a 20th century foundation, we won’t be able to compete in a 21st century economy. If we don’t take action, Chicago will face another lost decade. That is something Chicagoans cannot afford, and I, as your Mayor, will not accept.
Emanuel is doing what we should be here in Michigan: investing in key public assets in our big cities – particularly Detroit – that are essential to our future prosperity. Emanuel is exactly right when he says: “What’s now happening is density, which cities have is a huge strategic economic advantage. A, it saves on energy costs. B, the type of workers companies are looking for are educated. They love good nightlife, the cultural life, the entertainment that comes with living in an urban center. To do that, we have to do a couple things. We’ve got to keep our cultural life of a city vibrant. We have to invest in our transportation infrastructure, our broadband infrastructure, so we are most economically competitive, so you have a 21st century economy sitting on a 21st century foundation. And then third, we have a trained, educated workforce of ample supply.” This understanding of what matters most to future economic success – which is missing here in Michigan – is the foundation on which state and local public policy needs to built on if Michigan is to be prosperous – a place with a broad middle class – again.