Joel Kotkin, writing on the NewGeography site, says that America’s biggest brain magnets are not the big coastal cities: “Indeed, college graduates, for the most part, are heading not to the big cities on the coasts, but to smaller, less dense and quite often Sun Belt cities.”
His conclusion might seem written with Springfield in mind:
Meanwhile, the best strategy for attracting graduates lies in creating jobs, as well as in offering both affordable housing and a range of housing options, including both reasonably priced urban and lower-density living. Generally speaking an area that is economically vital as well as physically or culturally appealing will do best. In the next decade advantages will also fall to family-friendly regions, particularly as the current crop of millennial-generation graduates starts entering en masse their family-forming years. These factors, more than hipness or dense urbanity, may well be more influential in determining which regions do best in the ongoing war for talent.
I’ve argued in this series that we need density and urban amenities to attract young people. I’m certainly not suggesting that jobs and affordable housing are not important. We need the whole package.
But what are we really working with? When I say “might seem written with Springfield in mind” I mean to indicate the illusion of Springfield. Certainly the low housing costs, low cost of living, and family-friendliness (of a certain kind) are very real.
Recently, the Ozarks News Journal published an interesting list of the top jobs Springfield is creating for young people:
- Dental Assistants
- Physical therapy
- Dental hygienists
- Network systems and data communication analysts
- Physician assistants
- Physical therapy assistants
- Surveying and mapping technicians
- Database administration
- Compensation, benefits, job analysis specialists
That’s a mixed bag. Note how many of these jobs require only a 2-year certificate beyond High School. That’s not a list of jobs for an area serious about attracting “brains” — a periphrasis for well-educated, creative, high-earning, professionals.
But, then, we need to wonder if Missouri is a state serious about attracting the kinds of employers that attract “brains.” Consider this from a story about law-makers in Missouri amending voter-approved laws; it deals with the minimum wage:
“We have to make sure our state is competitive,” House Speaker Steven Tilley said while explaining his support for capping the state’s minimum wage. “When you have a (cost of living adjustment) on there, it could lead to a point where our state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, which I think puts us at a competitive disadvantage for jobs.”
I have no idea about the actual policy outcome (as I suspect is true for most who would bloviate on the topic). I’m wondering instead about the unspoken assumption: We want to compete for minimum wage jobs?
That’s a bit more like it. The promise: High-paying, high-tech jobs in an urban core brownfield development. It’s green. It’s hip. It’s the future.
But I’m wondering: How successful can this be considering the city’s demographic profile (something n0 one ever seems to want to discuss)? According to the current U.S. Census Bureau Community Survey: 1) in education, about 65 percent of Springfieldians have less than an associate’s degree (i.e. unprepared for even the low-skill jobs on the list above), and 2) in income, 20.3 percent of individuals have incomes below the poverty level.
Eager to move here? Eager to move your high-tech business here?
Why my suggestion to provide urban amenities now (the kind young professionals say they want) is still the best way to go: We need to keep the brains we have — i.e. our own college students — especially the ones who grew up in the Ozarks — so that they will build brain-ready businesses of their own and build the kind of community that will attract business and brains from outside. Can you say The Network?
Our Urban Challenge Series:
- First in a Series
- Getting Started
- Green Density
- Free Parking
- The Good Life
- Cost of Living
- Build It First
- Make It Awesome
- The Euro Thing
- Middle of Nowhere
- Young Professionals