Check out the latest census stats if you need still more evidence that a large number of older industrial cities continue to 1) fall behind in the national movement to revitalize urban areas and 2) struggle to position themselves for growth and prosperity in the knowledge economy, as the Brookings Institution reports in its latest urban policy paper.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently ranked the Top 50 fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation and not one Great Lakes city made the list. Sioux Falls, SD was the only Midwest city included, and they came in at #50. What would we do without Rochester, MN, Indianapolis, IN, St. Cloud, MN, and Rockford, IL, which came in at #86, #90, #91, and #100 respectively.
Reading between the lines, the reports illustrate that the outflow of young talent to the coasts and the southwest is no longer the greatest enemy of the effort to reinvigorate the economic and civic influence of the Midwest. No the lack of leadership and will to change business as usual is perhaps the greatest obstacle now confronting the region's future competitiveness and quality of life.
Why's that? Because the basic actions needed to reverse economic and environmental decline in the Rust Belt are clearly defined and nearly universal across the region. Report after report from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other Great Lakes states all say the same basic thing.
If the region truly wants to transition from the Industrial Era and compete in the Knowledge Age, what's needed is deeper investment in central cities, modern mobility options like rapid mass transit, streamlined and more coordinated governance, renewed commitment to higher education and innovation, and a much more attractive natural environment and quality of life.
What's needed is not yet another report that repackages the same themes. But rather the courage to embrace those themes and set the bold course necessary for yet another century of achievement.