10.19.2006

Talented, Innovative, Connected, and Distinctive

In a perfect world, I'd jet to interesting conference after
interesting conference, meeting interesting people and writing
interesting summaries . . . and still be able to get my daughter up in
the morning and tuck her in at night. Dream on, right?

Well, thanks to the Internet, I can at least crib the notes. CEOs for
Cities had their annual gathering in Miami last month, and I was able
to review a half-dozen of the presentations.

One of them, entitled City Vitals, argued that a successful city is
one that is talented, innovative, connected, and distinctive. It used
some interesting measures for each of these categories (some examples
below):

* Talented = % workers employed in "creative class" industries, % pop
age 25-34 w/four-year degree, and % pop age >25 w/college degree and
born outside US

* Innovative = patents per capita, venture capital raised per capita,
% self-employed

* Connected = % pop that volunteer, % non-poor that use transit, wi-fi
hotspots per capita

* Distinctive = cultural event attendance vs. cable subscription,
ethnic restaurants vs. fast-food restaurants, movie preference vs.
national norms

You can OD on buzzwords like "creative class" and "agglomeration
economies," but there is still some truth there: you want your city to
be vibrant, welcoming, and productive. By these measures, for
Philadelphia it's good news and bad news:

* The talent is there, thanks to world-class "eds and meds" . . . but
the public school system, while improving, still has a long way to go;
and we lose too many of those "eds and meds" brains to other, hipper
cities

* The innovation is there -- we claim Ben Franklin, remember? . . .
but in other regards Philly is hostile to entrepreneurs, with a high
tax burden and a VC community that doesn't put a lot of money inside
city limits

* The connectedness is there, since you can't beat the walkability
factor or the close proximity to the financial and political capitals
of the world . . . but our neighborhoods are still segregated and
we're still not as friendly toward or attractive to educated
immigrants as Boston, New York, or DC

* The distinctiveness is there, from the art scene to the accents . .
. but not enough people know about the good stuff we've got here

So is the glass half-empty or half-full for Philly? I'll call it
half-full . . . with the chance to pour more in, if we do this right.

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