7.15.2010

Championship Swagger



LeBron James' "Decision" last week has been talked to death, both by sportswriters and race/culture pundits. But you might have missed Penelope Trunk's post on what it says about how Gen Y makes job and moving decisions: "Lesson from LeBron James: How to Decide When to Relocate." It's not a perfect analogy, but it's instructive to also consider the flip side of that issue: how cities and regions can position themselves to attract the best talent. Not everyone can have Miami's weather, but there are things cities and regions can do - both in terms of style as well as substance - to become more attractive to young free agents of all industries to relocate to.

One elusive characteristic of successful cities and regions is positive attitude. Philadelphia suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex, living as it does in the shadow of one of the world's great financial capitals (New York City, a 1.5-hour train ride to the north) and one of the world's great political capitals (Washington, a 2.5-hour train ride to the south). But the City of Brotherly Love is making a mark in its own right, melding the advantages of being near (and easily accessible to) these other great cities with its own homegrown advantages: affordability, world-class culture/restaurants/recreation, underrated night life, and top-tier eds/meds.

And yet, it's really been since Ed Rendell started being the city's vocal cheerleader when he was mayor from 1991 to 1999, and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation started selling the city and region to tourists from all countries, classes, and sexual orientations, that we've gotten a little bit of swagger about ourselves. Chalk it up to equal parts honing our strong suits and having the bravado to sell them to others; not easy given our Quaker roots. Hosting the X Games, Real World, and Live 8 were cause and effect of that newfound confidence.

And, very notably, the Phillies winning it all in 2008 has made a world of difference in shedding our image as lovable losers and pathetic step-cities. Witness our successful courting of Roy Halladay last year, and recall how proud Philadelphia sports fans were to hear him say things like "I want to come to Philadelphia because I want to play for a winner." It's wonderful what winning a championship will do for the psyche of a franchise, a fan base, and even an entire city and region.

While LeBron James and Roy Halladay changing cities is covered ad nauseum by ESPN et al, every day young professionals in all industries contemplate similar geographic relocations. Let's hope, for Philly's sake, that we can keep up our swagger, for confidence seems to matter when young people are making choices to move in or not move in.

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