In the last issue of The Weekly Planner, I highlighted the cities of Austin, Charlotte, Portland and Salt Lake City whose particular resources allowed them to be attractive even during a recession. In this issue, I would like to address quality of life issues relevant to our community. These are not specific strategies; rather they are observations regarding how we may promote our quality of life and use it as a tool and indicator for successful, long-term planning and economic prosperity.
Careers - Not Jobs
The ability for regions to attract and retain diverse industries is due, in no small part, to a perceived vision balancing careers, jobs, and lifestyle. Dynamic, world class cities are able to harness their quality of life resources to foster desirable communities where family and career are central to a thriving region.
Floridians have been struck particularly hard by the recession. The short-term goal of creating jobs and reducing our un/underemployment rate should be balanced with the long-term goal of creating career opportunities conducive to economic prosperity coupled with a desirable living environment. Even during difficult times, the qualitative difference between going to work and having a career should be recognized and sought. What color is our parachute?
A Lifestyle Attitude
Dynamic regions do not solely rely on economics for their success, nor do they measure themselves strictly in monetary terms. The availability of lifestyle and recreational choices (passive and active) are a key factor in their success. The natural assets of the Tampa Bay region - our rivers, bay, and wetlands; accessibility to beaches; our weather - afford us a highly appealing lifestyle. Our museums, performing arts center, theme and water parks, zoo, and championship professional teams provide enviable leisure time prospects. These recreational pursuits and the opportunities afforded to artists, athletes, sports enthusiasts and all who enjoy arts, culture and recreation act as a magnet for families seeking healthy, balanced lifestyle choices.
The spillover effect for cities encouraging these pursuits is two-fold. First, they enhance their image and reputation, broadening the public perception and extending the city or region's brand to markets that otherwise might be untapped. Second, they are an economic market in their own right, drawing visitors who might otherwise not be interested in the region. Ultimately, the arts, culture and recreational attitude can be a dominating reason for relocation for businesses as well as the next generation of creative class individuals. Are we in it to win it?
The Education Component
What binds both of the previous quality of life issues is the crucial factor education plays. Universities, colleges and schools are the incubators for new ideas, invention and start-ups, as well as the arts and culture. These institutions inspire, train and refine the raw energy of youth and embolden them to bring new ideas forth, to change the world, and dramatically refashion their respective communities.
The local spectrum of educational opportunities has a strong foundation from the Hillsborough County Public Schools to Hillsborough Community College to the University of South Florida, one of the top tier public universities in research and innovation nationwide. We must find a way to challenge and engage these students to stay and grow in our community as they prepare for meaningful careers. In truth, universities and colleges are cities in microcosm, albeit ones where generations come together, like in no other way, to exchange ideas, share passions and, most importantly, innovate. Can we afford not to learn from those striving to learn?
The Next Generation
All of this is to suggest that what distinguishes these cities is a particular characteristic of youth: to see the world with fresh eyes. Everything is possible for the next generation. There is economic power behind this creative class who want to work in the type of high-tech, knowledge-intensive industries that will make our region flourish and who are seeking choices for a meaningful, balanced lifestyle.
The key is for us to hone our brand by clearly defining what we have to offer and how we plan to grow. Decisions being made must collectively support this vision, as they not only affect the availability of urban, suburban and rural lifestyles today, but also drive our ability to attract and infuse our region with youthful energy. In this fast-paced, social-media driven world, how we brand our identity and market our lifestyle choices will define if we can capture the imagination of the next generation.
So, how will the next generation fit in here?
Successful cities reinvent themselves; they are restless; and they look to their youth for invigoration and inspiration. Most importantly, they attract and harness the creative energy of each successive generation to keep moving forward. Those regions that neither seek it out nor choose to embrace it are destined to decline into stagnant, second tier status. Good cities and regions copy the success of the others; great cities are the ones copied. The question remains: Which are we?