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Thread: Best Cities for Business v. Most Livable Cities - Another Divide

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    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    Best Cities for Business v. Most Livable Cities - Another Divide

    Though I'm skeptical of any kind of subjective rankings of cities, does anyone else seem to notice that there are two types of rankings in particular that tend to be inversely proportionate? They are: Rankings of "Best Cities To Do Business" and "Livability" rankings.

    Cities that rate highly on business lists, like Atlanta and Houston, are usually found near the bottom of livability indeces, while cities like Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon, though 'livable', aren't considered great business locations.

    It seem that this particular divide, of what makes a city work, is as stark as Repulican v. Democrat, Sun Belt v. Rust Belt. Any thoughts? The U.S. has truly divided into at least two distinct cultures...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ChevyChaseDC
    The U.S. has truly divided into at least two distinct cultures...
    Between those that rank and those who do not? Americans love lists! Check out this thread:

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=11183

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    A 'pro-business' environment doesn't always make for a livable neighborhood. Think about it. On one hand, you have businesses that want an easy permit approval process... but that means residents don't have the opportunity to comment on a proposed development...

    IMO, the best communities are the ones that can achieve a balance between business and resident interests. Not that I can think of any right now.

  4. #4

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    Atlanta and Houston may be great places for corporations to do business. But what about an individual entrepreneur who is making money to ensure quality of life? I don't know Pittsburg, but there are a lot of satisfied residents and successful small businesses that have found a niche in Portland.

    Amenable cities like Portland are not always able to maintain enough industrial jobs for folks who need those them given the globalization of manufacturing and certain other industries. But how good a model for a community is the industrial model in which everybody is dependent on a handful of large employers? It works for a while, but when it stops working, the community is left with little capacity to adapt and cope.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Austin is often thought to be more on the liveable side of the spectrum, but we have a pretty strong high tech industry here. Supposedly Dell said they would not pursue anymore development in this area, though, supposedly because the quality of life in Austin is supposedly on a decline.

    Can you tell I dont really buy that statement?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian oulevin's avatar
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    Pro-Business v. Livability

    It seems as if a high placement on the list of "to do business" correlates to an anti-regulation, anti-tax culture where personal property is king. This antagonism to government keeps it from taking the initiative to make things better (especially visible if the private sector fails to provide).

    Is it naive to think that a city can have a desirable, urban quality of life without an oppresive regulatory culture or tax structure? That's the question.

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    You're going to have to define oppressive. My friends who live in Portland, who have professional jobs, are not in the least oppressed by the regulatory regime. In fact, it adds to their quality of life. Everywhere I have worked, regardless of how strict or lax the regulatory system was, I have run into people who are enraged by it, and into people who prosper under it. This is not to say that I advocate unreasonable rules. It is just to say that the significant variable, within very broad limits, is not the rules, its how people respond to them.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian oulevin's avatar
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    Hmm

    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    You're going to have to define oppressive. My friends who live in Portland, who have professional jobs, are not in the least oppressed by the regulatory regime. In fact, it adds to their quality of life. Everywhere I have worked, regardless of how strict or lax the regulatory system was, I have run into people who are enraged by it, and into people who prosper under it. This is not to say that I advocate unreasonable rules. It is just to say that the significant variable, within very broad limits, is not the rules, its how people respond to them.
    That is true; it depends on how people react to the rules. Having an attractive quality of life is universal, but it's in the way it's done where people differ. Conservatives think that the private sector ought to be responsible; those more liberal think that the government ought to make up for what the private sector fails to provide. I can't help but feel attuned to this divide, as it applies to Oklahoma. The private sector clearly is not providing it with a quality of life on par with the rest of the country, but the anti-tax, anti-government culture keeps its governments from being aggressive in pursuing amenities and other solutions that may make it more attractive to residents -- as opposed to companies seeking cheap property and labor.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    USA TODAY March 30, 2004 had two articles on this.

    Ithaca, N.Y., is No. 1 'emerging' city
    New arrivals get noticed for their charms
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/2...0/6059677s.htm

    Article lists the Top Ten 'emerging' cities.
    I had known about No. 4 since 1976


    The 'best' depends on how you measure it
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/2...0/6059679s.htm
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  10. #10
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA
    USA TODAY March 30, 2004 had two articles on this.

    Ithaca, N.Y., is No. 1 'emerging' city
    New arrivals get noticed for their charms
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/2...0/6059677s.htm

    Article lists the Top Ten 'emerging' cities.
    I had known about No. 4 since 1976


    The 'best' depends on how you measure it
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/2...0/6059679s.htm
    Interesting about this one:
    * No. 9, Brunswick, Ga. Historic port town, retirement favorite but expensive.

    I am assuming they are really refering to Saint Simon's Island & not the town of Brunswick, that town is anything but expensive.

    But the two lists - best place to live & best place to do business represents two seperate interests in a city. That would be the Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development versus neighborhood & other nonprofit groups. What city has an environment that is pro-business but is also a livable city. From what I've read about Portland - it is not a pro-business city with the regulations & unemployment. But how can a city be considered a great place to live if you can't find a job?

    The two should be interrelated, you don't want to have a business in a city where no one wants to live. Certainly the 'best place to do business' is skewed, that is fairly obvious. But is the 'best place to live' lists skewed? Does it really matter if there are no jobs or it's expensive to live there?

    How about a more realistic poll - geared for the best overall city to live in. A poll that picks city's based on primary concerns: cost of living, crime, unemployment, job growth. Chapel Hill or Madison might be great for someone that has the resources, but for most people the primary cities are the only choice. Cities that have enough resources on their own to satisfy the majority of the population. Best places to live polls are geared to more unique specialized cities, not to the St. Louis's or Atlanta's. How about a poll based on cities with a metro of at least 500,000 or even 1 million. Not including secondary cities, just the region as a whole.

  11. #11
    I agree with Ithaca, NY being an emerging city. The quality of life is very good, jobs are on the high-tech and education side. The community values diversity and if you love the outdoors the place is great.

  12. #12

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    Charlottesville is a lovely place to live, as well. Wahoos!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I tend to ignore such lists, as far as the "rankings" go. I do sometimes read the article that goes with it to find out some of the background data used, which is sometimes interesting. IF it is "true" that cities tend to become either "good for business" OR "livable", then I would say it is due to faulty logic and oversimplification. I am sure plenty of that goes on. I am just not sure if it goes on as much in the cities or mostly in the manner in which such lists are constructed.

    As has been spoken of before in Cyburbia: growth all out of control tends to be "cancerous" in its nature and not a Good Thing (as that paragon of virtue might say from her jail cell). I think the kinds of things that get ranked in such lists as "good for business" would strike me as a kind of pimping of local resources to the agenda of growth. That may be 'good' for business in some sense but ... I have trouble believing it is really healthy and really produces the kind of growth you would most want. It may well be the kind of stuff which is "penny wise and pound foolish".

    Everything I have read indicates that successful business is more organic than most of the kind of stuff you read about in the "official" literature. Small businesses create the most new jobs in this country. So a place that is conducive to small business is conducive to good growth. Since I am launching my own business and have read about the topic since I was 14 (I have always wanted to be in business for myself), I feel qualified to speak to that process.

    My general impression is that "good for business" (on such lists) means ... good for that shallow stuff that tends to go bankrupt if the market turns. It is the shallow end of the pool, the one filled with people trying to make a quick buck -- the folks not too many steps away from being Charlatans. There are businesses that make money in good times and businesses that make money in bad times. They are often not the same ones. Then there are those which always make money. In The Great Depression, car sales plummeted. But bike sales increased -- BECAUSE car sales plummeted. Sale of clothing shrank only somewhat -- maybe 10% or 15% -- which hurt but not as much as some industries. Second hand stores thrived.

    A good business is grown. The seeds are planted and much groundwork is done before any results are seen. People who are in it solely for the money ... tend to fail. A simple rubric is that the creation of "value" relies on the underlying Values of the people in the business. Businesses that do short-term thinking may make money but it is often by shooting themselves in the foot and it is like eating into the capital instead of living off the interest: it isn't sustainable. Companies that treat people like garbage tend to have high turn over. Companies that treat their people right tend to be far more successful. Paying slightly more often saves money by lowering the cost of searching for people and because people who stay long-term with a company build a wealth of experience that is irreplaceable.

    Companies that are loyal to their employees do better in the long run. They weather hard times. They are resilient. They may not dazzle you with 600% growth -- but they don't want to: they know that only "cancer" grows that fast. And they know that growth can actually harm profits, if it is mishandled: growth and "an increase in real value" are not the same thing. Good companies invest in the latter. Bad companies invest in the former -- and then wake up in bankruptcy one morning wonder where it all went wrong.

    And the crucial factors that make or break a company can be things a city has no control over which critically effect quality of the product. If I recall right, Budweiser's first factory -- in Golden, Colorado -- was sited on a parcel of land with particularly pure spring water (or maybe it is a different company -- I don't drink beer). And that was the "make or break": the water.

    For me, the big make or break is my health: As long as this is the only place on earth where (I feel) I can get adequate treatment for my cutting edge medical diagnosis, this is the only place I can be successful. Taxes, high cost of real estate, etc -- all of that can be overcome. Being too sick to work is "a deal breaker". And I think there are other reasons why California is a good fit for me, personally. And why Fairfield in particular is The Place To Be -- for ME, and not necessarily for someone else. But if you have to choose just one, it is my medical needs, which Fairfield is uniquely qualified to address and which probably cannot be appropriately addressed anywhere else on planet earth for the foreseeable future.

    The mistake made in such lists is to confuse "money" and Value. Money is merely a symbol of value. Without real value, money does not get "made" for very long. But, conversely, you can make something of real value without necessarily having money. Making money is also kind of a symbol -- or Proof -- that a business is creating something of value and prospering. But you do not make money for long if making money is your ONLY goal. Taxes, etc -- that is about money and that is usually what those lists primarily look at. But, Workers with the right characteristics, geographic proximity to raw materials, access to transportation -- these things are capital which has real value and these are the details which add up to a "good place" for a particular business. Good business people know the difference. The ones who decide such things based on tax incentives and the like -- are essentially hookers. Sure it may well sell. But does it produce quality? Not if you get AIDS from it and die. But, hey, go ahead and pay for it if you want to, if instant gratification is more important to you than either quality of life or long-term survival. Cities that nurture the kind of capital that creates something of real value will do well in the long run. That is probably where the ideas in "The Creative Class" have some validity. I haven't read the book but I doubt I would find it sufficiently complex to use as a good template for creating real value. I think the one thing it does get right: good cities are about people, first. The buildings and such are secondary -- or should be. And when they are treated as primary, things go bad.

    The phrase that gets translated as "Man is a political animal" really was more like "Man is an animal of the Polis". "Polis" meant the city, political structure, community, social fabric ... and probably more ... of the classic Greek city-state. I guess you could turn that on its head: a good city/community/political structure/physical infrastructure is one which makes mankind more Humane. Otherwise, we are just animals who walk on two legs instead of four. Similarly, a good business serves people -- clients, employees, and so on -- rather than serving The Almight Dollar. Making money is one of its purposes of businesses but not its only purpose. If it is the "sole" purpose --then it has no heart and soul and, sheesh, you don't have to be a cardiologist to know that if you rip the heart out of something it won't live for long.

  14. #14
    Mmmm...that is a great question. My answer is not as deep thought-out as some people's, but a general answer could be because places like Atlanta and Houston are just so big-business oriented that the traffic, congestion, and corporate competition rule the urban scene. As we all know, those things diminish the quality of life.

  15. #15
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ChevyChaseDC
    It seem that this particular divide, of what makes a city work, is as stark as Repulican v. Democrat? The U.S. has truly divided into at least two distinct cultures...
    I think there is a political face on this. The previous administration encouraged small business and innovation. Business flourished A tremdendous amount of the innovation occured in the livable cities (that are now seen as bad for business). Vibrant communities led to vibrant ideas.

    In the current administration, there is an emphasis on supporting, giving incentives, giving tax rebates, and allocating the spoils of war to the larger corporations and their executives. Those corporations will come as close to monopoly as possibe by business means and by convicing government to restrict or forbid competition. Lack of innovation is just fine if the corporation can use 10-20 year old products and business models -- and government bats off the competition. For the huge corporations, workers are factors of production and can be warehoused anywhere. The cheapest human warehouse is an unlivable city.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    For the huge corporations, workers are factors of production and can be warehoused anywhere. The cheapest human warehouse is an unlivable city.
    One of the things I read about in my Homelessness and Public Policy class is that some companies "Help" the homeless by offering them a job and place to sleep that is barely an improvement over sleeping on the street -- and which is a hopeless dead end, harder to escape than street life and far more imprisoning. It amounts to slavery. Your comment makes me think of the expression "wage slave" ... but in a whole new light..er, a whole new darkness, actually.

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