A blueprint for making Minneapolis shine

Share this:
April 26, 2010 // UPDATED 10:39 am - April 26, 2010
By: Tom Hoch
Tom Hoch
Measuring our city against others might seem fruitless; it can be too easy to identify another city that’s more artsy, has a better climate or a better pedestrian experience. While Minneapolis has traditionally ranked high among the best places to live, by looking at the competitive challenge posed by other cities, we can better refine and ultimately fulfill our aspirations … or simply see if we are achieving what we had hoped.   

H.V. Savitch is a professor at the University of Louisville.  He recently analyzed several factors to help him determine the “greatest” cities in our country and created a grid organized by four words beginning with “C”: Currency, Cosmopolitanism, Concentration and Charisma.

According to Savitch, “Currency conveys the unique attributes of a city’s fundamental values and its ability to form, lead or dictate the temper of the times. Cosmopolitanism entails an ability to embrace international, multicultural or polyethnic features. Concentration is defined by demographic density and productive mass. Charisma is based on a magical appeal that generates mass enthusiasm, admiration or reverence.”

In other words, he looked at what a city values, its capacity to lead, how much it embraces diversity, its demographic density and “magical appeal.” He concluded that New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the top American cities. Minneapolis was further down the list in total points based on the “Cs” he used in his analysis.

Savitch’s study and the plethora of other rankings that are routinely conducted to establish “best” cities reminds me not only that these studies have a high degree of subjectivity in them, but also that cities are constantly evolving and that these changes impact the their competitive landscape. The same is true for Minneapolis: as a city we are constantly changing, but also need to assess whether that change is for the better. If Minneapolis wants to be successful it needs to concentrate on hitting all four of these “Cs.”    

But, why should we care?  If you need just one reason, consider future employment. We need a skilled workforce to support a vital economy that provides jobs and an expanded tax base.  According to a recent report by the state demographer, in just a few years Minnesota and other areas around the world will be facing a shortage of skilled workers. Current unemployment figures are masking the fact that our current workers are growing older, and with lower birthrates, there will be fewer workers to replace these retirees.

In the near future, competition for skilled workers will be more intense than ever and we’ll be competing on an international level. To successfully retain older skilled workers and attract the young talent we needed, our city must stand out and be unlike any other.  

Here is what I think we need:

— A city that is pristine and offers an incredibly beautiful environment year around … one that begs people to walk, congregate and be inspired.  The way our city looks is key to how both residents and visitors view it. We also need to support the cultural richness of this city; its art, music, theatre and spirit of adventure. We want an exciting place that has lots and lots to do…and we all need to be out doing it!  Our new Target Field adds a phenomenal and important layer of cool to the already strong cultural environment that we enjoy; “charisma” if you will.

— We need a city that’s respectful, accepting and welcoming of its many different citizens.  This is a place that expects a high level of engagement from the people who live, work and play here … people who readily give back, lead and volunteer!  Call it “cosmopolitanism” and “concentration.”

— A healthy and attractive city calls for a strong social order that includes great schools from early childhood through doctoral programs, cooperative neighborhoods, safe streets and a culture of personal initiative and responsibility. This is the kind of metropolis that attracts and retains skilled workers and valuable Fortune 500 and 1000 firms, which is an attribute defined by “currency.”

This is no time to rest on our laurels. Minneapolis is a city rich in many ways, but we can be better. To call on one more “C” word, it will take a little courage.

Tom Hoch is president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, owner of the historic State, Orpheum and Pantages Theatres, a non-profit organization devoted to enriching the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the Twin Cities. Please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org for more information.