This Blog post is an excerpt from the soon to be released, The Amazing City-7 Steps to Creating an Amazing City by Jim Hunt. The book will be released nationally by The Elim Group Publishing on November 16, 2016.
I’m often asked my opinion on what cities will look like in the future. While I don’t profess to be a fortune teller, I think that there are some interesting things happening that might predict a very healthy future for cities. More and more people live in cities and the worldwide trend is a massive shift from rural areas to heavily populated cities. Cities have massive investments in infrastructure that cannot be duplicated in sparsely populated areas. Likewise, schools and other quality of life attractions need populous areas to succeed. Younger people are gravitating to places that don’t require a vehicle and the thought of mowing a massive yard is increasingly less attractive to the millennial generation.
The rush to the suburbs was fueled by the automobile in the 50’s and many of the less populated suburban areas are now bursting at the seams. The Phoenix area is a good example of this phenomenon with cities like Scottsdale, Mesa, Avondale and others doubling population in just a few years. With retirees, tourists, corporate headquarters and others flocking to Arizona, few people are choosing to be outside of these growing cities. As resident’s needs change, they simply move to another close by city instead of heading to the country like their parents and grandparents.
Medical care is also driving the move to the cities. As Baby Boomers require more and more medical care, few want to be too far from the medical specialists that are treating them. Places like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Baltimore and Boston have attracted new residents that are employed by the medical centers located in their cities. This trend has no sign of slowing down and with more and more innovations in the medical field, many cities may rely solely on a regional medical center and the associated services to sustain their economy.
Recreation is another driver of the move to the cities. Sports teams, water parks and other recreation venues attract millions of people each year and support thousands of jobs. The interesting part of this sector is that cities of all sizes can participate. Large cities do well with professional sports teams but even smaller cities can do great business with minor league sports. On a recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, I learned that the Durham Bulls, minor league baseball team, attracts over half a million fans per year. Minor league hockey, basketball, volleyball and other sports, cities have an increasing amount of opportunities to develop a fan base in all size communities.
Technology is also a big driver in the move to cities. Broadband access and technology support is easier to obtain in cities than in rural areas. Cities are also great customers for new technology and things like LED street lighting and solar panels are gaining a foothold on city streets. Additionally, those young people who are the innovators in the technology economy are dependent on working with others in the field. They need access to each other and cities are the perfect incubators for these growing businesses.
As cities look to the future, they will need to be nimble and resourceful in order to capitalize on the incredible opportunities available to them. Not every city will succeed and those without a focus on customer service may fall to the wayside. Cities will need to find their niche and create a plan to excel in their niche. These are exciting times for cities and with millions of young millennials seeking a great quality of life and millions of Baby Boomers wanting quick access to medical care and entertainment, cities can grow and prosper in Amazing ways!