Tag Archives: Minneapolis

Do Casinos = Rust Belt Desperation?

The answer is: ‘Yes.’ That’s according to MinnPost writer Steve Berg in a column about a proposed Minneapolis gaming venture.

He writes:

“aside from Las Vegas, a fantasy island built on gambling and tourism, I’m unaware of any U.S. city that has built a casino for any reason other than desperation. Failing Rust Belt cities build casinos. Detroit and Pittsburgh have them. Cleveland and Cincinnati are joining the list. Saginaw and Lansing, Mich., and Rockford, Ill., want to build them.”

I’d also add Milwaukee; Gary, Indiana and Erie, Pennsylvania to that list. I’m sure there’s other cities I’m leaving out.

And it seems that casinos are often sold to these cities as a way to promote jobs and economic development.

But Berg says a casino just seems to smack of desperation. He also points out Vancouver recently rejected a casino proposal, somewhat on these grounds: “[It] doesn’t fit with Vancouver’s global brand as the world’s most livable city, as the green capital of the world, as a hotbed for innovation in clean and digital technology in resource management,” according to Vancouver’s mayor.

More info on the Minneapolis casino proposal is here.


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Filed under Economic Development, Editorial

Cleveland Wins $15M for Co-Op Revitalization Strategy

This is a very big deal. Big.

The city of Cleveland was chosen as one of five cities to share $80 million in grant funding through the Livable Cities Initiative.

Funders were impressed, specifically, by the city’s efforts to establish cooperative workplaces to serve as suppliers to some of the region’s major employers–including the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital.

We’ve written before about the Evergreen laundry, where workers from the impoverished Hough neighborhood are earning a stake in the company while putting in hours doing laundry for local institutions. That organization was seeded by the Cleveland Foundation as part of an innovative employee-owned business structure that has come to be known as ‘the Cleveland Model.”

Works at the Evergreen cooperative laundry earn a share of the company for their hard work.

The Cleveland Foundation has been looking to expand cooperative ventures in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods–most of which also happen to be near an important employment node–University Circle.

Their latest venture is a massive, 10-acre indoor lettuce farm. Between that, the laundry and a solar power operation, they hope to someday employ hundreds or even thousands.

The grant award goes a long way to justify Cleveland’s nonprofit urban revitalization capacity, which is driven by the local philanthropic organizations and is considered one of the country’s most sophisticated.

Detroit; Baltimore; Newark, N.J.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. were also selected for funding by the cooperative of 22 major philanthropic organizations.


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Filed under Economic Development, Great Lakes, Green Jobs, Headline, Labor

Brookings: Great Lakes Metros Should Boost Exports


The folks at Brookings released a report Monday on the importance of exports to the economies of Great Lakes cities.

Among the findings:

– Exports support 1.95 million jobs in Great Lakes metros

– Cities in this region have some of the highest volumes (dollar-wise) of exports and the greatest reliance on exports. Out of the nation’s top 100 metro areas, Chicago ranks third and Detroit ranks ninth in total dollar volumes of exports. Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis all rank in the top 20, the study states.

How does your city compare?

“Now is a particularly critical time for Great Lakes areas to be smart about their export strategies,” the report’s authors write.

“There is new national attention to increasing the volume of US exports.  In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a doubling of US exports in the next five years.  Administration officials have also cited greater exports as a way to bolster the condition of the hard-hit manufacturing communities in the US.”

It’s part of a larger Brookings report on how the nation’s cities can lead export growth.

What conclusions should we draw?

“The metropolitan areas of the Great Lakes region are among the most globally engaged metros in the country,” says the report.

“They produce goods and offer services that are in demand around the world, particularly in rapidly emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China.  A national effort to double exports in the next fi ve years holds great promise for these metros that are already fairly export-oriented.  But this opportunity may be squandered if Great Lakes metros do not focus intensely on innovation, both in terms of expanding the range of products and services that they offer and in their specific product and service lines.  A legacy of success in exports does not guarantee future dominance, a lesson that Great Lakes metros should have learned through rough experience.”

What do you think?


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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, regionalism, U.S. Auto Industry

Most Fun Cities: Chicago, Detroit, Youngstown?

I know. I know. We said these things were stupid. I’m not going to retract that statement.

However, for the sake of discussion, Portfolio has cataloged the “Top 100 Fun Cities” and there’s a few interesting items.

In their list, Chicago scores second, Minneapolis 10th, Detroit 14th, Syracuse and Rochester 15th and 16th, Cleveland comes in at 23 (just before Portland?!), Milwaukee is 25, Youngstown’s 28 and Buffalo’s 29.

So, as we’ve discussed, these things are all relative and Portfolio doesn’t provide a ton of information about their rating system. Ratings are based on the categories of shopping, food and drink, gambling, popular entertainment, culture, low-impact sports and high-impact sports.


I have to say, if there is a kernel of truth in all this it’s that Cleveland just might be the funnest city in the country tonight–that is if you have Cavs tickets like me!

Also, while were on the subject, Forbes ranked Pittsburgh the country’s most livable city last week. Go figure!



Filed under Headline, The Media

Guest Editorial: The Stigma of the Small City

I have recently returned to Cleveland after several years in the “Capitol of the Midwest,” Chicago. Chicago is filled with Midwesterners from all corners, and those who have committed to living there have a mixture of disdain, pity, and guilty longing for the places they left behind. The opinion they expressed was that leaving Chicago for a smaller Midwestern city would stifle career ambitions and deprive one of big city amenities. All they saw outside Chicagoland was corn fields and closed factories. In a discussion of urban development, one economist (originally from upstate NY) asserted, “Detroit and Cleveland no longer have an economic reason for being.” When I told people in Chicago that I planned to return to Cleveland, most looked dejected and some said, “I’m sorry.”

Having spent a year now in Cleveland, I realize that it is not a small city with nothing going on. It is truly a major city with sufficient scale for most things you find in major cities. We have finance and legal industries. We have designers and publishers. We have bicycle messengers. We have at least a half dozen companies that do nothing but walk dogs for busy professionals. We have a sand volley ball league, a dozen ski clubs, and thirty-some yoga studios. We have immigrants from all over the world in our universities and running ethnic groceries. We have commuter trains, valets, and loft condos with concierges. Life in Cleveland is much more like life in Chicago than people there, here, or elsewhere recognize. Is our perception about smaller cities also wrong?


Photo by David Richardson via Flickr.

Just as Chicago collects people from Detroit, Minneapolis, and Columbus, I have found that Cleveland has no small number of people who grew up in Youngstown, Lima, and Wooster. From time to time, I find myself in smaller cities or reading blogs about them – Erie, Jamestown, Flint, etc. I start to wonder about these places as the people in Chicago wonder about Cleveland. How can they have an economic future? Who would move there? If I were a young, educated person, how could I justify staying there? Would I have returned to Flint if that’s where I grew up? If so, who would I work for? Who would my spouse work for? What if I had to change jobs mid career but there’s only one local employer in my field?

Looking at the latest population change estimates, I was struck once again by the falling populations in “small” places near “big” places – shrinking counties south of Atlanta and Charlotte and west of Dallas and Austin (http://www.census.gov/popest/gallery/maps/County-Numeric-Change-00-09.html).

What do you think about roll-up? Should we be promoting the gathering of educated young people of our region from rural areas to cities? From small cities to large cities? From large cities to Chicago? Should we be trying to save every urbanized area? At some point, do we have to say to some small places, “You are just too small. You will never have the jobs or amenities to stop your shrinking. Let your young people go to a bigger city. At least we can save that city, and they can visit you on long weekends.”

Even though Cleveland has a lot to offer, we are struggling with inadequate numbers to fill and hold desirable urban neighborhoods. There are places in Cleveland with dozens of rehabbed homes and new condos. Young professionals live in these and support local businesses and artists. But for every young professional household there are three or more rentals. The nice housing is mixed in with blight. The surplus space keeps rent low and intimidating characters outnumber friendly neighbors. I wish we had a few thousand more young professionals so we could make at least one neighborhood feel as safe as Lakeview or the West Loop in Chicago.

I see people making a valiant effort to save Jackson, MI, and Findlay, OH, and I feel like saying to them, “Let it go. We can’t save everything. Cleveland needs all the young talent we can get, and we’d love to have you as a neighbor here.” At the same time, I know exactly how it feels to hear that. The difference, if anything, is that Chicago doesn’t need any more young professionals. Cleveland needs more educated people to slow and reverse its decline. But Erie needs more educated people too. What should we do?



Filed under Brain Drain, Editorial, Headline, Real Estate

WSJ: Big Cities Growing Quicker

The Wall Street Journal is carrying a story about growth in many big cities since the last census.

The paper reports the recession is having a chilling effect on suburban sprawl. Researchers also predict migration to the Sun Belt is cooling.

Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio are among the big winners.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Detroit and Cleveland, not so much.

“Cities are showing a continued vitality as hubs of activity even as some suburban and exurban areas go through tough times,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “It emphasizes the buoyancy of large established cities with diverse economies and populations.”

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Filed under Headline, sprawl

Songs of the Rust Belt

When I was a little girl my mom used to sing me an old cheer called “We’re Strong for Toledo.” My grandma used to sing me John Denver’s “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio.” The songs portrayed two very different cities: one a proud metropolis, the other a laughing stock.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the most famous songs devoted to Rust Belt as a way to examine how these cities are portrayed in pop culture, and also how that image has changed over the years.

For example, the song my mother used to sing to me, judging by the slang, was written in the 1950s or sooner, Toledo’s heyday. It goes like this: Continue reading


Filed under Art, Uncategorized