University Cities share a singular DNA that produces a constellation of magical effects: highly educated populations, innovative economies with high rates of entrepreneurship, outsized arts and culture sectors, and large nonprofit sectors that indicate a vibrant civil society. These traits mirror the large, coastal cities, but they happen in mid-sized cities with low unemployment, low-cost living, and extremely low violent crime rates.
If one were designing a city from scratch for success in the 21st Century – where educated talent is to the knowledge economy what rivers and ports were to the 20th Century manufacturing economy – then it might look like a University City.
The six cities that have major research universities in their urban cores, have metropolitan populations between 250,000 and one million, and have more than 10 percent of their populations consisting of students, are: Ann Arbor, Durham Chapel-Hill, Fort Collins, Lexington, Lincoln, and Madison.
Seemingly purpose-built for the 21st Century knowledge economy.
Jim Gray, Mayor of Lexington. Conference welcome.
Scott Shapiro, Lexington Chief Innovation Officer.
Edward Glaeser, PhD, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, and author of Triumph of the City.
Ken Troske, PhD, Professor of Economics, University of Kentucky.
Eli Capilouto, DMD, Sc.D, president, University of Kentucky.
Jim Gray, Mayor of Lexington; Chris Beutler, Mayor of Lincoln, and Wade Troxell, Mayor of Fort Collins.
Omar Blaik, CEO, U3 Advisors.
Benjamin Kennedy, Kresge Foundation; Katie Appel Duda, Bloomberg Philanthropies; and Lilly Weinberg, Knight Foundation.
Warren J. Wilson, YARDSTK; Steve Dauphin, The Kirchner Group and Bonaventure Capital; and James Lima, James Lima Planning + Development.
John Burkhardt, PhD, Professor of Education and Founding Director of the National Forum of Higher Education for the Public Good, University of Michigan; Howard Lazarus, City Administrator, City of Ann Arbor; and Jim Kosteva, Director of Community Relations, University of Michigan.
Scott Andes, Brookings Institution.
University Cities are in some ways actually innovation districts in and of themselves. They represent a nontrivial amount of your state’s research but they also cluster amenities where people want to live work and play.
When you have alignment between public sector, private sector and a research university, you can leverage it in ways that I think are profound… We think of our city as a platform... Everyone in your community is an active participant, is a co-creator... We incubate grow, expand, and attract.
I think we can all agree that University Cities are amazing places; they are the places where the future of America looks brightest. Part of the great challenge is figuring out how to harness that magic in service of the country as a whole.
University Cities mirror the largest cities in the country in really important ways. They have lots of talent, entrepreneurship, resilient economies, large nonprofit sectors. But unlike the large coastal cities, they have very low cost, very low crime, and low unemployment rates.
Post-industrial City. Metropolis. Border Town. Tourist Mecca. We like to classify our cities, giving them labels that signal what makes them tick, why they’re special.
Now, data suggest there’s another urban typology to add to the list: The University City. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “If you want to build a great city, create a great university and wait 200 years.”
Walk around Videon’s headquarters, and it’s easy to forget that you’re in a short, squat building in the back of an office park. Dogs run around the open workspace, filled with standing desks, funky stone tables and huge computer monitors. They’re an audiovisual technology company, so it make sense that they would want to show off their equipment.
This group, which he calls “university cities,” have distinct characteristics that make them different from smaller college towns or major cities with big research universities. And those characteristics translate into big economic development opportunities in the 21st century’s knowledge-based economy.
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