Friday, May 06, 2005

Rational Technology: Cool Cities

For quite some time now, we've associated Dumaguete City with “university town,” highlighting our unique position as the only city in the Philippines whose main economic activity is built around education. We've put that to good use in attracting outsourcing companies into the city.

At some point, though, we have to ask ourselves: what's next? “University town” describes what we are in the present. What do we want to be?

How about a “Cool City?”

DTI Provincial Director Jong Fortunato brought up the idea of a “Cool City” in one of our friendly discussions as to what the future of Dumaguete could look like. Though it sounds frivolous, the “Cool City” brand is something that many cities in the US are shooting for.

Michigan is leading the way for the “Cool Cities” campaign. Gov. Jennifer Granholm started the “Cool Cities” initiative in June 2003 as a key component of her economic vision for the state. The campaign aims to revitalize communities, build community spirit, and retain knowledge workers.

Retention of knowledge workers is really the crux of the “Cool Cities” plan. A census bureau report revealed the alarming trend of migration of young adults to other cities: one in every 20 people ages 25-34 moved away over the two-year period that the study was conducted. This level of flight is usually followed by a downturn in economy.

Cool cities provide these energetic twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings incentive to stay where they are, and perhaps attract others like them. So how do you appeal to this demographic? Work opportunities would top the list, of course, but it's work that's balanced by quality of life.

In specific detail, the top three traits of a cool city are: a walkable community, business development, and arts and culture.

A walkable community is one that pedestrian-friendly, with easy access between commercial and residential areas. This means allocating lanes for walkers, bikers, and skaters.

In terms of business development, young people want a traditional downtown which generates a positive atmosphere and attracts business, customers, residents, and visitors. Young people and business pioneers should be recognized as part of the economic community. Business development should also be tied to arts and culture.

And finally, in arts and culture: entertainment activities should be available at all hours, most especially, a vibrant nightlife. Special events like concerts and festivals also play an important factor.

How do we rate now? How much farther would we have to go?

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