Sunday, April 6th, 2008

City Benchmarking Report

A group called the Columbus Partnership published a lengthy peer city benchmarking report comparing that city against 15 other metros around the country. While nominally a Columbus specific report, the same level of data granularity is available for all cities, making it just as useful to Nashville, et. al. as to the people who commissioned it. We should really thank Columbus for funding this research.

I haven’t even really begun to digest these numbers yet, but it looks like there is a wealth of data, mostly sliced by MSA, coming from all the standard sources such as Census surveys. You should see where your city stacks up. One nice thing: this isn’t just other Midwest metros, it also includes places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Portland, and San Diego. This gives good in-region and out-of-region comparators.

Here is coverage from the Columbus Dispatch. How’s this for the lede? “Central Ohioans tend to be poor, uncultured and overweight, according to the statistics.” Ouch.

In other Columbus news, Ohio State keeps increasing the scope, and extending the schedule, of its medical center expansion. It is now up to $1.3 billion and won’t be complete until 2016.

Franklin County enacted an anti-discrimination policy covering gays.

Also, Skybus Airlines went bust, ceasing operations.

Lastly on the Columbus front, I saw this great commentary on the travails of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. It’s very applicable to any city and how it views the arts, namely as a token of sophistication or as a real, genuine arts group. Here are some great quotes:

Story after story about the orchestra’s potential demise has stressed the reduced prestige that Columbus would suffer as a result: We will see our status diminished. We will suffer a blow to our pride. We will look bad to however much of the outside world knows we exist. Can you imagine a less-impassioned plea for keeping the music going? … The best argument we can make for saving it is ‘What will the neighbors think?’ If keeping up appearances is the best reason we can muster for maintaining the orchestra, no wonder it’s in trouble. Surely we haven’t kept the Columbus Symphony around all these years solely because we value it as a civic decoration. Are we talking about an orchestra or a lawn ornament?


Can I suggest a change in language? If I could excise three words from the vocabulary of every cultural-arts institution in town, it would be these: cultural, arts and institution. When I hear those words, I don’t think enjoyment; I think endowment. I think stiff evenings in tuxedos and evening gowns. Describing the symphony as a cultural-arts institution is like describing the Columbus Zoo as a department of biology.

Read the rest for yourself.

Meanwhile over in Louisville, a similar group to the Columbus Partnership called the Greater Louisville Project put out their own study. I wasn’t overly impressed with their 2007 version, and this one is even worse. I can’t even parse the charts and data well enough to be able to properly critique it. Somebody needs to send these guys a copy of Tufte pronto.

1 Comment
Topics: Arts and Culture, Strategic Planning
Cities: Columbus (Ohio), Louisville

One Response to “City Benchmarking Report”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Columbus report was an interesting read. I, like you, couldn’t really make anything out of the Louisville report, and what I could make out I didn’t believe based on most other studies I’ve read.

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