Dominic Lynch of the Monthly Memo, a Chicago based web site, just posted an interview with me, focused on Chicago. Here’s a sample:
Tell me about your background. You grew up in small-town, southern Indiana, lived in Chicago for about 20 years, and now you live in (and love) New York City. When did you first fall in love with cities? Is there something about cities in particular that you find fascinating?
I love cities like only someone from a town of 29 people can. I did not know I was a city person until I moved to Chicago after college in 1992. For a lot of people, college is a great time of personal discovery, transformation, and exploring new possibilities. That didn’t happen for me in college, but it did in Chicago. Chicago itself was a massively transformational influence on my life. I owe my love of cities to Chicago and the experiences I had there.
What differentiates a high growth, high opportunity city, like Houston or San Jose, from stagnant cities, like Chicago or Cleveland? What systems and structures within a city determine its fate?<?strong>
Chicago is not a stagnant city. It’s true that the Chicago region often looks unimpressive statistically, and for the same reason the rest of the Midwest does: the hangover from deindustrialization. However, the Central Area and North Side of the city, as well as some suburbs, are doing very well. The Loop and surrounding areas are among the most dynamic in the country.
Having said that, Chicago lags the coastal boomtowns in areas ranging from per capita income to venture capital. Part of that is because Chicago is a diverse economy. Diversified positions preserve wealth, but only build it slowly over time. It takes concentrated bets to get rich fast. Or go broke fast as the case may be. Look at what happened to Detroit. Live by one industry, die by that industry. Some of these boomtowns that are too dependent on a single industry may end up running into struggles down the road – even Silicon Valley. Do you want to be the tortoise or the hare?
Click over to read the whole thing, including my take on Chicago’s culture of clout.
Cover image photo credit: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0