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Old 03-25-2013, 03:38 PM
 
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I have noticed cities under 50,000 population usually tend to lack some things mid-sized cities have.

A local city near me of 45,000 population originally in the 70s and 80s could have supported growth up to 60,000 population. However, no growth small-town sentiment controlled growth.

Today, this town/city is feeling the hurt. The county airport is like dead and I feel should be closed.

The mid-sized city has a stronger local economy. It's airport does not offer flights to Phoenix or San Francisco, but offers flights to Las Vegas and Hawaii.

The city with 45,000 population grants for expansion and new flights did not happen. When the mid-sized city has plans for more flights.

The city with 100,000 population has more retail, more social service options like a drug and alcohol detox center, and more jobs.

It also has more affordable housing.

The community college in the mid-sized city is going strong. Where as the community college in the small city almost lost accreditation.

The small city economy is based on a college, a nuclear power plant, and tourism.

I just think the no-growth sentiment does not work for small cities. I just think it's the same any economy. A non-expanding economy is going to be a dying economy with some exceptions.
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Old 03-26-2013, 04:17 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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IMHO, there are only four ways that smaller-sized cities can retain vibrancy in the modern era.

1. Be lucky enough to be next to a major metropolis, and operate as if it is a city neighborhood (see, Hoboken, NJ, Cambridge, MA), or possibly a gentrified commuter suburb if you're on a good transit line (West Chester, PA).

2. Be in an isolated enough part of the country that it is effectively a regional hub where young professionals in state move, despite the small size on a national scale. This is mainly relevant in parts of the great plains, upper west, and northern New England where there are no sizable urban areas.

3. Have a college in town, preferably a large state university. This is a biggie. It can make the most podunk place cosmopolitan with a nice, walkable mixed-use commercial area downtown.

4. When all else fails, attract artists (Taos NM, Asheville, NC).
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Old 03-27-2013, 12:11 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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I should add, in general, smaller cities have two, related issues.

The first is job concentration has become greater and greater as time goes on. We can basically talk about four kinds of jobs here.

The first is manufacturing, which is almost gone of course. When new jobs are created, they tend to be in the middle of nowhere, because employers in these industries like paying poverty wages in depressed communities where few other options exist.

The second are the sort of regional job centers which are usually, but not always, public employment Universities. State offices. Prisons. These can make a big difference in the local community, and often pay better than rural manufacturing jobs, but often few positions open up.

The third is personal services. These include low-wage positions, like sales clerks, and high-wage positions like doctors, but they're all based upon providing to the local population. This is essentially the baseline economic activity a region makes by selling things and to each other. It's kind of impossible to grow with this form of employment alone, unless you have an city which becomes a tourist trap - which has its own drawbacks I'll mention below.

Fourth are "global services." Jobs in things like software, publishing, issue advocacy, advertising, etc. Without fail, these jobs locate in or near major urban areas, because they know they will get a wider choice of highly-qualified employees if they locate their offices where most applicants either are or want to live.

Consider each of the examples in terms of the smaller city options I outlined.

1. A city which becomes a "suburb" of a major metropolis does not need a good job market. It can leech off the regional job market, provided it markets itself as a great place to live.

2. Small cities in very rural parts of the country are helped by two factors. First, they're highly likely to be the location of major concentrations of public employees (including universities, even if they aren't college towns exactly). Two, the much further distance from any great metropolis means that employers are a bit more likely, and young people also more likely, to consider staying in the biggest city in a state rather than leaving.

3. College towns are generally awful places to live for people after college. Because they are fairly high-paid, unionized positions, university work seldom opens up, and often recruits older workers from elsewhere in the country. There are few options besides working a cruddy retail job indefinitely for a recent graduate. What's worse, the cost of living is typically fairly high, as young people are competing with professors and students being supported by their parents when looking for a place to live.

4. Towns which attract artsy folks are in some ways similar to college towns, but worse in terms of jobs. Often the local retail scene is far better than you would expect for a city of its size. But due to the charm of these areas, they often attracts wealthy retirees, who can drive up the cost of living quite high, making it a less affordable place for anyone to consider opening up a business which doesn't cater to servicing the wealthy.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:12 PM
 
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I think so much depends on specific location. If you're in a smaller city within easy distance of a big city, for example, you still have relatively easy access to a major international airport. There's a big difference between a small city in New England or the mid-Atlantic versus a more remote location in parts of the West. I think it's tough to make generalizations about city size without looking at all the other factors at play.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:30 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Other possibility:

Largest city of the metro has declined so much it's lost its status as the cultural center of the metro. The largest city may still be the center, but a much smaller city might rival it in some ways. A small nearby city takes up the slack. This is partially true for Northampton, MA due to Springfield's decline though the colleges in and near Northampton gave it the initial boost. For example, visiting bands are more likely to play in Northampton than Springfield.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:44 PM
 
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I think you all summed it up pretty well. Here in CA, we have many small coastal cities surviving off of tourism and higher cost of living. We also have the college towns, but I've been seeing the college towns hurt.

We also have manufactoring, regional needs like hospitals and schools and retail, and farming strong in more farming based communities.

Interestingly enough I heard my coastal town makes most of it's income from three to four events they have. People come to the beach and the event and maybe do some shopping and dining as well.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:17 PM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
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San Luis Obispo vs. Santa Maria?

What is interesting about what Eschaton mentioned is that SLO has a very large and prominent university (Cal Poly SLO) while Santa Maria only has a junior college.

Santa Maria's major employment center is Vandenberg AFB (my dad works there) and the fairly large regional hospital (I have family that works there). SLO's major employers are Cal Poly SLO and the County of SLO (Santa Maria, despite being the largest city in its county is not the seat).

What is interesting though is if you polled people, 9 out of 10 would probably say that San Luis Obispo is the more successful city and probably just crack a joke about Santa Maria. Of course it is true as a larger city Santa Maria has more available, particularly shopping-wise. But generally I don't see a lot of benefits of SM over SLO. This is just one instance though - most of the time the mid-size city has more to offer than a small one. Had you changed SLO out for Lompoc, Atascadero, Paso Robles, etc. I would agree more with this example.

If you are not talking about SLO forgive me - I am just assuming because it is seems to be the only city of that size near Santa Maria (which I know is the only 100k + city on the Central Coast).
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
San Luis Obispo vs. Santa Maria?

What is interesting about what Eschaton mentioned is that SLO has a very large and prominent university (Cal Poly SLO) while Santa Maria only has a junior college.

Santa Maria's major employment center is Vandenberg AFB (my dad works there) and the fairly large regional hospital (I have family that works there). SLO's major employers are Cal Poly SLO and the County of SLO (Santa Maria, despite being the largest city in its county is not the seat).

What is interesting though is if you polled people, 9 out of 10 would probably say that San Luis Obispo is the more successful city and probably just crack a joke about Santa Maria. Of course it is true as a larger city Santa Maria has more available, particularly shopping-wise. But generally I don't see a lot of benefits of SM over SLO. This is just one instance though - most of the time the mid-size city has more to offer than a small one. Had you changed SLO out for Lompoc, Atascadero, Paso Robles, etc. I would agree more with this example.

If you are not talking about SLO forgive me - I am just assuming because it is seems to be the only city of that size near Santa Maria (which I know is the only 100k + city on the Central Coast).
San Luis Obispo has 45,000 population and Lompoc has 42,000 population.

You are missing the biggest employer in Santa Maria - the farms. The hospital medical center, the school district, the city of Santa Maria, large junior college (10,000 + students), engineering and manufacturing near the airport like Zodiac, retail jobs, and farming jobs make up the majority of Santa Maria's economy. There has been a push to bring more engineering jobs like a co. that makes helicopters, but the city council has been against that.

SLO has the city of SLO, the college, the smaller community college, the county, and some retail jobs.

Santa Maria has 100,000 population and the medium income in Santa Maria is just above $50,000 where as SLO's medium income is $60,000.

Not only that but many people in Orcutt and Nipomo have jobs in Santa Maria. Orcutt is a suburb of Santa Maria.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:31 PM
 
Location: Pasadena, CA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the city View Post
San Luis Obispo has 45,000 population and Lompoc has 42,000 population.

You are missing the biggest employer in Santa Maria - the farms. The hospital medical center, the school district, the city of Santa Maria, large junior college (10,000 + students), engineering and manufacturing near the airport like Zodiac, retail jobs, and farming jobs make up the majority of Santa Maria's economy. There has been a push to bring more engineering jobs like a co. that makes helicopters, but the city council has been against that.

SLO has the city of SLO, the college, the smaller community college, the county, and some retail jobs.

Santa Maria has 100,000 population and the medium income in Santa Maria is just above $50,000 where as SLO's medium income is $60,000.

Not only that but many people in Orcutt and Nipomo have jobs in Santa Maria. Orcutt is a suburb of Santa Maria.
LOL I'm aware. I grew up in the area.

What I meant by largest employer is that Lockheed is the single largest employer. Yes I would imagine a ton of people in the area work on farms - and the more "white collar" population of Santa Maria does more professional work in the same arena - canning, packaging, shipping, pestacides, etc. Sounds like construction is also a huge employer there, most people I know that still live in Santa Maria and that area are in construction of some sort.

But really there isn't a lot that Santa Maria has that SLO doesn't, other than a terrible indoor mall and a lot of gang violence.
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchitup View Post
LOL I'm aware. I grew up in the area.

What I meant by largest employer is that Lockheed is the single largest employer. Yes I would imagine a ton of people in the area work on farms - and the more "white collar" population of Santa Maria does more professional work in the same arena - canning, packaging, shipping, pestacides, etc. Sounds like construction is also a huge employer there, most people I know that still live in Santa Maria and that area are in construction of some sort.

But really there isn't a lot that Santa Maria has that SLO doesn't, other than a terrible indoor mall and a lot of gang violence.
My point about Orcutt is SM employs more than it's own population.

The mall has a brand new movie theater set to open in Fall and I saw it for myself the other day. 4 national chain restaurants are going to be added, 12 national chain clothing stores, and a skate park and an indoor batting cage and soccer training facility were just added. The mall still has a good Macy's and Sear's and some popular stores like PacSun, Spencer's Gifts, Daniel's Jewelers, etc...

The airport is way better in SM than SLO.

Community college is way better and Hancock is expanding. There is Boomers. Way more dining options in Santa Maria. It's more affordable in SM. I could say more.

It's larger and still has more despite the extra crime in certain areas and more people in lower incomes.
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