[Editor's note: This article shows 'academic theory' that may not relate well to reality in towns like Salisbury and Princess Anne. Look at what it says though, then think about 'Downtown Revitalization', parking lot giveaways, and student housing possibilities.]
I want to start off by asking what do the following cities have in common: Manhattan, Kansas; Stillwater, Okla.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Gainesville, Fla.; and Charlottesville, Va.? Each of these recently were recognized among a list of the top 50 U.S. cities to live, work and play.
You also might have observed that each of these cities has a major university presence located in their town. This is a common theme and trend when we try and understand where the greatest growth in population is going to occur in the next 10 years.
When I attended a conference on quality of life initiatives that cities are implementing, a national site selector spoke and mentioned that towns with a college presence will see the greatest growth, especially those whose colleges are doing research and development and then launching that research into new start-up businesses or entrepreneurial ventures. The site selector went to emphasize that the cities with the largest proportional growth over the next 10 years will be those that have, and highlight, a university/college presence.
Universities all across America have figured out they are a major factor in economic development. They also know they will drive many of those key and instrumental quality of life factors that will drive growth in students, professors and talent recruitment to an area. Major institutions of higher learning also have realized it is vital to work alongside the local towns and municipalities to achieve a thriving, energetic, vibrant and robust economic structure.
Universities and colleges are perhaps one of the most critical components to a region that has a bustling downtown filled with restaurants, shops, brew pubs, cool retail, bike lanes, jogging paths and a pedestrian friendly environment. In other words, basically, the playground of today’s young professional and millennial generation.