Monday, November 09, 2009

Green Infrastructure Is Critical to Creative Class Communities!

(not to be confused with green technologies)

Durham is already widely recognized as a center for the creative class, a contemporary name for “knowledge” workers. These aren’t just jobs for artists, but all jobs that require thinking and/or creating for a living, e.g. researchers, doctors, lawyers, etc.

A new study by the Michigan State University Land Institute indicates that one of the key ways to stay that way is for Durham to invest as much in “green infrastructure” as it does traditional infrastructure like downtown areas, streets, water, sewer, etc.

Green infrastructure is different than green technologies. Green infrastructure is an umbrella term for cropland, trails, local and state parks, rangeland, rails-to-trails, private and public forests and water amenities like wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams and related activities like fishing, hiking, canoeing, marinas, etc.

Durham has a bigger challenge than most because it is a good size city located in a very small county in terms of land area. So planning to create and accommodate residential, office, commercial uses as well as green infrastructure is more complex here. But one thing in Durham’s favor is that more than a third of the land area is already set aside in watershed including rivers, lakes, cropland, etc.

People in economic development need to take note that places with great green infrastructure are associated with seven to eight times more metro job growth and those with water amenities in particular translate into 13 to14 times more jobs. Hopefully people in visitor centric economic development already sensed that.

Oh, another thing the report makes clear to economic developers who often bemoan taxes is that lower taxes may mean more population but not job creation or income growth. It also indicates that the old strategy of tax-based job attraction may only attract population but not employment or income.

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