Stories

America's uneven urban renaissance

Downtown Indianapolis. Darron Cummings / AP

Corporate America has fallen back in love with big cities, where a growing list of name firms like GE and McDonald's have announced they are moving their headquarters from the burbs.

  • Large companies want to be downtown because that's where the most talented younger workers want to be, making corporate, urban migration another auspicious trend for America's big cities, along with falling crime rates and expanding tax bases.
  • But according to the Manhattan Institute's Aaron Renn, the benefits of corporate America's rekindled urban interest is going by and large to just a few of America's most powerful economic centers, like New York, Boston, and Chicago, while the attempted comebacks of St. Louis and Cincinnati are much more precarious. Indianapolis (see after the jump) may be an exception for the second-tier cities.
  • Why it matters: Renn points to data showing that just six cities grabbed three-fourths of all U.S. downtown job growth between 2010 and 2013, suggesting that the go-urban strategy to attract the best talent is appealing in only certain cities and for certain businesses.

Indianapolis is an example of the mixed success mid-sized cities have had in attracting employers downtown.

  • The city has successfully leveraged its unique sports culture to attract tourism and amenities to downtown Indy, while investing in public-private partnerships to beautify the city and improve infrastructure.
  • Downtown Indianapolis is rapidly adding new restaurants, but office vacancy rates remain high, evidence that big, corporate employers that employ middle-class knowledge workers are not yet convinced.
  • There are signs the city might be turning a corner with homegrown success stories like Exact Target, an Indianapolis startup bought by Salesforce in 2013. Salesforce has continued to invest in Indianapolis, which is now its second largest hub