Oh dear, why are the young people leaving?
What do we do about brain drain?
How can we survive without that employer that moved away?
Why did that other city get government investment and not us?
If that's all people hear about your neck of the woods, can you blame them for leaving to find opportunity elsewhere?
A few speakers at Georgetown were the tough love sort and made clear that jealousy and complaining is just as unattractive on a place as it is on a person. We want to hitch our carts to the places with swagger (by the way, hahaha). They know they aren't the tallest or richest or most fashionable in the room, but so what!? We love places that love themselves, that are confident but striving. They know their strengths and use them as a competitive advantage. Without a vision that builds on the values and strengths of the community, places end up competing on other cities' strengths. And like I said, there are bigger fish, right?
The easiest competitive advantage is being someone's home. There are a lot of people hardwired to return to the place they grew up or went to school or met their spouse. Maybe the secret to a healthy population is simply proving that the things people loved about your town are still there, and those who left are welcome back anytime.
More subdivisions and shopping plazas are short term solutions. Being a place that people love to come home to is a great way to ensure they still will.*
So in the words of Mayor Pam Mood of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, "It's time to put on our big boy boxers and big girl panties and get to work." We can all do something to make the places we live home sweet home where people will want to return. At the very least (more Mayor Mood wisdom) we can leave our jealousy and complaints behind.
*Every time I describe things in terms of 'loveability,' I need to tip the hat to a great architect named Steve Mouzon. He coined the term and has really influenced the way I look at buildings and cities. The writing and speaking of Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns is also an undercurrent in much of my work. Thanks Chuck!