October 17, 2010

American Cities Are Ripe for Renewal, if Philanthropy Has the Will

By Ben Hecht

Richard Florida, the economic-development expert and author, refers to the financial meltdowns that have occurred throughout American history as Great Resets. He argues that they create a pathway for innovation and encourage new ways of doing business.

As examples, he points to the urbanization and rapid industrialization that followed the Long Depression of the late 19th century and the more recent technological expansion that followed the Great Depression in the 1930s. Without these crisis points, he contends, innovators would not have had the push necessary to move beyond their staid approaches to create something new.

Today, we clearly are in the midst of another reset and with it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create meaningful change in the way that we deal with the concerns of our cities. For the first time in decades, the promise and prominence of our cities have been acknowledged through the emerging work of the recently created White House Office of Urban Affairs. The economic-stimulus bill made billions of dollars available to jump-start urban economies, in programs that seek to transform how we address transportation and schools, create green jobs, and reduce the problems that stem from housing foreclosures.