Why scaling up the City of Marietta and Parkersburg is so important

Last week CityLab ran an article titled, The Comeback of the Mid-Sized American City

It was a great analysis of how the three major cities in the U.S. are shedding citizens at an alarming rate and cities that are mid-size (100,000 to 250,000) were netting those migrants.

The article also spoke to the “Rise of the Rest” movement, the mass exodus of citizens from San Francisco and other major U.S. markets to smaller cities where their capital is more valued and impactful.

While Marietta and Parkersburg are a far cry from the mid-sized city requirement alluded to in the article, the premise of the piece is still apt for communities like ours. Those communities who are of-scale enough to warrant some attraction will ultimately get some of that trickle. We desperately need inbound migration numbers to perk up. While just 3.5% of our nation’s cities are ones in excess 50,000, 76% of U.S. towns are ones where population is less than 5,000 persons.

The picture painted is one that sees our two regional cities of scale (Parkersburg/Marietta) growing to numbers around 50,000 and 20,000 or shrinking to towns of 15,000 and 5,000. Statistically that trend seems to be prevailing all around us and for city leaders and planners it poses significant questions.

The question I want to consider is, how do you position our communities to be of scale to warrant attraction?

Let’s go back to those quality of life markers we spoke of a few weeks ago. Consider this excerpt.

“What unites these cities across that range of population is that they have generated the power to create an energetic urban lifestyle at a price that New York and San Francisco just can’t compete with. It is entirely possible to create a truly innovative company with a truly global reach that attracts world-class talent in a place far away from the country’s cultural and economic capitals. Walkable, bikeable communities are springing up in the most surprising places. And talented professionals in their 20s and 30s are investing in urban-minded communities where they know they can get in on the ground floor.”

Walkable, bikeable, and culturally diverse. It’s a fairly simple concept, but hard to execute. The makers are there for us to strive toward, we simply need to adopt a plan and focus our efforts on achievement. Imagine what a small trickle of growth in our community would look like? Imagine an additional 200 people in the county who were between the ages of 21-45, starting families, starting and running businesses, and invigorating youthful energy into our region.

I can tell you that one of the largest concerns of companies seeking to locate here is the labor supply. For businesses already here, they know the labor crunch.

We have to work on attraction of talent. The best and most proven way to do so is to chase those quality of life metrics that are of greatest desire by the mobile.