Wednesday, December 19, 2007 12/19/07-Universities and Cities

In today's excerpt--the influence of universities on cities:

"More than half of the nation's colleges and universities are located in cities. ...From the late nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth, industry, financial institutions, and public utilities were typically the largest employers in most American cities. In recent decades, however, as manufacturing jobs moved out of cities and as banks and public utilities consolidated, universities and their associated medical centers have grown to become the largest employers in a surprising number of cities. In every one of the twenty largest cities in the United States, an institution of higher education or an academic medical center is among the top ten private employers, despite differences among these cities in age, region, and development pattern. Thirty-five percent of the people who work for private employers in these cities are employed by universities and their medical centers. And in four of those cities--Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Baltimore--institutions of higher learning and medical facilities account for more than half the jobs generated. ...

"In 1996, more than nineteen hundred urban-core universities in the United States collectively employed two million workers and spent $136 billion in salaries, goods, and services. ... This was nine times greater than federal direct spending that same year on urban businesses and job development. ...

"Attractions associated with universities, including musical performances, art shows, and lectures, stimulate ideas and energize people ranging from local schoolchildren to older, continuing learners. When a university channels its intellectual power and creativity, it has the potential to create a valuable dynamic that is mutually beneficial to the university and the community. ... When one considers the multitude of opportunities for strong city-university partnerships, the potential is enormous. ...

"Howard University is an excellent case in point. In response to criticism about its neglected real estate holdings, Howard paired with the Washington, DC, government, Fannie Mae, and corporate partners to transform forty-five properties in a crime-ridden neighborhood into more than three hundred housing units and $65 million in commercial development. Another institution that has assumed an active role in transforming its community is Virginia Commonwealth University, which formed a joint-venture with the state of Virginia and the City of Richmond to create the Virginia Bio-Technology Research Park. Out of this successful center, twenty-six companies have been created--with VCU faculty research accounting for 75 percent of them."

Judith Rodin, The University & Urban Revival, Penn, Copyright 2007 by University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 13-18.


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