November Economic Development Report


Are ‘Pretty Cities’ more successful?


A recent study has found that the more aesthetically pleasing a city is, the more successful its economic development prospects (Publication in Route Fifty by Richard Florida City Lab- May 16, 2019). Researchers defined beauty through tourism data and photos of picturesque locations. City size did not have an effect; many small and medium-sized cities with parks, historic buildings, and good weather are perceived as beautiful.

According to the study, a city with twice as many picturesque locations as another city enjoyed a 10 percent or higher growth in population and jobs from 1990 to 2010. Urban beauty tied with lower taxes as the most important predictor of overall population growth. Cities in the top 25 percent of picturesqueness saw nearly 3 percent higher growth in the number of college graduates than those in the bottom 25 percent.

Urban beauty results in higher housing prices and greater housing appreciation as well; housing values were 16 percent higher in the top quartile of beautiful cities than the bottom.

Investing 10 percent more in parks is associated with a 2.3 percent increase in leisure visits and a 1.3 percent increase in employment in the tourism industry.

In another case, researchers Gerald A Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( April 1st  2019) looked at the relationship between a city’s beauty and key growth indicators. The study built upon traditional measures of the importance of amenities for urban development, such as the prevalence of parks, restaurants and tourist attractions. The study found that Urban population growth in the 1990–2010 period was about 10% points higher in a metro area that was perceived as twice more picturesque

Of course, some cities are blessed with natural beauty, but many beautiful cities are the result of public policy. Concord, for example, has made investments in parks, and protecting landmarks and historic spaces. The investment on Main Street alone is already paying dividends as we are seeing an increase in pedestrian traffic and interest in downtown living.

In the paper, Six Ways Cities Can Reach Their Economic Potential by Bruce Katz (June 2016) of the Brookings Institution. The paper was published as part of its Living Cities Policy Series which found that profound demographic, market, and cultural changes are taking place in the United States, increasing diversity, broadening consumer demand, and dramatically altering the rules of economic prosperity. These changes give cities their best chance in decades to compete for business, workers, and residents. To many prospective city dwellers, the advantages of well-established educational and health institutions and distinctive downtowns, neighborhoods, and amenities look better than ever. These changes are already spurring an urban resurgence, as well as changing the suburban landscape in some distinctly urban ways. Cities are finding an important new niche as the economy increasingly rewards knowledge, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

In WalletHub’s recent survey on the 2019 fastest growing Cities, the top ten were based in the southern states such as Texas, Florida and South Carolina with only two cities in New Hampshire making the list. Manchester ranked 374 and Nashua ranked 456.

The reason for including this as my report for this month is the research out there suggests we are stacking up to become an attractive city to live, work and play.  Only last month SmartAsset named Concord as the highest-ranked New England Capital for livability coming in their top 10, and also one of three cities (along with Honolulu, Hawaii and Madison, Wisconsin) tied for the study’s lowest unemployment rate, at 2.1%. Concord also has the third-lowest violent crime rate and the second-lowest property crime rate – around 277 and 1,919 crimes per 100,000 residents, respectively.

Also in August, "SmartAsset" tracked where millennials were moving and for the first time NH cracked the list as a place they were moving to. Our state was the only location north of North Carolina. The WalletHub survey would suggest that they are primarily moving to the larger cities in the southern part of the State, but as these cities outgrow their popularity, Concord is becoming a strong contender to attract these millennials. We have a beautiful city with many of the assets identified in the reports. We are on the right track and doing the right things to make us an attractive destination to live, work and play.