OpenCities: Culturally Diverse Cities Are at a Competitive Advantage
Today’s post draws on the work of Nina Izábal over at ThisBigCity. OpenCities, an innovative project presented at the UNESCO/UN-HABITAT seminar focused on enhancing inclusiveness for international migrants in cities, acts on the idea that migrants are important contributors to city development and enrichment. After analyzing various indicators (such as perception and inflow of international population), areas, and policy ideologies in 26 different cities, OpenCities reached the conclusion that cities that attract new populations are more competitive than those that do not.
Thus, the project revealed an important implication: migrants enhance cities by adding cultural enrichment, which in turn puts these cities at a competitive advantage. Not only do migrants bring cultural diversity, but they also make necessary contributions to business and innovation that encourage city growth and progress. “Cities are dynamic by definition and new residents change the urban landscape,” Ismael Fernandez Mejía from ISOCARP points out in the seminar.
How is this relevant to the Lehigh Valley? You may have found 2010’s State of the Lehigh Valley report particularly revealing in terms of the trends in population demographics. While in 2009 and 2010 the Lehigh Valley had a lower percentage of Black residents than in the rest of Pennsylvania, the US Census Bureau data in the report indicates a greater percentage of the Lehigh Valley reported being Hispanic than in the rest of the state.
The Lehigh Valley has steadily attracted more residents; from 2000-2009, the population in both Northampton and Lehigh Counties grew significantly. According to this report, recent population growth in the Lehigh Valley has been primarily due to the influx of foreign immigrants: “The principal component of population change in the last decade has been in-migration from other countries, not other states.”
Given the population trends in Lehigh Valley, the OpenCities’ approach will help to identify ways to make our cities more open and integrated. What exactly does “open” mean in this context? As defined on their website, openness is “the capacity of a city to attract international populations and to enable them to contribute to the future success of the city.”
What are organizations in the Lehigh Valley already doing to allow for more “openness”? To name a few, AEDC has a strong focus on fostering urban manufacturing and entrepreneurship, and is working to engage the diverse communities of Allentown. In addition, LVEDC provides business assistance for minority-owned businesses. Among other initiatives, CACLV provides individualized assistance and entrepreneurial training to new and existing business owners through their Start Your Business course.
I’ll leave you with some food for thought: What can we do to make cities in the Lehigh Valley more “open”? And what are some practical ways we can better foster inclusiveness to encourage smart growth?