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A new report shows jobs shifting back to central cities

In a new report by Joe Cortright at City Observatory shows that between 2007 and 2011, jobs grew in central cities while actually declining somewhat in the periphery. Or more specifically, employment within a 3 mile radius of the city center grew 0.5%, while jobs beyond that radius declined by 0.1%. This indicates a reverse in the long-term trend of suburban job growth and slower or negative urban growth.

Cortright Graph

This seems to strengthen my observation, with Cathy Yang Liu, that central cities have an advantage in growing segments of the economy; in particular, creative industries. In our 2012 article “Are Central Cities More Creative? The Intrametropolitan Geography of Creative Industries,” we noted that creative industries are more centralized, though in the period studied (1998-2002), growth in the suburbs still outpaced those in the central cities.  Apparently this trend continued between 2002 and 2007, but reversed dramatically between 2007-2011. According to Cortright, “Our analysis of census data shows that downtown employment centers of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are recording faster job growth than areas located further from the city center.”

And it appears that creative industries are driving this new growth. The report goes on to say that

“The strength of city centers appears to be driven by a combination of the growing attractiveness of urban living, and the relatively stronger performance of urban-centered industries (business and professional services, software) relative to decentralized industries (construction, manufacturing) in this economic cycle.”

And this may suggest a longer-term trend. As Cortright concludes, “…there are structural forces that suggest the trend of center-led growth will continue.” Sounds about right to me.

The Mac put the “personal” in personal computing, and changed my life in the process


Still have my original Mac, circa 1985

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh computer. I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that this humble machine changed my life.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, here are a few fun facts:

  • 128 kilobytes of RAM (that’s right, not megabytes, let alone gigabytes)
  • One 400 kb. 3.5″ floppy drive (with one additional external drive optional)
  • No hard drive (unless you count the hardshell “floppy”)

But it was still quite innovative in its time, with:


From an early Mac ad

  • The first GUI on a personal computer
  • The first mouse
  • The first screen with black text on a white background (it had a 9″ monochrome monitor)
  • First modifiable fonts & bitmap art, a.k.a. “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG)
  • And although it came with a word processor (MacWord) & paint program (MacPaint), I paid a bit extra for Microsoft Word for Macintosh 1.0.

It doesn’t look it now, but it was actually quite sexy back then. But why did this particular machine change my life? Well, first, I bought it my first year of grad school, January 1985. A critical time, to be sure. It was my first computer, and though I used it primarily for typing papers, it changed the way I understood technology and how it worked in everyday life. I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but I started a relationship that wasn’t like the one I had with my toaster or my alarm clock. It truly was a “personal” computer.

Professionally I became quite competent with MS-DOS computers, and programs like Lotus 1-2-3. But my first love was always there. In my first business as a computer consultant I used both systems side-by-side. I still remember using special software and a cable connection to copy Lotus files to the Mac so I could do 3-way sorts using MS Excel for Mac, before it was even available on the PC. I thought I was pretty cool, I guess…

Human Face Logo

Human Technologies “Technology with a human face”

Eventually I decided to focus on the Mac exclusively, despite the fact that it was even less ubiquitous then than it is now. My first company was called Human Technologies, and the logo was a Macintosh icon with a smiley face on the screen (no doubt a copyright infringement, in retrospect, but fortunately I remained well below Mr. Jobs radar. That company was never much more than a sideline, but it helped lead to a series of temp jobs, and eventually a regular gig doing admin for a prepress company’s desktop publishing division. All because I knew Macs…


That’s me on the left… with partners Jason O’Grady & Ryan Kaplan

After that came a stint as a Mac tech, after which my partners and I started what must have been one of the first Mac-based Web design and hosting companies in the Philadelphia area. We had a good run, but trying to host websites on a bank of mid-1990s era Macs was a challenge. But I think it’s safe to say that we had a lot of fun trying…

Apple was about to go through some tough times itself… with a shrinking market share and the post-Jobs strategy of aping IBM-clones. But then Steve Jobs returned triumphantly, and the glory days of Apple would begin a few years later; first with the iPod and iTunes Store, then the mobile phone that changed everything.

Strangely, I was slow to get on the iPod and iPhone bandwagons, though I’d always had a Mac as my primary computer. My first iPod was a 1G Nano, and my first iPhone was the 4. But now, when people hassle me for being an apple fanboy because of my MacBook Pro, iPad,  iPhone 5s, Apple TV, and even an old iPod Nano (I love the radio feature for NPR on the go), I have to tell them this long history.

Ok, maybe I am a fanboy… but I come by it honestly. Apple has always been there for me, and it’s co-founder has always been one of my heroes. And yeah, maybe I wasn’t there for the Apple II, let alone the Apple I, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t seen that SuperBowl commercial 30 years ago this week, followed by an intriguing introduction by my first graduate stats professor.

So, happy 30th birthday, Macintosh! And they said it wouldn’t last… Here’s to 30 more years of thinking “different.”