Nashville notes

I strongly recommend eating at Husk (get the vegetables plate) and Chauhan Ale and Masala House (the Indian-Mexican fusion version of a chile relleno is one of the best courses I have had all year).  Station Inn is good (and comfortable) for bluegrass music, visit Fisk University, Helen’s Hot Chicken serves spicy fried chicken without the tourists or the lines, and the east side of town has some funky shops and boutiques.

Grand Ole Opry is a well-oiled machine, but it makes country music feel old and bankrupt.  The famous strip on Broadway, with the noisy bars, music shows, and restaurants, might as well be hell, but it offers the great joy of being able to leave it.  The “Gulch” part of town is presented as cool, but it’s really just a few boring shops in a homogenized setting.

Nonetheless I now think of Nashville as one of the most successful cities in the South — remarkably few neighborhoods are run down and dumpy, and the residents seem happy.  There is new construction all over, plenty of health care facilities, and Vanderbilt is a quality university.

What might be the most successful southern cities, circa 2018?

— Atlanta

— Richmond

— Nashville

— Bentonville

— the NC Research Triangle deserves mention, even though neither Durham nor Chapel Hill is well-developed enough to make this list (why is that?).

— Maybe the boring Charlotte?

— p.s. Miami is not the south.

What do the success stories have in common?  Other than not being Memphis?

Comments

Is Houston not a candidate? It's not Memphis, either.

Whether Houston is part of the South depends on who you ask - Houston certainly bills themselves as "The Culinary and Cultural Capital of the South"

Houston is amazingly culturally and ethically diverse. This adds a wonderful mix and opportunity to experience discovery.

Though likely not as amazingly ethically diverse as DC.

Actually, DC is not ethically diverse, pretty much everybody is a scumbag.

Houston is the most diverse city in the US. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-houston-diversity-2017-htmlstory.html

Houston is definitely culturally Southern like the rest of southeast Texas.

I'm very curious why you think this. Where do you think, geographically speaking, Southeast Texas begins?

Roughly speaking: south of I-20, east of U.S. 77

Truthful answer: a hard-and-fast delineation is impossible; it's more of a transition zone.

I lived in Houston for a year, after living my entire life in Alabama and Georgia. The culture is completely different. It reminds me more of a Chicago with worse drivers and more bikers. There's significantly less greenery than LA, AL, GA, SC, NC, TN, MS; and unsweet tea sells more than sweet tea. There's less country music, no SEC football, and the truck drivers own trucks because speeding and cutting people off is more important than the physical attributes of owning a truck.

But West Houston, the Woodlands, and Galveston are still cool places. Culturally Southeastern? Absolutely not.

This is very much an accepted fact within Texas and any scholarship about Texan culture. East Texas has much more in common, culturally speaking, with the old South, since East Texas had an economy based around cotton. Once you cross the the 98th Meridian, it is nearly impossible to grow any significant cash crops, and the resulting culture became much more of a "frontier" culture (see Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains). As a result there were very few slaves west of the 98th Meridian. The same applies for the Hill Country surrounding Austin, which is located on the Balcones Escarpment, a thick bedrock of limestone that makes agriculture unprofitable. Even today, the black population of Austin accounts only for 8% of Austin's total population.

I think most common Texas folks, like me, would make a physical geographical reference, rather than cultural, and just call that area East Texas, with Southeast Texas starting just below Houston. East Texas is quite different than the rest of the state. That said, whatever Houston did have in common with the South, it really no longer does.

As a native Texan who's lived in Atlanta for 20+ years, Texas is an entity unto itself. The culture, politics, food, and history are entirely distinct.

Please don't talk about Houston. We don't want to see it ruined by the wrong sort, as as happened to so many other cities. We prefer to follow the epicureans: "Live unknown."

No biscuits?

'Grand Ole Opry is a well-oiled machine, but it makes country music feel old and bankrupt.'

Still cannot really figure out what this is supposed to mean, actually.

'might as well as hell'

One assumes 'be' comes before hell, which has been defined as 'other people' by one grumpy Frenchman.

(And actually looking at the Husk menu was interesting. Why, you can go to Nashville to get these - 'Rappahannock Oysters, Orange, Lard, Fennel.' Who knows, maybe Husk has authentic soft shell blue crab dish in season too.)

Country music sucks - along with CNN, it is played day and night in hell.

"'Grand Ole Opry is a well-oiled machine, but it makes country music feel old and bankrupt.'

Still cannot really figure out what this is supposed to mean, actually. "

He means that though it is a professionally run venue with a constant stream of top-level country stars, the artists and presentation are all so slick and highly polished that none of the grit or authenticity some people might like in their music comes through.

What?

No trip to https://www.lovelesscafe.com for the best fried chicken & biscuits in Nashville?

Quelle horreur.

Thanks for the props to Vanderbilt.

Loveless Cafe and Hattie B's would have both been superior choices.

Nashville used to be famous for guitar players, Owen Bradley, Hank Garland, among others, if memory serves. Don't know about now. Most of the best guitar players are gone. Replaced by apps and drum machines.

Vanderbilt was best known for Jum Nunnally, author of the superlative psychometrics textbook appropriately titled Psychometric Theory (especially the 2nd ed., the 3rd ed. cannot be recommended unfortunately, as Nunnally was dead when it was revised by Ira Bernstein).

Dave Rawlings would disagree with your first point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7knB3VtAqY

Nunnally's book may be excellent, but I doubt it's what Vanderbilt is best known for. I went there twice and never heard of it.

I can speak to Chapel Hill. It's called the "Town of Chapel Hill" and longtime residents seem intent on it remaining a "town" and never become a city. They don't want to add housing and/or greater density where it really needs to be (Franklin Street). This would change the "feel" of the main street. When hotel was built on Franklin Street about 5-10 years ago (which was desperately needed - imagine parents day weekend for school of 26,000 students) that was going to be 5-7 stories tall, I recall hearing the fear that Chapel Hill was turning into Manhattan. Even smaller mid-rise apartment buildings, which are desperately needed to meet growing student body of UNC, cause a big stir. (See the history of Greenbridge, an eco-friendly luxury development on Rosemary street that was subject to politically-fueled vandalism).

It also doesn't hurt that longtime homeowners see their home prices soar the more successful they are keeping Chapel Hill a small town, rather than a growing city as it really would be with less exclusionary zoning. What new housing does get built gets pushed out in to sprawl at the edges of Chapel Hill and Orange/Durham Counties where there are fewer neighbors to complain.

Of course, the town is betraying their alleged commitment to sustainability by not allowing dense development in the heart of the Town where more people could walk and bike to work and school, but it's hard to describe how powerful the "we need to keep Chapel Hill the special small town we all know and love" argument is.

'but it's hard to describe how powerful the "we need to keep Chapel Hill the special small town we all know and love" argument is.'

Good for them - I hope they win.

The f*cking libertardians want to flood the country with immigrants and turn every town into sh*thole.

We aren't going to stand around and let that happen.

"The f*cking libertardians want to flood the country with immigrants and turn every town into sh*thole."

I don't pray often, but I'm praying you don't have children, your DNA definitely needs to die out. . .

Are you a Russian troll? Oh, that's right, they're Chinese now . . .

Sh*tholes like NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami? Where millions of people pay a premium to live there, and home prices are so high because millions more wish they could live there?

Doesn’t SF pay their poop patrol employees $185k/yr?

It seems California is becoming positively feudal.

That assessment of Chapel Hill seems pretty accurate, as someone who lived there for about five years. There actually has been some more dense development along Franklin St. in the past few years, but it is still very much a college town and not much more than that.

Durham on the other hand, particular in its downtown, seems intent on reinventing itself as a hip place for startups. There have been more overt revitalization efforts (American Tobacco Campus, DPAC) as well as more subtle ones (breweries, bars, restaurants, shops). At the very least they seem to have succeeded on making downtown an attractive location (one with a slightly bohemian feel to it?), and I suspect that downtown Durham will look fairly different in another decade or so.

I agree, although regarding dense development on Franklin Street, I imagine you're talking about in the Blue Hill district? It seems to me Chapel Hill made it easy to develop in this area on Franklin Street (using a form-based code), which is great, but it's not really walking distance to the heart of Franklin Street which borders UNC's campus. That's really where the density should be, since people could easily live there and get to work/school without needing a car or even bus.

The Blue Hill district is better than nothing, although one downside seems to be a NIMBY group called CHALT arising from this process and they seem very effective at getting CHALT-endorsed candidates elected.

Sounds exactly like the rhetoric of the anti-development lobby in Ann Arbor. Need to keep the town small and special and can't become another "big city" (even though the population is creeping towards 150,00). Prices per square foot near the downtown are higher than almost any other city in the country (outside of the truly crazy markets like SF, NYC, etc.).

To make matters worse, the city developed a large "green belt" outside of the city so housing can't even be built in what would be "the suburbs" so many have to commute in from far away bedroom communities or the Detroit suburbs.

Have you visited St. Petersburg, FL? Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Where DC has tons of jobs and little housing, St. Petersburg is building new housing like crazy but jobs are not as strong. This is mitigated by relying more on wealthy retirees who come for the luxury downtown high-rises with great views, plus lots of artists and freelancers are moving there due to great weather (it's the Sunshine City in the Sunshine State) and lower cost of living. Tourists also bring in a lot of revenue, and having great local paper (Tampa Bay Times) is a plus.

The city and county are 50/50 Republican/Democrat split in a purple state sitting on the I-75 corridor that gets intense attention from candidates.

St. Petersburg needs to tackle its legacy of segregation and unequal development, lack of transit, and make USF a more elite university (the latter two preventing it from landing more major businesses/jobs) but it's definitely growing and looking to the future unlike many cities.

I've only had a couple of short-ish visits to St. Petersburg some years ago, but my impression was very much in line with what you describe.

At first I did not understand your cite of the Tampa Bay Times. Even just looking at the newsstands, I quickly realized that the Tampa Tribune was inferior to the St. Petersburg Times, despite Tampa being (I think) historically a much larger city. I had to look up those papers to see that the St. Petersburg Times renamed themselves the Tampa Bay Times -- and took over the Tampa Tribune. Yeah, it was/is a surprisingly good (to me anyway) newspaper, a very good one.

What I couldn't see in St. Petersburg is what the economy was built on, aside from retirees' funds, tourism, and housing and retail for the retirees and tourists.

Greenville SC, -- Barely large enough to be a city but has it all. Good diversified economic base with emphasis on auto manufacturing (BMW, Michelin etc), surprisingly strong cultural with several theaters and good food scene, possibly the best urban park in a small city.

Greenville also has a very interesting economic renovation story led by their mayor in the 1970s. He fled Austria ahead of the Nazis and somehow ended up in Greenville where he made a fortune in textiles. Recognized the textile industry was dying and convinced the city to rebuild/rebrand itself by modeling narrowing main street, widening the side walks, planting trees and modeling the walkable urban cores he remembured from Europe. Which helped attract BMW. The city followed this up by replacing a center city street with a pedestrian bridge which opened up Falls Park on the Reedy. They late developed an extensive (for their size) bike path network along the Swamp Rabbit Trail and started to attract 1/2 back retirees (people who decided Florida is too hot and moved 1/2 way back north.

+1 on Greenville.

Another +1 on Greenville. We keep showing up on Best Places to Live (and retire) lists.

Big thumbs up for Greenville. Incredible local business and civic leadership have created an award-winning gem of a city and region. City leaders come to Greenville to learn how to build a successful small-city downtown.

I've heard something like this from a local government CFO who relocated from Nashville: "Greenville is what Nashville was 15 years ago and is moving in the same direction".

"What do the success stories have in common?" Relatively low taxes, quality higher education, mild climate, and a location far from the vulnerable coastal area.

If I am not mistaken, four of those cities on Cowen's list are also state capitals (Atlanta, Richmond, Nashville, and the NC Research Triangle).

The coast is not so vulnerable - with FEMA and National Flood Insurance you can build, over and over and over, on the coast with no worries.

Almost everywhere in the South has relatively low taxes and a mild climate (if you define "mild" as "lack of extreme cold," which I've always found curious myself but seems to work for a lot of folks).

Amen. If “mild” = southern humidity, count me out.

In the case of Nashville, geography. On my first visit, I was surprised how accessible it is to large cities like Atlanta and Chicago. That is part of what made it attractive to Nissan.

Well I hope Tyler Cowen will remember
Memphis folks don’t need him around anyhow

By the way, I notice Tyler skipped the most authentic Nashville experience - driving in rush hour traffic.

That's because DC traffic is worse. Nashville doesn't deserve a mention on this front. I never found it that bad.

This should be renamed "Tyler grudgingly approves of Nashville."

You can feel his disappointment that he couldn't rip into it as if it were Memphis. So instead, he took a shot at Memphis.

To be fair, everybody rips on Memphis. It has that classic Mississippi river charm and corruption.

Genuine country music had a short lifespan, say from around 1925-1990 give or take a few years. Honky tonks have been replaced by big box retailers and chain restaurants and the blue collar workers now live in suburbia, work in Wal-Mart and aren't linemen for the county. No one has figured out how to write great music about that kind of stuff and what passes for country now is the Las Vegas sound. Nashville is just the fossilized remains of a part of American history -- like Little Italy in NYC.

Yes, it is now pure sh*t marketed at idiots.

There are no jazz musicians in Harlem anymore.

Margot Price, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and a growing roster of other great country artists might disagree, along with the fans who ensure their shows continually sell out.

Charlotte is growing and while my biggest complaint is the city's complacency- it is becoming less boring.

Charlotte is boring in the sense that there isn't much to do there that can't be done in most other major cities. It isn't necessarily the most fun place to visit. But this doesn't mean it's a boring place to live; there are tons of restaurants, shops, breweries, professional sports teams, and other amenities that make it a desirable place to be. South End, Plaza Midwood, and Uptown are all walkable and lively neighborhoods. Once you get to a certain size city, if you're bored then you're boring. For me the biggest knock on Charlotte is its inequality - there was the Chetty paper in 2014 I believe that ranked Charlotte the least equal city in the country.

PS I think Tyler's complaints about Nashville mirror the "first world gripes" he wrote the other day regarding airspace homogeneity.

I've lived in about 1/3 of the cities you listed and visted all of them. On your list I would prefer to live in the Triangle area but Nashville is the best to visit although my hanging out in bars days are behind me.

Huntsville is nice to work in but almost nobody is from the South.

Winston-Salem feels more like the old North Carolina.

Would take Charlotte over Atlanta, to visit or live.

Wouldn't go near Memphis again for any reason.

Charleston, SC deserves consideration if only for its dramatic transformation over the past 40 years.

Or further south to Savannah, GA.

Why ignore the center of mass of the Research Triangle? Wake County NC (includes Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, etc.) is the home of SAS, Umstead Spa, NCSU, and Angus Barn. Over 1 million residents and supposedly 100 new residents/day.

Oooo good, 100 residents per day! It will be a sh*thole soon and a libertardian destination soon. At least it won't be complacent. No average people need apply. No stubborn attachments to friends, family, or culture allowed.

Always fun when a new idiot shows up.

I was also surprised at no mention of the biggest city in the Research Triangle.

"Successful" is in the eye of the beholder, but Raleigh really has a bunch going for it when it comes to raising a family. Good jobs are plentiful, housing is reasonable, it is really green and has lots of parks and green spaces, crime is low, its diverse but also has pretty good racial harmony, the populace is highly educated, the politics are pro business/development but slightly left of center.

Might be a bit on the boring side for some but the food scene is pretty good, there are lots of museums due to state capital, and the city is pretty youthful with the state's largest university right in the middle of the city.

Why not Arlington or Fairfax counties Virginia? Or if those aren’t enough of a “city” I can affix a municipality to it. Even DC and (gasp) Maryland are South of the Mason Dixon line.

Actually, a lot of the country is sort of moving to the South right now - this is especially true if you don’t trim the edges, so to speak.

There’s also sort of a “No true Scotsman” affect that happens with the South, where the moment anything unexpected happens to a place (especially one near the edges of the South) it immediately gets considered to be not the South.

+1 On calling out the Scotsman, too common of late. It's vanity, trying to hold back the evolution of the thing that is changing for the sake of the speaker's well ordered worldview, a sophmoric unkindness no less unkind for being hidden.

Greater Washington and Baltimore have been culturally assimilated into the Northeast. Right now, the transition point with the South is Fredericksburg, Virginia which, over the last decade or so, has gone from southern town to D.C. exurb.

The Maryland panhandle and the Shenandoah valley in western Virginia remain part of the South. The status of the Delmarva Peninsula is arguable.

Why the switch back?

Delmarva, outside of Stevensville/Grasonville, Ocean City and the Delaware beaches (well, and maybe the 55+ developments in Sussex) isn't really arguable...

If by "unsuccessful", he means Memphis has stayed livable and cheap while still being cool, then yeah, Memphis is horribly unsuccessful.

I think I want to visit Memphis.

Memphis is a charming city full of good people. It's on the economic ropes, but its underused infrastructure and affordable housing should make it a magnet for companies seeking to relocate. (Amazon, can you hear me?)

Nashville is a vapid rhinestoned sinkhole perfectly suited for middlebrow pseudo-intellectuals like Mr. Cowen. Let them have it. Anyone with half a cultural appetite can spend 5 minutes in Memphis and see that it's Nashville's superior in every way imaginable (character, food, culture, history).

I live in Nashville, so I'll try to give an on the ground answer

For someone who owns rental property, this is a great market. Seemingly everyone who graduates from an SEC school or Memphis tries to move here. (Plus high tax state refugees) But, for a Southern City, Nashville is crowded and expensive. Wages aren't that high and the commute sucks for everyone. So the graduates end up struggling with roommates or often moving back to their parents.

The greater Nashville area constantly grows because of the lack of competition. Relative to other areas, crime and taxes are low. There are ton of people who are prideful hipsters about being from Memphis, for example. But they know damn well they didn't leave by chance.

“Crime and taxes are low” — Huh? Nashville is in the 6% most crime-infested cities in the country!
https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/tn/nashville/crime

It's a bit confusing, there's a large and populous suburban area that's low crime. Relative means compared to nearby Memphis & Atlanta.

I assume the answer Tyler is fishing for is "those places are successful at attracting educated adults"

I'm a little confused about the observation that Durham/Chapel Hill are not well developed, although confusion about the region is not unusual. The Research Triangle includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill as well as Cary and a bunch of smaller communities primarily in Wake County. Durham and Chapel Hill form one MSA with the world renowned Research Triangle Park mostly in Durham. When I came to Durham 30 some years ago it was considered the armpit of the Triangle although I've always loved living here. The last dozen years or so have brought a tremendous turnaround especially Downtown. It was recently described as Austin without the music but now the music scene has developed. The Durham Performing Arts Center is one of the top five or six performance venues in the country. The area has three major research universities (UNC, Duke and NC State). UNC and Duke both have outstanding medical schools and State has an outstanding vet school. I'm originally from Richmond and know it well but compared to Durham/Chapel Hill and the RTP area, I'd rate the latter higher by most measures.

From what I can tell, Nashville sounds like Atlanta but with much smaller ghetto problems.

"Successful city" is a subjective term. Just because a city is successful doesn't mean that you'd necessarily want to live or work there given your preferences and life situation.

The city of Atlanta, which I'm most familiar with, might be considered successful, but it is a very inhospitable to middle income families like mine. On the other hand, wealthy progressives, childless couples, young hipsters, and ghetto trash can find their niche in Atlanta if they're in to a more urban scene.

In hindsight, I probably should have checked out the Bentonville or Greenville/Spartanburg areas before I planted myself in the ATL suburbs.

Reading "best places" lists are usually worthless. Such lists give a high value to museums, libraries, concets, festivals, river-walks, etc, rather than the things and conveniences that most people need everyday like grocery stores, retail, safe yet affordable neighborhoods, and decent schools that don't require maxing out the housing budget or moving to the exurbs.

@Jay - I can speak to Chapel Hill, as I did earlier in this thread, but CH is not well developed given that its residents and representatives have worked hard to keep it a "town" than become a city. The most obvious example is Franklin Street where it borders UNC's campus. This is a natural place to build upward - it's where people want to be, it would be great for walking and biking, and could lead to less displacement of longtime residents by the growing university. But NIMBYs fiercely fight development here, and they push it further out in places like Southern Village.

Check out Asheville, NC. It ranks high on certain housing metrics.

Atlanta, Richmond and Nashville all have good universities and solid cultural heritages to capitalize on. It is worth mentioning that Atlanta is much larger than the other two.

The Research Triangle has, well, the Research Triangle Park. I don't know why that's there, perhaps someone more familiar with the region could explain. Charlotte and Bentonville both built up business niches based on a large company that was headquartered there.

There is more than one way for a place to be successful (including a Southern place).

My rough understanding is some forward-thinking people in the 1950s realized 1) tobacco and textiles were not going to be great industries forever and 2) they should build something to keep Duke/UNC/NCSU in the area so they could attract corporate investments/jobs - so they built the Research Triangle Park. Brilliant idea, enormous pay off.

They are lucky the universities are clustered near the capital and each other. I think about how the University of Florida is in a swamp in the middle of nowhere. It's a great university, but it'd much more helpful to the state's economy if it were near or in a major city.

"Atlanta, Richmond and Nashville all have good universities and solid cultural heritages to capitalize on. It is worth mentioning that Atlanta is much larger than the other two."

+millions, Atlanta has a population that is nearly as great as the entire state of TN.

As someone born and brought up in Memphis, I'd offer the following hypothesis. Memphis is the single best living example of Acemoglu and Robinson's _Why Nations Fail_ on a local/regional level. Its economic and political institutions have historically been anything but inclusive, pluralistic, or competitive. The inheritance of chattel slavery and Jim Crow have corresponded to a lingering culture of crime, violence, and economic stagnation. It's been devastating to everyone, but especially to black citizens (hence the 20th c. Great Migration). The minority-majority dynamic is worse than that of New Orleans (for one thing, Memphis doesn't have petrochemical or educational assets like Tulane). It has started doing more home-grown development, but talent retention and acquisition has remained challenging. I'd argue that the talent gap has gotten slightly worse in recent years: Nashville, Dallas, and Atlanta are all within a day's drive.

You forgot Austin. Fastest growth, lowest unemployment, home of high tech, medical research, and a world class university, with a pro growth state government.

But not at all Southern

Texas has twice as many people as the New England states *combined*.

Texas isn't part of the Southern region of the United States, it is its own distinct cultural area.

The same is ultimately true of California. There is no "West Coast". There is California south of Tahoe and there is the Pacific Northwest which includes bits of northern California.

Agreed. Texas was once a sovereign nation unto itself, and it's still in their cultural DNA. Lived there 10 years, including high school. My Texas History class was really interesting.

Odd little pockets of Texas outside East Texas, once had a Southern feel. Columbia. Wharton, the hometown of Horton Foote. LaGrange. Mostly, this is a welcome feeling. But I have a friend whose mother-in-law is a very elderly Southern belle from a town downstream of Austin. She told my friend a story of seeing a KKK parade as a child, I guess in the twenties. Despite their hoods, she claims she knew who the men were because she recognized their shoes.

East Texas is now covered with reservoirs, with one or two exceptions less pretty than the rivers they replaced; and trailers, 71% of which are abandoned; strip joints; and new "churches." But my husband remembers it was beautiful and gracious once upon a time, with many unusual plants that it shares with only a few places in the South.

Yep, (far) East Texas is definitely still 'the South', it's basically Louisiana.

It's "deep" East Texas, msgkings, never "far", even if you're in (far) West Texas.

Much obliged. It's been 30 years since I lived there and I was young.

Still laughing at the entry for Husk-Nashville . . . an obvious westward extension of Husk's (original?) Queen Street location in Charleston.

(--and anyone on Queen Street in Charleston knows to eat at 82 Queen for the she-crab soup after finding Husk's hip fare raw-to-undercooked.)

"The “Gulch” part of town is presented as cool, but it’s really just a few boring shops in a homogenized setting."

That's exactly what the Gulch is. A few shops and restaurants trying to upmarket themselves as an alternate destination to Broadway (Riverfront) or West End (Vanderbilt area).

Birmingham is decidedly Southern. The metro area plus a growing hipster urban core gives people of all stages of life good choices of where to live. I would say that if you can find a good job here and you don't need big city glamour, then the quality of life is hard to beat. We are not successful in terms of population growth. If you haven't tried it, come on down and experience a city that hasn't outgrown its urban plan such that terrible traffic lasts from 4pm to 8pm (ahem, DC).

I had one friend who liked Birmingham and another who loved Louisville, but all that was back in the 20th century, so I don't know ... Louisville had some gorgeous architecture but I got the feeling it was on the downslide.

Richmond looks like hell from I-95 and Charlotte's local news is a nightly bloodbath (we often stay in Statesville), but I realize those are pretty superficial impressions

I can't comment on the other cities, but Bentonville is doing well because it's the headquarters of a multinational corporation, and they in turn force their suppliers to have local offices nearby.

This brings in highly-educated transplants from across the country, and has caused near-permanent growth in the local economy for 20+ years. Supporting industries and even unrelated economic areas have also grown, and the whole Northwest Arkansas area is a series of towns along an interstate, so it's incredibly easy to build more development even with NIMBY feelings, because there's so much space for sprawl.

And nearby Fayetteville already had the #1 or #2 Public university in the state, so there was already a pipeline for an educated workforce.

And the Billionaire Walton family also occasionally drop a few million dollars on pet projects, like the Crystal Bridges Art Museum or the bike trail system or a new preschool "Children's Enrichment Center."

So I guess you could say, money. Money makes it a success.

A renewing core of money that's able to circulate around in the wider regional economy, causing everything to grow.

I would add Louisville. Kentucky may have been Union, but the state is southern. Charming, and so good liberal arts colleges. And horses.

Louisville is definitely a southern city.

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