Blog: Sarah Szurpicki

Sarah Szurpicki is a Detroit area native and Co-Founder of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE), an online networking and journalism effort to build regional identity and share information among young urban leaders from cities around the Great Lakes region. Sarah will be writing about how our region can benefit from exploring solutions that have been implemented in cities facing similar challenges.

Post No. 5

Without performing any sort of statistical analysis, I'd bet that roughly 75% of previous MetroMode bloggers have commented on the need for Detroit to figure out what young, educated people want - and to try to attract those people. And I suspect that one of the reasons I was asked to blog for MetroMode is as a representative of those young, educated people - and one who decided to come back.

The curious thing is that, much of the work out there on what "young talent" want indicate parameters that, I think, are just the icing on a city's cake. I'm not just looking for cool bars and coffee houses (although I like those). I'm not just looking for a subway ride to work (although I would like that, too). I'm not just looking for easy access to outdoor attractions (though, again, I wouldn't mind it).

It's easy to look at cities that "work" and describe simply their amenities and spatial characteristics, and say, "This is why this city is successful - let's copy that." So that is, largely, what people have done.

What I want from a city is harder to define and even harder to create. I want a city that works for all of its residents – not just my young, educated, mobile peers. And I want to live in a city where I can be a part of making that happen.

I am not unique in this. When GLUE met in Buffalo, we represented 19 major cities in our region, around 11 non-profit and for-profit sectors, and a variety of racial, ethnic, class, and educational backgrounds. What we shared was: (1) our approximate ages – we're all post-boomers, (2) the drive to do work that benefits each of our cities; and (3) a desire to expand the definition of city "quality of life" beyond the amenities I describe above.

We want that definition to include, among other things: economic development that is equitable, neighborhood development that doesn't price current residents out, avenues for civic participation that are transparent and inclusive, and an overall feeling that diversity and tolerance are valued.

Great Lakes cities are incredible places to live if you want to play a role in shaping the future. I hope I demonstrated through my previous three posts that there are ways to be involved in change at every level - whether you have the ear of policy makers, run a business, or are just tired of witnessing violence. "Young talent" will respond to a city that recognizes their efforts to create a healthier future. Let's not fight them on that.