"Green Infrastructure is Critical to Creative Class Communities!"

This entry was posted Thursday, 10 December, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Green Infrastructure (not to be confused with green technologies) is essential to developing sustainable communities. Durham is already widely recognized as a center for the creative class, a contemporary name for “knowledge” workers. These aren’t just jobs for artists but all jobs that require thinking and/or creating for a living, e.g. researchers, doctors, lawyers, etc. And a new study by the Michigan State University Land Institute indicates that one of the key ways to stay that way is for Durham to invest as much in “green infrastructure” as it does traditional infrastructure like downtown areas, streets, water, sewer, etc.

As Dr. Healy pointed out at Mayor Bell’s visioning for the Obama Administration’s jobs creation Forum, “Green infrastructure, like bike paths and green space that the Enor River ASsociation promotes, may be an excellent way to promote local, small business and youth employment.” (Dec. 9, 2009)

Green infrastructure is different than green technologies. Green infrastructure is an umbrella for cropland, parks, trails, local and state parks, rangeland, rails-to-trails, private and public forests and water amenities like wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams and related activities like fishing, hiking, canoeing, marinas, etc. Durham has a bigger challenge than most because it is a good size city located in a very small county in terms of land area. So planning to create accommodate residential, office, commercial uses as well as green infrastructure is more complex here. But one thing in Durham’s favor is that more than a third of the land area is already set aside in watershed including rivers, lakes, cropland, etc.

People in economic development need to take note that places with great green technology are associated with seven to eight times more job growth in metro areas and water amenities translate into 13 to14 times more jobs. Hopefully people in visitor centric economic development already sensed that. Another thing the report makes clear to economic developers who often bemoan taxes is that lower taxes may mean more population but not job creation or income growth. It also indicates that the old strategy of tax-based job attraction may only attract population but not employment or income. (From Dec. 2009, Durham Convention and Visitors Board)