Joel Kotkin is feeding both political parties with some fact-based thoughts on suburbs. His latest piece, "Why Suburbia Irks Some Conservatives," clearly has a longer-term purpose than just a one-time tweak. It's just in time for the 2016 election.
He's right to do so. The last presidential election was decided on suburbs vs. urban areas, with the dividing line being in "swing" suburbs like Newark, Ohio.
Which party will carve out this territory?
Kotkin begs the question when he writes:
"Yet, there remains a great opportunity for either party that will appeal to, and appreciate, the suburban base. Conservative figures such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher understood the connection between democracy and property ownership and upward mobility. Much the same could be said for traditional Democrats, from Roosevelt and Harry Truman, all the way to Bill Clinton."
Let me tie this back to Ohio.
Suburbs are increasingly becoming independent places with their own identity and their own mix of culture and economy. Newark, Ohio sits at the center of a suburban place with 44 miles of bike paths, three universities, a science museum, and a performing arts center that brings in national acts.
Suburbs are where manufacturing is located. If Ohio remains the swing state it has been, manufacturing will be a buzz word again. You can still find manufacturing workers and companies in the suburbs.
Suburbs are the next generation's home. Kotkin has, repeatedly, defied the conventional wisdom with facts. The millennial generation, increasingly becoming an economic and voter force, has a greater overall desire to live in the suburbs than their parents' generation. Newark is Ohio's 20th largest city and one of only two in the Top 20 that is growing.
Ignore the suburbs at your own risk. That's Kotkin's early message and theme.