The Motley Fool asks: Are the suburbs bad for business?

The Motley Fool asks: Are the suburbs bad for business?

Check out this quick 3 minute interview at the Motley Fool with Jeff Speck, a local Washingtonian and author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. In the interview Speck talks about Wolverine Worldwide, a business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that had no trouble attracting talent to their company but had trouble retaining it. Why? People (particularly spouses) did not feel a sense of community in their traditional suburban hometowns, and were having difficulty breaking into the social scene. Speck paraphrases people saying, “Everything that I have to go to is by car, and therefore by invitation, and I’m not having those chance encounters, bump into a person in the street.”

To solve this problem, the CEO partnered with other companies in the area to create an “urban innovation hub.” Speck emphasizes that while Grand Rapids’ urban scene is far from one like New York, “you can have a really urban experience there, and even an urban life there. You can live in downtown Grand Rapids.” He concludes that both residents and businesses benefited: “[The companies] managed to attract and retain talent, but also now all these different businesses are bouncing ideas off each other much more fully than they would have if they were each isolated in their office parks in the auto zone outside of the city.”

Amy Donin


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