The New York Times comes to visit Dayton, whose metropolitan area I am (barely) a resident, and to use it as a poster child for the sort of formerly prosperous manufacturing city that is now fighting to retain and attract college graduates who see New York, San Francisco or even Raleigh as a better place to be — because there are lots of college graduates there, for one thing. It’s a hard cycle to break, although to its credit Dayton is now trying (after years of inertia, which basically typifies the human condition, now, doesn’t it).
I’ve been reasonably happy in the area, even in a rural part of the area with even fewer college graduates, but then again I spent my 20s first in a job that nearly weekly took me to LA and San Francisco, and then suburban DC at a job at which nearly everyone around me was college educated. These days I’m settled with a family, I and travel constantly and see lots of people that way, all of which skews my perception considerably. I don’t know that I’m a good test case.
I do have a fantasy that some of the college graduates and/or creative people who flock to NYC/LA/SF/DC/etc eventually yearn for cheaper rents and yards and start looking at towns like Dayton as places to land — which may seem a tad dismissive of the creative folks in towns like Dayton, to which I say: Sorry guys. More would still be better, no? But it’s a chicken and egg thing — need cool stuff in town to attract people, but cool stuff comes with enough people. Or maybe you just need enough people becoming exasperated with paying $2,000 a month for a postage stamp apartment in a big city. Either way, I hope Dayton and other towns like it find a way to get and keep their share of college folks.