The Next American City

Former OKC Mayor Mick Cornett has written an inspiring book about how smaller cities can punch above their weight.

I’m reading a very interesting book called “The Next American City” by former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
The book tells the story of OKC and other “second tier” cities that are thriving as a result of enlightened leadership and a fierce determination to succeed.

Often, the journey to success starts with setbacks or in some cases tragedy. Instead of collapsing, these cities dig deep and make good things happen.

OKC’s spirit could have been crushed by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 and a failed bid to land a United Airlines facility after voters approved a sales tax to fund the deal. Ouch!

Its confidence could have been forever shattered when OKC’s mayor  pressed United about why they chose Indianapolis and received a harsh answer. United executives visited secretly with their families and nobody wanted to live in Oklahoma City. Double ouch!

But instead of folding, the adversity led to breakthrough thinking and today OKC is bustling. OKC invested in schools, recreation and encouraged entrepreneurs to reinvigorate its downtown. As a result, OKC is now setting an example for other cities across the nation.

Cornett’s book gives several examples of cities that were once overlooked or fell on hard times but refused to succumb to a death spiral.

By offering quality of life, abundant recreation, cultural opportunities, more affordable housing and vibrant downtowns these cities are attracting and retaining talent which in turn create jobs and opportunities.
One of the fundamental points of the book is that local government plays a role in economic success but it’s a specific one. Here’s what Cornett believes: businesses create jobs; governments and public servants build places.

The cities that thrive fix broken neighborhoods, invest in schools, understand the role of arts and culture in building desirable communities and welcome amenities that build a brand and contribute to quality of life.

They are competitive, aspirational and collaborative.

They ask tough questions, face up to their challenges, roll with the inevitable punches and never give up.

Even after devastating hurricanes (New Orleans), terrorist attacks (NYC and OKC), racial strife, economic losses and the list goes on.
They continue to aspire. And ultimately things get better.

They always get better.

The Next American City is a good primer for elected officials or anyone who cares about the future of their city.