Cities need basic services for economic growth, not flashy gimmicks, experts say
Having strong influx of immigrants often leads to strong economies, say experts
Windsor is an average city when it comes to economic prosperity, according to two U.S. researchers who extensively studied the subject in 40 North American cities.
The southernmost Canadian city has its challenges, including its struggling downtown and its cyclical economy linked to manufacturing, said Gary Sands, professor emeritus at Wayne State University's urban studies and planning department.
Sands partnered with Laura Reese, political science professor at Michigan State University, to pore over data from dozens of cities, looking at what led to economic prosperity.
"Windsor is around the middle of the pack," Sands told CBC's Windsor Morning.
Cities have tried to boost their local economies with all sorts of one-off flashy tactics, such as casino gaming or sports tourism, but none of these strategies lead to any significant growth, according to the professors' research.
Casinos are just a voluntary tax that sucks money out of a community and offers very little in terms of spin-off business, Sands explained. Attracting high-profile sporting events can be successful, but still offer little in terms of economic growth.
"Casinos exist to take your money away," Sands said. "Their job is to take every dime out of your pocket. Windsor gets very little indirect benefit."
Cities then lose out on money when their on-off investments or programs don't pay off.
"The more money you spend on gimmicks, the less money you have," Reese said.
Back to basics
The research showed the best way to grow a city's economy comes from investments in public safety and infrastructure.
"There's no silver bullet, no one strategy that works in every city," Reese said. "It all needs to be part of a package of what communities are doing for growth."
Economic growth has been linked to strong immigration programs that bring in plenty of people from a mix of different cultures.
"Anything to support immigration integration in the community is a really good investment," Reese said. "Immigrants from different backgrounds have more benefits than just immigrants from one area."
Arts festivals also appear to be strongly connected to economic growth.
"It doesn't have to be a huge national art fair, but anything that brings people out and into the downtown, seems to be a correlate of growth," Reese said.