By ROGER TAYLOR, Business Columnist – www.thechronicleherald.ca
There are so many surveys and studies that try to rate all sorts of things, including cities; I think there has to be a point where the effectiveness of the rankings is lost.
Adding to the problem is the fact that most of the studies use different criteria and the results seem to contradict each other.
For instance, Maclean’s magazine hired the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies think-tank in Halifax to rate the effectiveness of city governments in providing services, considering the amount of tax collected. That study, released in the magazine’s July 27 issue, found Burnaby, B.C., was top of the heap, and Halifax had a low rating — 24th on the list of 29 cities that participated.
More recently, Next Generation Consulting of Madison, Wis., released a list that seems to show Halifax near the forefront among cities eager to attract young professionals. The consulting company, which coined and trademarked the term Next City, put Halifax fifth on a list of Canadian cities with the assets and amenities that attract and keep a young, educated workforce. The Nova Scotia capital was rated lower than Victoria, Ottawa, Vancouver and Kingston, but ahead of Toronto, Calgary, Saskatoon, London and Edmonton.
Next Generation Consulting specializes in connecting with the youth market, and founder Rebecca Ryan has been working with the Greater Halifax Partnership to help Halifax fight the war for talent. The term “war for talent” relates to the demand for young people to replace aging Baby Boomers who will be retiring in the coming years.
Ryan was the person who recommended the Halifax partnership create Fusion Halifax, a network of more than 1,200 people in the 20-to-40 age group interested in shaping Halifax’s future. So it might not be so surprising that Halifax is scoring highly on the Next Generation survey.
The Next Generation study was looking for bustling city centres, walkable neighbourhoods, diverse career opportunities, and a vibrant art and music scene.
I don’t recall anyone sending the Maclean’s study to me but, as one can imagine, there was great enthusiasm about the Next Generation study. All those who sent me something about it have pointed out the importance of being named a good place for young people to live, work and play.
Cities like Halifax are considered hub cities. Development experts suggest that strategic investment in those centres not only leads to a more prosperous city, but such investment also benefits the province and the region.
The Next Generation study shows that Halifax seems to be performing well, but the municipality can’t rest on its laurels because all the cities involved in the study are continually working to improve their attractiveness to a youthful workforce.
Cities with a population between 200,000 and 500,000, described by Next Generation as “midsize magnets,” have been steadily increasing the number of residents who are considered to be young professionals.
“These Next Cities offer the best of both worlds: a buffet of great, local amenities in cities where you can still afford a starter home,” the study authors state in their report.
While employment matters, it isn’t enough. The total living experience in the city will either keep or repel the young person, according to the study. Most people theses days aren’t confined by geography; much of the work can be done anywhere by using the Internet and other communication methods.
It is easy to ignore these studies and, sure, the surveys are often of limited value. But there is little doubt that anything that will assist Halifax and Nova Scotia in becoming a better place not only benefits young professionals but all residents.