A study released just today by Smart Growth America indicates that regardless of the size or location of a city, companies are setting up or relocating in walkable, vibrant downtowns. Smart Growth interviewed employees from Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller employers who have been designated as “Best Places to Work” to find out what they look for in their search for a downtown space. The major influences were:
- Aesthetic and Clean Streetscapes
- Feeling of Safety
- A Range of Transportation Options
- Sense of community
- Adaptive re-use and attractive architecture
- Updated Office Space
Company leaders also highlighted on what types of benefits they see from joining a downtown culture:
- To attract and retain talented workers. As companies compete for new hires and the best talent, being located in a vibrant neighborhood is considered a crucial selling point. The businesses in our study report that current and potential employees want neighborhoods with restaurants, cafes, cultural institutions, entertainment, and nightlife as well as easy access by public transportation.
- To build brand identity and company culture: A downtown location projects innovation, connectedness, uniqueness, and allows companies to literally be at the center of things. For many companies, moving downtown was a way to set themselves apart from their competitors and to inspire their employees to live up to related brand aspirations.
- To support creative collaboration: Many companies chose locations in dynamic, creative, engaging neighborhoods to help inspire their employees and encourage collaboration among co-workers as well as with employees at other companies or in other industries.
- To be closer to customers and business partners: Streamlining the process for employees who take in-person meetings with clients and partners downtown.
- To centralize operations: A central downtown location, because of its proximity to everything, was a natural choice for many companies when consolidating multiple locations, particularly if those locations were spread out over a single region.
- To support triple-bottom line business outcomes: For many companies, investing in a city’s center was an opportunity for good corporate citizenship and a way to use their sizable investing power for good. Some reported that triple-bottom line business practices came with the ancillary benefit of making them more attractive as an employer.
So, it is true. Economic development begins downtown and vibrant streets attract top employers and employees. Many initiatives are doing just that in Syracuse such as the Creekwalk, Food Truck Rodeo, Flower Pots, Connective Corridor and the new art projects and the fun new Downtown Get-Down. We have the vibrant part down, now let’s work on our transportation options and attracting those top tier employers.