BOOK LOOKS AT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CORPORATIONS LEAVE TOWN
New suburban communities have sprung up all over America. While growth creates benefits in the suburbs, it also increases congestion and infrastructure costs for the entire metropolitan area. Generally known as sprawl, the problem is particularly acute in metropolitan areas where deconcentration is taking place-suburban growth coupled with a decline in the central city.
Now, a new book by two University of Illinois at Chicago researchers offers a fresh approach to this dilemma, which is evident in the Midwest where newly formed communities have siphoned jobs and income from inner cities. The book, "When Corporations Leave Town" (Wayne State Press, 2000), by Wim Wiewel, dean of the College of Business Administration, and Joseph Persky, professor of economics at UIC, analyzes and develops a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of employment decon-centration, focusing on central cities and their suburbs.
Using a model of a large manufacturing plant and a business services office in the Chicago metropolitan area, the researchers calculate tangible and intangible costs of sprawl, such as traffic congestion, air pollution, housing abandonment, loss of farmland, tax liabilities and the strain put on public resources. The researchers then explore a broad range of public policies in support of reversing or reducing metropolitan deconcentration.
"Not surprisingly, there is no magic bullet or panacea to address the problem of metropolitan deconcentration," write the authors in the book's final chapter. "Without making central places more attractive places to invest, attempts to slow down growth on the suburban fringe run the risk of making the metropolitan area as a whole less competitive."
The findings of Wiewel and Persky strongly suggest that there is little difference between city and suburban development when it comes to the costs and benefits to society. Instead, the major difference is how the costs and benefits are distributed.
Suburban development, for example, imposes much of its primary cost (such as housing subsidies) on the public sector, with a range of secondary or add-on costs (such as traffic congestion and air pollution) affecting the metropolitan population at large. Yet, the same development offers most of its benefits (such as lower land prices relative to the city and better job opportunities) to the businesses and higher-income households that relocate to the outer suburbs.
New public policy, the researchers conclude, is needed to address the negative effects of metropolitan deconcentration. The authors support attempts to redistribute the benefits of growth and deconcentration more equitably between the inner city and its suburbs through plans such as impact fees, tax-base sharing, reverse commuting, affordable housing and reinvestment in central cities.
"When Corporations Leave Town" includes chapters on: Is Manufacturing Deconcentration Efficient?; Distributional Consequences; Business Services Deconcentration; and Dealing with Metropolitan Deconcentration.
Wiewel is also a professor of urban planning and policy in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and professor of managerial studies in the College of Business Administration. He is the author of "Harold Washington and the Neighborhoods" and "Challenging Uneven Development," both published in 1991 by Rutgers University Press. Persky is the author of "The Burden of Dependency" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
For review copies, contact Kathleen Ford, Wayne State Press, (313) 577-2109 or Renee Tambeau, 577-6123. For media interviews, contact Jeffron Boynés, UIC, (312) 413-8702; firstname.lastname@example.org
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