When Hartford's suburbs began to flourish in the years after World War II, it was often courtesy of businesses that had been in Hartford. That is typical of most metropolitan regions across the country. For decades, companies have been moving from city to suburb, a phenomenon known as "job sprawl."
But, according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, the recent recession stalled the outward migration of jobs, providing an opportunity for regions to think about where they want future growth to occur. For most regions, including Greater Hartford, such a process could be helpful, if not essential.
According to the Brookings report, the share of metropolitan jobs within three miles of downtowns stabilized from 2007 to 2010, but by then, "nearly twice the share of jobs was located at least 10 miles away from downtown (43 percent) as within 3 miles of downtown (23 percent)."
In this region, the percentage of jobs between 10 and 35 miles of downtown in the Hartford–East Hartford–West Hartford region is 34.8 percent, in Springfield it is 29.1 percent and in New Haven–Milford it is 18.3 percent.
There was an upside to job sprawl, as well as some belatedly recognized negative effects. On the plus side, many companies were able to leave outdated facilities for new ones, often in towns with lower property taxes. On the downside, job sprawl required the construction of new infrastructure and caused more driving, thus more air pollution and energy use. It also, according to another Brookings study done in 2010, helped create pockets of poverty in suburbs and isolated poor people in urban core areas.
Where jobs are located matters. "The location of employment within a metro area intersects with a range of policy issues — from transportation to workforce development to regional innovation — that affect a region's long-term health, prosperity, and social inclusion," the report observes. In Greater Hartford, it means trying to locate jobs on the new transit systems and creating housing opportunities near jobs. It means trying to cluster businesses so entrepreneurs can feed off each other.
In an era of climate, energy and funding challenges, we need to rethink the post-World War II development model. "If the next period of economic expansion reinforces low-density, diffuse growth in metropolitan America, it will be that much harder for metro areas to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth over the long term."Copyright © 2015, CT Now