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Page Turner: 'The Coming Jobs War' about good jobs, good cities

One of two policy books perfect for “sparking conversation.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013 - 5:49 pm

Editor's note: This week's Page Turner reader interview is with Ellen Cutter, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW.

“I'm delighted to talk with you about books. I just read 'The Coming Jobs War,' by Jim Clifton. He is the chairman of Gallup and will be a speaker for our Omnibus Series (Nov. 12). Members of several organizations and agencies are reading this book right now since he will be here and will be covering the subject — and answering questions.

“In polling it's determined most people want good jobs. So how do we have good jobs to offer? He talks about leadership, education — pre-K through advanced degrees — the work environment. This is a quick read, and it's applicable to a community advocate.

“The other book I'm reading is 'Workable City,' written by Jack Speck. It is really interesting. His theory is that having a city with a major downtown is the vital thing that should be supported and enhanced to bring vitality downtown. Parking should be provided, but this is not for automobiles: park, then walk.

“It is very interesting, especially with a lot of what Fort Wayne has done and is continuing to do. This is a great book and I think most people would enjoy it. My background is in urban planning, so I am enjoying what he writes. There are memories of what Fort Wayne used to be by older residents, but new residents and young folks tie in with ideas about a river front, for example — for innovations. The author urges exploring with interest and imagination. Look at what this city has done: It has created a production environment so that when a pedestrian crosses the street he can feel safe. The area around the Grand Wayne center is an excellent example.

“Get out of your car and walk around is the advice. We have public art. There are sculptures and important institutions, like the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Make downtown a destination, he urges. I've spent time in the South where people don't have the advantages of cities in the Midwest where people are well-conditioned to invest in the downtown. There are some amazing old buildings here to be brought back to life. We have the assets — the building types and varieties. Fort Wayne's downtown goes back to the early 1900s when there were horse-drawn street cars. Fort Wayne's strength is what is available and possible here.

“I think both these books are good for sparking conversation.”