Detroit, Michigan is in trouble. What was once a vibrant city is now overrun with crime, unemployment, and despair. In its hay-day, it was one of the top five cities in the U.S., and had over two million residents. Today, the landscape is marked by abandoned buildings, burned down houses, and vacant factories. The population is now well under 900,000, leaving a city that is too big for its residents to support.
Revitalizing a city like Detroit that has suffered decades of decay is an enormous effort. One key to improvement for other urban centers has been increasing population density. A more dense population is easier to police, protect, and beautify. It also creates a stronger sense of community, makes it easier to educate kids, helps focus limited city resources, and increases the tax base. But how can this be accomplished with a footprint that spans 138 square miles?
One brilliant idea has been proposed: Urban Farming. The concept is to relocate residents into a much more densely populated area, and then raze the abandoned streets in order to turn the land into urban farming. This unorthodox approach has many benefits:
a) Increases density, which brings the benefits listed above
b) Provides jobs and increases the tax base
c) Residents can now consume locally-produced good, saving transportation costs and keeping revenue in the region
d) Reduces the cost of city services such as police, fire, schools, and sanitation (it is MUCH less expensive to support farms than residential neighborhoods)
e) Beautifies the area
f) Supports future expansion (you can always re-build on the land)
I’d imagine that the average city council brainstorm session in America on how to reduce crime, increase taxes, and reduce blight doesn’t often include the concept of urban farming. Yet it is a fantastic idea. It is a non-traditional approach that breaks the mold, and dares to be different. The power of creativity in real-time.
Think about the various problems that you are trying to solve in your own business. Are you proposing obvious, unimaginative solutions (more police presence, beg for Federal aid) or are you letting your imagination soar (urban farming!)? List out the obvious solutions for your next big challenge, and then see if you can push yourself and your team to come up with your own equivalent of urban farming. Something different. And remarkable. And truly innovative. Something that forges new ground, and utilizes your resources in a fresh, imaginative way.
Detroit is a city with a soul. It has a rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation. Even though the city has taken a beating in recent years, creative ideas like urban farming can help rejuvenate the region, creating jobs, prosperity, and hope. Many companies and people have faced similar challenges over the last few years, and like Detroit, must rally behind creativity and innovation in order to rebound. This week, face your toughest challenges head on… and look to solve them with your own breakthrough ideas. Your own version of urban farming.