Matthew Kahn Delivers Keynote Speech At ESI & Drexel’s ‘City and the Environment’ Joint Conference

Drexel’s School of Economics and Econsult Solutions held their first joint conference to discuss topics in urban economic policy. Two panel discussions took place over the course of the afternoon of May 21. The first was on climate change and the housing market, while the second was on sustainability and urban transportation. Seven industry experts were invited to the event to share their knowledge and insights on these topics and answer audience questions regarding the city and environmental issues.

Matthew Kahn, professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, delivered the keynote presentation, which centered on the opportunities and challenges that deal with quality of life in major cities in the Northeastern United States. Quality of life is the urban “Golden Goose,” he explained. Cities that are clean, green and safe can be confident that they will attract and retain the skilled.

After explaining the correlation between warm winters and economic growth, he asked the audience how Northeast cities, given their cold winters, could compete for talents and jobs. His answer: low crime and street vitality. “It all starts with declining crime and an increasing demand to be outside,” he said. Given that more jobs can be done remotely, cities with high quality of life are in demand.

Kahn presentation

Kahn’s speech emphasized the relations between environment, economy and equity, or what he called “the three Es,” that major Northeastern cities should strive to achieve, with examples of selected regions, such as Santa Monica, Calif. and China, that witnessed and experienced this unique relation between the three terms.

“Google and Facebook leased their offices in Santa Monica’s Silicon Beach, not because it was already a productive place to run their business, but rather, the environment – and amenities – attracted such companies and the place eventually became a productive one,” he said.

According to Dr. Kahn, a city or town can have a great chances to attract high level of public awareness and form a good place to live, with attempts to improve the quality of life and retaining important values within the area. For instance, if Philadelphia successfully attracts and retains the skilled workers, then local real estate will become valuable and redevelopment will take place.

Keeping the balance between environment, economy and equity will still remain challenging into the future, however, much like how San Francisco is said to have a vibrant economy and clean environment but not equity. This is due to the tension that exists between “the three Es,” which often causes one or two out of these elements to be traded off for the other. Winners and losers of this game will be determined by collected data after number of years, but any of these attempts will bring significant changes to many communities, he said.

Kahn concluded his presentation on a hopeful note, reminding the audience that cities can reinvent themselves, and mentioned Chicago and Philadelphia as examples of great comebacks.


For more on the conference, click here.

For more on the conference’s opening panel, which featured a discussion on climate change and the housing market, click here.

For more on the conference’s second panel, which featured a discussion on sustainability and urban transportation, click here.

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