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The New Corporate Frontier: The Big Move to Small Town U.S.A.

The New Corporate Frontier: The Big Move to Small Town U.S.A. is a book about business trends, the movement of businesses to small towns in the United States and the role small towns have in supporting businesses in the future.

The author, David A. Heenan, points out that the trend for business is to move out of the big city and into "panturbia," defined as "small cities and towns, and subdivisions, homesteads, industrial and commercial districts interspersed with farms, forests, lakes and rivers." These areas are not within commuting distance of central cities (defined as having at least 50,000 people). Technology, particularly in communications, has made the shift to panturbia possible.

Heenan claims that panturbia represents the American dream. He identifies the numerous advantages of the movement into panturbia: freedom from traffic congestion and pollution, an opportunity to purchase more affordable housing, reduced crime rates and better public schools.

Heenan discusses the urban renaissance of the early 1960s when major cities undertook efforts to revitalize themselves, receiving support from business to redevelop downtown and waterfront areas. These efforts resulted in convention centers, skyscrapers and sport complexes. By the middle of the 1980s these efforts slowed. Central cities competed with suburbs and panturbs in the public-private partnership as major corporations fled from the central cities.

Heenan describes the trend facing the nation's central cities. For example, New York City had 130 Fortune 500 headquarters in 1960; by 1990, that number dropped to 43. Chicago had 43 in 1960 and 22 by 1990. As illustrated, the bigger cities were losing out. Who are the winners? Using the census, Heenan notes that the winners have been the Sun Belt and panturbia. He provides examples of the "winners" in his book: Naples, Florida; Olympia, Washington; Portland, Maine; Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colorado; Peoria, Illinois; and others.

This type of city benefits from this movement in several ways, including tax revenues, expenditure efforts, employment opportunities and prestige. The benefits to business abound as well. Cheaper labor, reduced occupancy costs and favorable tax rates are among the advantages highlighted by Heenan. Employees in panturban communities also benefit, and better jobs, education and homes allow business to attract an adequate work force.

Addressing the Age of Minimalism, Heenan describes small as beautiful and presents a convincing argument for downsizing and the heightened interest in the miniheadquarters. He also addresses trends such as strategic partnerships, outsourcing, contracting and off-premise work.

Initially, the author tempts his reader to move to panturbia. Freedom from traffic, affordable housing, a chance to work for a major corporation without the bustle of the big city sound inviting--almost like a "Leave it to Beaver" town. The student of corporate-social responsibility, though, has to wonder how he can (in good conscience) write off the central cities.

Heenan's case for Small Town, U.S.A., as the future home for corporate America is convincing: the benefits to the panturban community, and the economic, financial and aesthetic advantages for business abound. As he points out, however, the central cities are the losers. If the trend continues, the central cities continue to suffer. Heenan leaves his reader with questions: What will happen to the central cities? What will happen to the sports complexes, the convention centers, the skyscrapers left behind from the 1960s? Will our cities be devastated? Do we not have a social responsibility to maintain our central cities?

Heenan's audience includes municipal planners, economic development personnel and chambers of commerce of panturban communities. He offers excellent examples of successful panturban communities and businesses and provides 10 strategies to the panturban community in how to attract corporate tenants. His strategies are a "must" for the panturban community. Heenan also has a checklist for CEOs.

In summary, Heenan's book is great for the above-noted audience. I, however, am waiting for the sequel. I find myself questioning what the rest of us left in suburban communities on the periphery of a central city are going to do to maintain our commercial base. We, too, need not only to survive and flourish, but also to provide our version of the "American Dream" home for our residents. Then again, perhaps it is a good book for all types and sizes of cities to explore so we know what the "competition" is doing!

The New Corporate Frontier: The Big Move to Small Town U.S.A. is available for $19.95 from McGraw-Hill Books, Inc., 13311 Monterey Ave., Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214 (800/262-4729).

Reviewed by Jan Hawn, director of finance for the City of Chesterfield, Missouri, and a member of GFOA's Committee on Governmental Budgeting and Management.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Government Finance Officers Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hawn, Jan
Publication:Government Finance Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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