'Main Street' Presenter: Big isn't necessarily better

Feb 13, 2018

Charles Marohn, with "Strong Towns," speaks to reporters at the Main Street Summit.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

One of the keynote speakers at the Main Street Summit – being held in Bismarck – thinks cities need to rethink whether they want to keep chasing big projects, like big box stores.

Charles Marohn is with “Strong Towns.” He told reporters that – for the last 40 years or so, cities have been building “large things.”

"Our public investments have tended to be very large," Marohn said. "They're designed to be a catalyst for other things. We build it, and then they come."

But Marohn said cities have found those to be – as he put it – “incredibly low-returning” investments.

"We generally lose money, as a state, as a city, as a country, when we make those kinds of investments," Marohn said. He said cities need to look at making smaller investments into more lcoalized projects.

"In other words, instead of one big investment, make a thousand small investments," Marohn said. "We find that each one has a much lower risk. But collectively, they have a much higher return."