If you've met Mike Ross, the director of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, then you know how passionate a fella he can be. He was recently asked to speak briefly at Assembly Hall for the Busey Economic Summit, and he chose to address a topic that should speak volumes to all of us.

He has been developing the term "Micro-Urban" as a way to describe where we live and how we live, in Champaign-Urbana.

Here is the transcript:

• THANK YOU ED . . . THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION TO SHARE A FEW BRIEF THOUGHTS WITH THIS FABULOUS GROUP OF LEADERS . . . AND FOR EVERYTHING YOU AND CAROLE HAVE DONE OVER THE YEARS TO REMIND US OF WHAT A GREAT PLACE THIS IS IN WHICH TO LIVE . . . 


• I *WILL* BE BRIEF . . . 


• FIRST, A DISCLAIMER . . . I AM *NOT* AN ECONOMIST . . . I AM NOT A SOCIOLOGIST . . . AND I AM NOT A CITY PLANNER . . . I AM QUITE SIMPLY AN *ENTHUSIAST* OF THIS COMMUNITY . . . AN ADMITTEDLY -- AND PASSIONATELY -- *BIASED* ENTHUSIAST AT THAT . . . WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SHARE WITH YOU IS *NOT* THE RESULT OF DEEP RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP . . . BUT IT *IS* MY HONEST VIEW AS A STUDENT OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, AND AS AN STRONG ADVOCATE FOR LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST . . .  


• ESSENTIALLY, I AM PROPOSING THE NOTION THAT MICRO-URBAN LIVING IS NOT ONLY A VIABLE -- BUT INTRIGUINGLY *SMART* -- ALTERNATIVE TO LIFE IN *HEAVY* URBAN CENTERS . . .    


• FOR YEARS NOW I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR WAYS TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE TO PEOPLE WHO LIVE ELSEWHERE THE MANY REASONS WHY MY WIFE, TAYA, AND I LOVE BEING HERE . . .  AS I'M SURE MANY OF *YOU* HAVE EXPERIENCED, PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN BIG URBAN CENTERS SUCH AS NEW YORK -- WHERE WE SPENT 15 YEARS -- JUST HAVE A HARD TIME BELIEVING US . . .  


• RECENTLY, THOUGH, I'VE BEEN HAVING SOME SUCCESS . . . IT'S A FUNNY THING, BUT WHEN I STARTED USING THE TERM *MICRO-URBAN* -- SOMEWHAT BY ACCIDENT, BTW -- IT SEEMED TO TRIGGER SOMETHING IN PEOPLE'S MINDS THAT COUNTERACTED THEIR STEREOTYPING OF WHAT'S LIKE TO LIVE BETWEEN THE COASTS, AND *NOT* IN A BIG URBAN CENTER . . . 


• SO HERE'S WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY *MICRO-URBAN* . . . 


• TO BE CLEAR, IT'S *NOT* JUST ABOUT POPULATION SIZE . . . AND IT'S NOT ABOUT AFFORDABILITY . . . IT'S ABOUT A KIND OF *ENERGY* THAT PROPELS A PLACE FORWARD ALONG A DISTINCTIVE *TRAJECTORY* . . . 


• BASICALLY, MY WORKING -- AND STILL IN-PROGRESS -- DEFINITION OF A MICRO-URBAN COMMUNITY IS . . . A POPULATION CENTER OF UNDER 200,000 -- [WHICH, BTW, MEANS POPULATION CENTERS THAT ARE TYPICALLY OFF THE RADAR SCREEN OF THE MEDIA AND, THEREFORE, NOT IN THE BROADER PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS] -- THAT POSSESSES A SET OF ATTRIBUTES THAT ARE USUALLY RESERVED FOR AND ASSOCIATED WITH *LARGE* METROPOLITAN CENTERS . . . 


• VERY BLUNTLY AND QUICKLY, THESE ATTRIBUTES INCLUDE AN INTERNATIONALLY DIVERSE DEMOGRAPHIC . . . A VIBRANT ARTS/CULTURE AND NITELIFE SCENE . . . A STRONG TECHNOLOGY BASE . . . AND A PALPABLY ANIMATED SENSE OF PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON MAJOR SOCIETAL AND GLOBAL ISSUES . . . SUCH AS SUSTAINABILITY AND THE  ENVIRONMENT . . . 


• TO ILLUSTRATE, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:   


• AN INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED FILM FESTIVAL . . . THE WORLD'S *PREMIER* UNIVERSITY-BASED PERFORMING ARTS COMPLEX AND HOME OF THE HOTTEST GUITAR FESTIVAL ON THE PLANET . . . BLUE WATERS . . . 24 NOBEL PRIZES . . . UMPTEEN OLYMPIANS AND NOW A MAJOR MARATHON . . . ALISON KRAUSS . . . HOME OF ONE OF PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S SEXIEST MEN ALIVE . . .  HOME OF ONE OF NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE'S MOST *ELITE* PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS . . . HOME OF ONE OF THE HOTTEST NEW INDIE MUSIC FESTIVALS IN THE COUNTRY . . . ALMA MATER TO THE CREATORS OF YOUTUBE AND PAYPAL . . . CHEFS WHO HAVE BEEN FEATURED IN BON APPETIT . . . ONE OF THE FOUNDERS AND SHAPERS OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING . . . THE FORCE THAT  DEMOCRATIZED THE INTERNET . . . AND, MORE RECENTLY, THE EMERGENCE OF GREEN MUNCKIE AND THE GREEN BUSINESS ASSOCIATION, TWO VERY SMART, VERY IMPORTANT, AND VERY CREATIVE INITIATIVES TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS AROUND SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS


• NOW, IF I WERE TO READ THAT LIST [WHICH IS A HIGHY ***ABBREVIATED*** LIST, BTW] TO SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT *KNOW* CHAMPAIGN-URBANA AND WITHOUT *REFERING* TO CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, MY VERY STRONG GUESS IS THAT THEY WOULD *ASSUME* I WAS TALKING ABOUT A MAJOR URBAN CENTER SUCH AS NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, OR CHICAGO . . .  


• AND THAT'S A GOOD THING . . . BECAUSE THAT MEANS WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO POSITION THIS COMMUNITY AS A SURPRISING -- AND SMART -- ALTERNATIVE TO HEAVY, LOGISTICS-LADEN BIG-CITY LIFE . . . 


• AS IN MICRO-BREWERY . . . THE MICRO PART OF  *MICRO-URBAN* IS A VERY STRONG POSITIVE . . . 


• THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS HAS BEEN QUIETLY CHANGING THE WORLD FOR WELL MORE THAN A CENTURY . . . NOT ONLY DO I THINK IT'S TIME TO CRANK UP THE VOLUME ON TELLING *THAT* STORY . . . I THINK IT'S TIME FOR THE FABULOUS COMMUNITY IN WHICH THAT GREAT UNIVERSITY IS LOCATED TO BE MUCH MORE FULLY RECOGNIZED AS THE SMART, INNOVATIVE, GLOBALLY CONNECTED AND CULTURALLY RICH MICRO-URBAN CENTER THAT IT IS . . . 


• THANK YOU . . .  

 

Hear Hear, Mike! At Smile Politely, we fully agree.