Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.
It’s exciting when a Hoosier city is chosen as number one on a list of favorable attributes. Clearly, being number one in pollution or crime would not be an honor. But to be named “the best affordable small town where you’d actually want to live” is a distinction, a recognition, a tribute of great value.
Logansport received that honor just last month from realtor.com, an online publication of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Here in the Hoosier state we know Logansport as the place where the Eel River enters the Wabash. We recall Logansport as a longtime major rail junction, as the county seat of Cass County, and as a key city on the roads from Fort Wayne to Lafayette and Kokomo to Michigan City.
We also know Logansport as home to Tony Hinkle, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the State Psychiatric Hospital. In addition, we know that Logansport is different from Cass County. However, while realtor.com, wrote about Logansport, it presented data for Cass County.
Thus, while Logansport, according to the Bureau of the Census, had a population nearing 17,800, realtor.com reported a population close to 38,000, which happens to be the number residing in all of Cass County.
Before you charge the NAR with numeric necromancy, it makes more sense to think of places in county terms. Today, with extensive suburbanization, the city-county line, in most places, is an anachronism, as meaningless as “living in the country.”
Cities are not only the magnets for growth, they are the support and sustenance of the county population. Cities provide the jobs, the services, and much of the active intellectual life for ex-urbanites. This fact does not sit well with the rural antiquarians who populate county governments, but, as it is said, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
Logansport and other small cities (Peru, Wabash, Jasper, Salem, Winchester, and Sullivan) could be the growth nodes of Indiana in the 21st century. With appropriate internet services, good schools, mature trees and sidewalks, a restructuring of urban life is very possible.
Amazon thrives on density, the very density which is despised by a large segment of the American population. If, ultimately, people seek personal relationships and natural experiences, then the anonymity of uber-urban life will be rejected.
Logansport, and similar communities, have the basic infrastructure to attract and hold those households and businesses that seek roots. Columbus, Valparaiso, and Princeton, each in its own way, has avoided continuing decline. To date, the same cannot be said for Marion, Michigan City and Muncie although they make sporadic, valiant efforts.
We cannot anticipate caravans of settlers arriving in Logansport as a result of being identified by a national publication. Yet, this honor provides the community with an opportunity to examine the potential of the assets it has ignored for so many years.