In this talk, Ed McMahon sets forth a compelling argument for the economic, psychological and social value of uniqueness. He explains that, in a global marketplace, well-educated workers, world-class infrastructure and the ability to turn ideas into commercial realities are all critically important to economic success — but the other critical, but often forgotten, element is “community distinctiveness.” “Communities that can’t differentiate themselves,” McMahon observes, “have no competitive advantage.”
McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC, believes that Place is more than just a location on a map. Place is the unique collection of qualities and characteristics — visual, cultural, social, environmental — that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one city or town different from another, but it is also what makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.