The structural importance of medium-sized cities for maintaining the future viability of rural areas in Baden-Württemberg
Germany's rural areas are facing great challenges. There is an increased migration of young adults in particular. As a result of this trend, declining population numbers and accelerated ageing are to be expected — at least in the medium term. Due to declining demand potentials, a deterioration of supply and leisure offers and thus the attractiveness of the location is feared. This suggests further emigration. Furthermore, it is assumed that selective migration may lead to a worsening of the shortage of skilled labour and a loss of innovative strength. Such fears are — despite predominantly positive economic conditions — also of great importance for rural areas in Baden-Württemberg. With regard to the significance of medium-sized towns for rural areas, the mechanisms of action and the design of such stabilization policies, there are still many open questions. The reason for this is the fact that medium-sized towns have long been downright neglected in urban and spatial research, while metropolitan areas have moved into the focus of scientific discussions. And even in public and political discussions, they have rarely received the attention they deserve. At the same time, on the other hand, the discussion about the development perspectives of small towns and villages has become increasingly important.
Against the background of the problems outlined above, spatial planning and structural policy discusses in the recent past whether strengthening medium-sized towns can have a stabilizing effect on rural areas. Within the framework of the project, the structural significance of medium-sized towns for the development of rural areas in Baden-Württemberg is to be worked out. The project investigates to what extent medium-sized towns can act as "anchors of stability" or "engines of growth" with a regional impact. Theoretical considerations and conceptual ideas that assign such a role to medium-sized cities will be subjected to a critical examination. A comparative perspective is of particular importance in this context, in order to point out differences and similarities between medium-sized towns in rural areas and in densely populated areas.