I don't buy the theory that cities are prosperous because they are cool. It's a pretty silly idea that confuses cause and effect -- rich cities are rich because they are innovative; their innovative residents tend to be innovative culturally as well; cultural innovation makes cool.
Bill Fulton at Newgeography doesn't buy the "coolness" theory of economic development either, but his explanation is equally silly:
It’s time to stop talking about whether towns should be cool or uncool. What really matters is what they are producing. If all they’re producing is some kind of experience that induces people to come to town and spend money, it doesn’t matter how cool the town is; it’s probably not sustainable economically. If, on the other hand, the city is creating and exporting something the world needs – whether that product is cool or uncool – it’s a good bet that both the city and its people will do pretty well for a long time.
Here are some places built almost entirely on exports the world needs:
Dalton, Georgia ("the carpet capital of the world");
Belzoni, Mississippi (cotton and catfish);
Upstate South Carolina (textiles);
West Virginia (coal and interstate electricity).
These are poor places despite being export-driven. And some cities famous for their exports did pretty well for a time but have declined and crashed despite their manufacturing base. See Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Exports don't explain wealth. Company towns are almost always exporting towns but they are rarely wealthy. Making a bunch of stuff that yields zero economic profit (in the technical sense) won't make the townsfolk wealthy. Exporting a bunch of high-profit stuff will make a city wealthy, but high profits require either (1) innovation (Silicon Valley, Hollywood, New York City's financial sector) or (2) a stable monopoly (like D.C.'s stranglehold on government regulation). We know an innovative city when we see one, but we don't know how to jump-start innovation.
Fulton makes another mistake worth noting, if only because I see others make it all the time. Fulton thinks an "export" is something actually transmitted to another place (manufactured goods, services). As a result, he thinks a city like Las Vegas merely imports money.
This is wrong, of course. Las Vegas is the largest exporter of casino gambling in the country. The fact that its customers have to travel to Las Vegas to "pick up" their purchase doesn't make gambling any less of an export. Las Vegas is based on trade between local businesses and residents (casinos, blackjack dealers) and out-of-towners. It is another example of a one-industry, export-driven city that is not all that wealthy.