Restoring Prosperity: The State Role in Revitalizing America’s Older Industrial Cities

Source: Jennifer S. Vey, The Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Project, 2007

With over 16 million people and nearly 8.6 million jobs, America’s older industrial cities remain a vital-if undervalued-part of the economy, particularly in states where they are heavily concentrated, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They also have a range of other physical, economic, and cultural assets that, if fully leveraged, can serve as a platform for their renewal.

Across the country, cities today are becoming more attractive to certain segments of society. Meanwhile, economic trends-globalization, the demand for educated workers, the increasing role of universities-are providing cities with an unprecedented chance to capitalize upon their economic advantages and regain their competitive edge.

Many cities have exploited these assets to their advantage; the moment is ripe for older industrial cities to follow suit. But to do so, these cities need thoughtful and broad-based approaches to foster prosperity.

“Restoring Prosperity” aims to mobilize governors and legislative leaders, as well as local constituencies, behind an asset-oriented agenda for reinvigorating the market in the nation’s older industrial cities. The report begins with identifications and descriptions of these cities-and the economic, demographic, and policy “drivers” behind their current condition-then makes a case for why the moment is ripe for advancing urban reform, and offers a five-part agenda and organizing plan to achieve it.

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