Many older cities, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, are struggling to find their place in the new global economy. Once the country’s industrial powerhouses, these areas are grappling with challenges—slow job growth, declining home values, a diminishing tax base, concentrated poverty—which undermine their ability to attract and retain the skilled workforce and new growth industries needed to create a better economic future. Yet for all their problems, America’s older industrial areas have a large number of economic, physical, and cultural assets that haven’t been fully leveraged. How can these regions capitalize on their strengths to create robust growth and shared prosperity?
On April 8, the American Assembly and the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings held a forum to discuss how the nation’s government, business, civic and community leaders can develop and implement new policies to revitalize older industrial areas. The strategies were based on the findings of the Brookings Institution Press book Retooling for Growth: Building a 21st Century Economy in America’s Older Industrial Areas.
David Mortimer, president and trustee at the American Assembly provided introductory remarks. The editors of the book, Richard M. McGahey, program officer at the Ford Foundation, and Jennifer S. Vey, fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, offered an overview of the findings and recommendations. The Hon. Chris Doherty, Mayor of the City of Scranton; Mark Turner, President & CEO of Optimal Solutions Group LLC; and Michael Fleming, President & CEO of The American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) participated on the panel discussion. Paul Brophy, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, moderated the discussion.
After the program, panelists took audience questions.
“The 21st century has revalued these small geographies. That’s what the 21st century demands,” Katz said, noting that these days, “[w]e aren’t innovating in isolated business parks” in the suburbs.