Lessons from resurgent cities

Boston Fed’s annual report has this fascinating research on the topic. 


Boston Fed has been working on a project to reinvigorate the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield was a great city in 1960s with median income higher than national average. But it has declined since then and now one-third of the city’s poor live in neighborhoods where poverty rates exceed 40 percent. Springfield was a manufacturing hub in 160s. But as economy moved from manufacturing to services, Springfield could not make the transition. Hence, need to restore the city to its early heights. 

Boston Fed has developed some expertise on how cities make the transition and resurge after a lull. This paper looks at factors which help cities grow and transform themselves. 

Here are the factors: 

  • Leadership and collaboration drive resurgence
    • Public sector leadership
    • Private sector leadership
    • Foundations and nonprofit organizations
  • Universities make a difference
  • Planning and re-evaluating are critical
  • Long-term planning
  • Continuing adaptation
  • Infrastructure improvements and industry modernization matter
  • Disadvantaged neighborhoods require specific focus

There are excellent examples in each of these. Summary is: 

Fifty years ago, it would have been virtually impossible for either the leaders or the residents of mid-sized U.S. cities to anticipate the full extent of challenges posed by deindustrialization, suburbanization, and other structural and economic changes.  

Other than starting from comparatively less dependence on manufacturing jobs, the cities that would resurge in later decades did not possess obvious advantages over their peers, however. Resurgence required the emergence of leaders who worked collaboratively with the various constituencies with a stake in economic development. 

Nonprofit entities—including universities and foundations—have taken active roles in revitalization. Resurgent cities have reinvented themselves, creating new industries and making major improvements to both human and physical capital. They have had to exercise both patience in planning for the long term and flexibility continually to revise these plans as circumstances warranted. For resurgent cities, perhaps the hardest task of all has been extending prosperity to a broader segment of their populations.

 These efforts have required community building and connecting communities to the other collaborators in economic development.

Excellent stuff. It will be great to read something similar on Indian cities as well.


















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