Small cities in Massachusetts and across New England possess unique assets and face a unique set of challenges.  These “Working Cities,” first developed as manufacturing centers in the late 19th and early 20th century, now face an uphill battle in rebuilding their economies and civic infrastructure. In 2007, a landmark study by the Brookings Institution and MassINC identified a cohort what they called “Gateway Cities” (because they are often immigrants’ “gateway” to the United States). It highlighted the importance of good governance and coordinated investments in education, workforce development, and economic development to help cities adapt to new economic realities. While these cities have seen modest gains in population and job recovery over the past decade, they are increasingly lagging the state average for income, unemployment, and educational attainment.
Notwithstanding these challenges, research on small cities conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has found that eight cities out of a peer group of 26 nationwide have been able to either maintain or recover much of their economic stability, as measured by income, reduced poverty rates, population, and economic vitality. Several factors drove the rebound of these “resurgent” cities: collaborative leadership, the role of anchor institutions, investment in infrastructure, and extension of benefits to the community as a whole. Of these, collaborative leadership – the ability to work together across sectors over a sustained period with a comprehensive vision – was most crucial. The findings are strikingly similar to those of the Living Cities Integration Initiative, deployed in five larger cities with substantial inner-city populations. Both sets of findings elevate the importance of collaborative leadership in creating systems-level changes that will enable small cities to reach their full potential as places to live, work, and raise a family.
 Defined as those cities with populations over 35,000 but under 250,000.
What Makes Working Cities Work? Key Factors in Urban Economic Growth (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)
Economic Distress and Resurgence in U.S. Central Cities: Concepts, Causes, and Policy Levers (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)
Community Collaboratives White Paper: A Promising Approach to Addressing America's Biggest Challenges (White House Council for Community Solutions)
Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
How to Turn an Urban School District Around—Without Cheating (The Atlantic)
Additionally, during 2008-2011, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston supported ongoing efforts at the state and local levels to revitalize the City of Springfield, Massachusetts. Below are resources and publications from this effort in Springfield that are relevant to the Working Cities Challenge:
Towards a More Prosperous Springfield, Massachusetts: Project Introduction and Motivation
Lynn Browne and DeAnna Green with Marques Benton, Prabal Chakrabarti, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, David Plasse, and Richard Walker
Reinvigorating Springfield’s Economy: Lessons from Resurgent Cities
Yolanda Kodrzycki and Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne, DeAnna Green, Marques Benton, Prabal Chakrabarti, David Plasse, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao
Small Businesses in Springfield, Massachusetts: A Look at Latino Entrepreneurship
Ana Patricia Muñoz, with Lynn Browne, Sol Carbonell, Prabal Chakrabarti, DeAnna Green, Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Anna Steiger, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao
Housing Policy and Poverty in Springfield
Lynn E. Browne with Marques Benton, Prabal Chakrabarti, Sol Carbonell, DeAnna Green, Yolanda Kodrzcyki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, Anna Steiger, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao
Does Springfield Receive Its Fair Share of Municipal Aid? Implications for Aid Formula Reform in Massachusetts
Bo Zhao with Marques Benton, Lynn Browne, Prabal Chakrabarti, DeAnna Green, Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, and Richard Walker
Toward a More Prosperous Springfield: A Look at the Barriers to Employment from the Perspective of Residents and Supporting Organizations
DeAnna Green with Marques Benton, Lynn Browne, Prabal Chakrabarti, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao
Jobs in Springfield, Massachusetts: Understanding and Remedying the Causes of Low Resident Employment Rates
Yolanda Kodrzycki and Ana Patricia Muñoz with Lynn Browne, DeAnna Green, Marques Benton, Prabal Chakrabarti, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao
Greater Springfield Employment Challenges: Findings of Employer Survey and Interviews
David Plasse with Marques Benton, Lynn Browne, Prabal Chakrabarti, DeAnna Green, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, Richard Walker, Bo Zhao
Towards a More Prosperous Springfield, Massachusetts: What Jobs Exist for People without a College Education?
Lynn E. Browne with Marques Benton, Prabal Chakrabarti, DeAnna Green, Yolanda Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz, David Plasse, Richard Walker, and Bo Zhao