Supporting Growth in Smaller Industrial Cities

Economic shocks have dramatically changed the lives of people in New England’s once-thriving smaller cities. The decline of manufacturing fundamentally changed the landscape of opportunity, and the Great Recession further hindered low- and moderate-income families’ ability to advance economically.  Strengthening the prospects of these places and their residents is essential to New England’s prosperity, and therefore a priority for the Boston Fed.

What does it take for these cities to reverse their fortunes? According to our research and ongoing learning, resurgence requires more than resources. Cities must strengthen their civic infrastructure—their leaders, organizations, engaged residents, and the networks that link them—in order to make meaningful improvements to human capital, economic development, and quality of life for their low- and moderate-income populations.

The Boston Fed supports New England’s smaller postindustrial cities with our Working Cities Challenge (WCC) initiative and related research efforts and activities including:

  • The Capital and Collaboration effort, based on the capital absorption framework developed jointly by the Kresge Foundation and the Initiative for Responsible Investment, was designed to foster capital investment in Working Cities through thoughtful, cross-sector engagement of the local investment community and civic leaders.
  • Research by the Boston Fed and others, upon which the WCC Initiative is based, found that economic resurgence in smaller cities results from the ability of leaders to collaborate across sectors around a shared, long-term vision for success. In addition, our researchers are also exploring employment, economic development, and schools in the Working Cities.

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