Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rust Belt Reset In Sun Belt

The contention that Sun Belt states crafted better economic policy than Rust Belt states doesn't pass muster. Rust Belt cities in the South also struggled with the same problems plaguing the shrinking cities in the North. This geographic irony also shows up in stories about urban revitalization:

In fall 2000, when the textile industry was crumbling and a new report by consulting giant McKinsey painted a bleak picture of the city's prospects, Greensboro's future looked shaky. A few bold private developers were in the early stages of reviving downtown. But the city's base of corporate leaders was rapidly shrinking. Elected officials, prone to infighting, weren't providing visionary leadership either.

Into this vacuum stepped the heads of six Greensboro foundations, led by the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, the Cemala Foundation and the Weaver Foundation. Together they formed nonprofit Action Greensboro to revitalize the city's economy. ...

... Flush with more than $50 million from its member foundations, corporations and other partners, Action Greensboro has spearheaded the creation of the city's baseball stadium, park and greenway and accelerated work on the new International Civil Rights Museum.

It supported initiatives that helped improve public school performance, fostered industry and university partnerships and rebuilt the city's approach to business recruitment, luring Honda Jet, Mack Trucks and Elon University's new law school.

Foundations in Pittsburgh and Detroit have experimented similarly, so Action Greensboro's approach isn't unique. Still, it's turning heads.

Springfield, Mass., for example, is using Action Greensboro as a model for reversing its fortunes. Across North Carolina, many communities might benefit from its lessons as they grapple with the demise of the state's textile, tobacco and furniture industries and a severely damaged banking sector.

With Charlotte's corporate base reeling, the Foundation for the Carolinas and its peers could find ways to extend their leadership. In the Triangle, where the universities that help drive growth are suffering from the downturn, Action Greensboro might serve as a model for community development.

That's right, struggling Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham are looking to Rust Belt Greensboro for ideas. Southern migration boomtowns are scrambling to figure out what to do now that the people pipeline is empty. The former industrial powers already know how to operate in the absence of robust inmigration and the current economic climate favors these strategies.

Mayor Joe Jaworski and his election rival Betty Massey have joined forces in a bid to form a new authority to take charge of coordinating the island’s revitalization.

Jaworski has put the idea on the agenda for Thursday’s city council meeting, and both hope it will have the backing of island groups such as Galveston Alliance of Island Neighborhoods. ...

... He could see a positive reaction Thursday, when Murphy speaks at city hall. As a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, he has been its Gulf Coast liaison officer since 2006 and chairs its urban development committee. With housing a hot issue on the island right now, his words likely are to make a major contribution to the revitalization debate.

The Texas economic miracle did little to help many communities in that state. The variance comes from greenfield versus brownfield economic development. The policy quirks didn't make a difference to regions saddled with crushing legacy costs. If anything, Rust Belt states are leading the way with policy innovations. The Sun Belt states are now the ones looking dysfunctional.

1 comment:

Mike Brady said...

Stadiums, museums, and river walks: the pillars of a powerhouse economy. Just think if they throw in a trolley!