Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rust Belt Revitalization: Anderson, Indiana

The New York Times offers two dark Rust Belt tales. (thanks to Dorothee and Janko for the article links) In Cleveland, foreclosed homes are the source of community despair. Pontiac, Michigan does its best to make the problems in Cleveland seem trivial by comparison. Bad news often comes in threes, but Anderson, Indiana refuses to oblige:

Mark Harrison, a car dealer, is betting on Anderson’s rebound. Although sales are down, as they are nationwide, he will spend $8 million this year to renovate his Toyota and Chevrolet dealerships.

“Anderson has rails, interstate and low taxes, and a community of willing workers, now that G.M. is gone,” he said. “We’re making an investment in a town that’s hit bottom and we feel like is coming back.”

While Anderson’s population dwindled to less than 58,000 in 2007, from 70,000 in 1970, Indianapolis grew to more than 795,000 in 2007 from nearly 739,000 residents just eight years earlier.

“We’re hoping we can get some spillover from the growth of Indianapolis, some suburban sprawl,” said Mr. Hicks.

Linking Anderson's fate to Indianapolis success is a wise course of action. I'm reminded of the budding relationship between Youngstown and Pittsburgh. Like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh is a relatively unknown success story and Youngstown is positioning itself to benefit from that growth. But readers here are probably less familiar with what is going on in the Hoosier State:

Between 2000 and 2007, the Indianapolis metropolitan area added 55,000 domestic migrants, equal to 3.6 percent of its 2000 population. No other Frost Belt metropolitan area comes close. Columbus and Kansas City had domestic migration gains, at 1.2 percent of their population. All other Frost Belt metropolitan areas lost domestic migrants. Indianapolis, however, would have ranked 17th out of the 32 largest Sun Belt metropolitan areas trailing Portland, but leading Seattle and Denver.

The distribution of domestic migration within the Indianapolis metropolitan area is also significant. For one-half century various analysts have predicted the decline of the suburbs. Indianapolis, like most metropolitan areas around the country, shows exactly the opposite: the suburbs continue to attract central city residents and have yet to fall into this seemingly inevitable decline.

While the Indianapolis metropolitan area gained 55,000 domestic migrants from 2000 to 2007, Marion County, the central county which is nearly co-existent with the central city of Indianapolis, lost 46,500 domestic migrants. All of the domestic migration growth was in the suburbs, which attracted 101,800 new residents from Indianapolis/Marion County and the rest of the nation.

I'd bet that the population gains for Indianapolis surprise most people. Further confounding expectations is the fact that Indiana does, by most credible accounts, suffer from a relatively large percentage of college graduates leaving the state. Robust rates of in-migration are a Rust Belt anomaly and Anderson doesn't see a glimmer of hope without the economic engine of Indianapolis.

For my Pittsburgh-Youngstown readers: The Indy suburb of Fishers finds a PA counterpart in Cranberry.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be down... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.


Jim Russell said...


Which link is down? I'm sure I could find a cache version, if necessary.