American Legacy Cities Face Unique Challenges.

Position:News & Numbers

The Lincoln Institute's report, "Revitalizing America's Smaller Legacy Cities," examines the unique challenges of smaller American legacy cities--older industrial centers with populations of less than 200,000, located primarily in the Midwest and Northeast. These cities need to fundamentally reconsider how to rebuild and sustain strong economies, housing markets, and workforces, according to the report, which identifies replicable strategies that have helped smaller legacy cities weather these transformations, find their competitive edge, and transform into thriving, sustainable communities.

Key data findings include the following:

* Small and midsize legacy cities underwent substantial economic changes, particularly in the continuing shift away from manufacturing to increasing reliance on the health-care and education sectors. Unfortunately, many of the jobs in these sectors are relatively low-skilled and low-paying, and do not appear to be increasing the prosperity of most residents.

* The time frame of the study includes the most challenging economic period for the country since the Great Depression. Even years after the official end of the downturn, many cities have continued to struggle with high unemployment rates and seriously distressed housing markets.

The report lays out strategies that are helping to revitalize small and midsize legacy cities around the country:

* Build civic capacity and talent; strong leaders will need to envision and implement needed changes.

* Encourage a shared public--and private-sector vision.

* Expand opportunities for low-income workers.

* Build on an authentic, historic sense of place to attract highly skilled workers.

* Focus regional efforts on rebuilding a strong downtown; a strong, vibrant downtown is a crucial asset...

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