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When retaining a young, creative workforce, Farley says urban amenities are key

April 12, 2019

What’s the future for Rust Belt cities? Claire Ballentine of Bloomberg News looks at revitalization projects attempting to answer this question in her April 8, 2019, piece titled “Rust Belt Turns to Munis to Breathe Life Into Old Factories,” talking to Professor Ren Farley for perspective.

The high rates of poverty and abandonment of Rust Belt cities such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, have been climbing as a highly skilled, young workforce sprints to coastal tech meccas. Leaving the once-shining factory towns struggling to figure out how to retain and rebuild, the solution for many is in revitalization, converting old manufacturing plants into attractive apartments, offices, and retail centers. Using local-government bonds, such projects hope to reverse the trend of population loss. Fort Wayne has already invested $440 million into the development dubbed Electric Works. Farley agrees attracting these workers is key, saying that “it’s young college graduates who have got some creative skills or advance training in AI or computer science.” 

This young, trained force has stereotypically sought out tech bubbles, but as the cost of such coastal cities becomes more and more prohibitive, these formerly booming middle America towns see this as an opportunity for regrowth. “Many of these people are looking for an urban lifestyle, and it’s too expensive to move to San Francisco, Seattle,” Farley adds. What’s left is to see whether or not such investments pay off. 

Read the full article here

Reynolds Farley is the Dudley Duncan Professor Emeritus of Sociology and a research scientist at the Population Studies Center.  His current work focuses upon the revitalization of Rust Belt metropolises. He maintains a website describing the history and future of Detroit (