Recession Reshapes America

April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

In 2009, the Harvard economist Richard Florida wrote a piece for The Atlantic called “How the Crash Will Reshape America.”.” In it, he preaches a brand of economic determinism wherein “creative class” cities stand to recover from the current recession–and Rust Belt and Sun Belt cities don’t.

We foresee–and are dedicated to working towards–different fate.

Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and countless other Rust Belt cities, in the wake of outsourcing and deindustrialization, have struggled to compensate for their losses in talent and population and indeed have failed to find new ways to attract creative class talent. A Detroit CEO wrote in an email to Rust Wire that his firm had no choice but to relocate because of its inability to attract talent to Michigan, despite “one of the best hiring environments for IP firms in 40 years.”

Sprawl and Gentrification in Midwest (via

Instead of trying, unsuccessfully, to compete with Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York for creative class clout, Rust Belt cities might stand a better chance for revitalization if they adopt initiatives in the realms of urban agriculture, localism, cooperation, sustainability, etc. This way they might offer longer-term answers to the social and economic questions that remain ignored in prospering post-industrial cities. Many people in Rust Belt cities have been attempting to work on these problems (like what to do with abandoned warehouses and how to accomplish the problem of food deserts, to name a few) within small communities. Providing solutions to these persistent problems will carve a new niche for the former loci of manufacturing, and truly propel them into the 21st century with a different, but still very important, set of assets. It is our goal with this Symposium to unite some of the people already sharing this vision.

There’s one area where we and Florida do agree: “As the crisis deepens, it will permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape. I believe it marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life.”

It’s up to the people to decide what way of life will take its place.


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