How Small Industrial Cities Can Rejuvenate The US Economy

It’s America’s small to midsize cities – Syracuse, Peoria, Rochester, Rockford – forgotten towns beaten down by deindustrialization, and outsourcing, that can become the economic engines of the future economy.

That is the premise of Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World by Catherine Tumber, a journalist and Research Affiliate in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Tumbler, who interviewed city planners  in twenty-five cities in the Northeast and Midwest US, arrived at some insightful conclusions on how smaller cities, and not megalopolises like New York City, can be the new engines of the  US economy.

How is this possible? By using under-appreciated assets that most small cities already have, like arable land in close proximity,  smaller governments and the manufacturing skills of a willing but underemployed population.

The author also cautions that the rampant urban sprawl we see today endangers the economic viability of these smaller cities. The sprawl of plazas and rows of tacky suburban houses ruin agricultural land that could be better leveraged for crops and green industry jobs, even as energy and climate change realities disrupt the long supply chains we currently rely on.

You can hear Catherine Tumber talk about these midsize city solutions on the KunstlerCast podcast with American author James Howard Kunstler.

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