By Alicia Kitsuse, Director, TFN’s Older Industrial Cities Program

A new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program focuses on 70 urban areas deemed “older industrial cities,” arguing that they represent critical focal points for strategic investment and new policy intervention.

One of the key takeways from the report: Inclusive economic growth connecting all residents to economic opportunity is instrumental in addressing the regional inequality that threatens the country’s social and political fabric.

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The Funders’ Network is proud to have contributed to efforts that resulted in the publication Renewing America’s Economic Promise through Older Industrial Cities, including serving as a liaison to Brookings as well as coordinating a consortium of 10 members of TFN who supported this important report.

We’ll be delving into the findings and analysis with the report’s lead author, Alan Berube of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, during our annual meeting of TFN’s Restoring Prosperity in Older Industrial Cities working group, which takes place May 23-24 in Louisville, Ky. (You can find more information and a link to register here.)

“Ideas for addressing regional inequality in America focus primarily on building more housing in ‘superstar’ cities like San Francisco and New York, or investing in small, rural communities hit hardest by industrial decline,” says Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings. “There’s an enormous opportunity between those two extremes to harness the significant economic and human potential of these older industrial cities, which anchor regions of the country at risk of being left behind.”


Renewing America’s Economic Promise Through Older Industrial Cities builds on a 2007 report by the Brookings Institution that coined the term “older industrial cities” and argued that these cities possessed unique physical, economic, and cultural characteristics and resources that could be vital competitive assets if fully leveraged. The 2007 report laid the foundation for TFN’s Restoring Prosperity in Older Industrial Citiesworking group, and previewed many of the funder-supported initiatives dedicated to restoring prosperity in these places over the past decade.

The new report breaks fresh ground with a framework for achieving inclusive economic growth, underscoring the need for historically underrepresented populations and neighborhoods to both contribute to and benefit from urban revitalization and recovery if older industrial cities are to thrive. “In many ways, the pathway to more inclusive economic growth in these (and many other) urban areas depends on expanding economic opportunity for people and neighborhoods of color,” according to Brookings.

The framework’s recommendations include:

• Learning from older industrial cities that have effectively transitioned from their industrial past and embraced the goal of inclusive economic growth. Public and private actions have focused on (1) identifying and investing in key technological capabilities; (2) spurring strategic urbanization; (3) preparing a diverse workforce for current and future opportunities; and (4) stewarding inclusive growth at the regional scale.

• Building on existing local and state efforts already at work in older industrial cities, while emphasizing collaboration and shared responsibility among local stakeholders. These efforts promote increased job creation, job preparation, and job access, with strategic emphasis on overcoming stark legacies of out-migration and racial/economic segregation.

• Expanding economic opportunity for people and neighborhoods of color, and establishing new metrics and frameworks for inclusive success. Older industrial cities house one-fifth of the nation’s black working class. The economic strength of these cities overall, and the economic resiliency of their racial and ethnic minority populations, are closely related.

Brookings has developed an interactive online dashboard that provides a wealth of data on the 70 urban areas in the United States deemed “older industrial cities” — which together account for one-eighth of the U.S. population and economy.

As part of our work in support of the Brookings report, TFN served as a communications liaison between Brookings and the consortium of members who made up an “investor council” of funders:
• Annie E. Casey Foundation
• Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
• Danville Regional Foundation
• Garfield Foundation
• George Gund Foundation
• Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
• Kresge Foundation
• Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
• Surdna Foundation
• Toledo Community Foundation

In addition, TFN organized two convenings of Detroit economic developers, non-profit and philanthropic practitioners, academics, and elected officials on behalf of Brookings to get feedback on the report’s findings and analysis, as well as sharing expertise and coordinating other discussions.

We look forward to Alan Berube of Brookings with us in Louisville — and we’re eager to hear your thoughts, questions and concerns about the future of these older industrial cities, and the role funders can play in supporting equitable and inclusive economies in these often overlooked communities.


Register for the OIC Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of TFN’s Restoring Prosperity in Older Industrial Cities working group is May 23-34, 2018 in Louisville, Ky.

Learn more about the meeting, as well as the Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative Annual Convening immediately preceding the event, here.

About the Author

Alicia Kitsuse, Director, TFN’s Older Industrial Cities 

As Director of TFN’s Older Industrial Cities program, Alicia connects funders engaged in the challenging work of revitalizing post-industrial cities to learning opportunities, key resources, and most importantly to one another. She is also the lead contact for TFN’s Anchor Institutions Funders’ Group.

Prior to joining the Network’s staff in January 2017, Alicia served as a Program Officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Michigan. As a member of Mott’s Flint grantmaking team, she worked on a variety land use, community and economic development, and workforce-related projects focused stimulating growth and revitalization in the City of Flint and the surrounding region. Alicia also provided technical assistance to the City of Flint on its award-winning Imagine Flint master plan, and served on a variety of local and national advisory boards.

As a funder member of TFN while at Mott, Alicia played a variety of leadership roles within the OIC program, including as a member of OIC Steering Committee, and as Co-Chair of the OIC’s Federal Reserve/Philanthropy Initiative.