Economic Recovery in Legacy Cities

Americans living in legacy cities face a unique set of challenges and opportunities in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Several local, state, and federal support strategies could aid these cities in recouping losses.

August 19, 2020, 8:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


Michigan Central Deport

Linda Parton / Shutterstock

America's legacy cities, think older industrial cities like Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., are faced with unique and unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Lavea Brachman. With historical roots as key players in the industrial and manufacturing economies, legacy cities have experienced decades of high rates of unemployment with many residents facing chronic poverty and material insecurity.

"Putting these places on the road to recovery and prosperity is key to mitigating harmful regional imbalances in the U.S. economy, and their demographic legacies make them linchpins in the country’s efforts to achieve greater racial equity," writes Brachman. "Ensuring prosperity in these cities will not only yield economic benefits for our nation but also advance social progress."

Brachman's article goes on to lay out five reasons "why legacy cities could be hit harder than other places" as well as three unique advantages possessed by legacy cities during crises. According to Brachman, collaboration is a necessity for driving a racially equitable recovery in legacy cities. One key point: intentionally creating economic points of entry to capital investment for minority entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. "Local innovation—along with state and federal policies and supports—and a promising new generation of local leaders can drive such a recovery."

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