How can communities revive?

Date posted: July 14, 2014

Host Mary Walden recently spent time in New York City with her husband, NC State economist Mike Walden.  “We did a fascinating tour of Brooklyn and learned how some of that burrows neighborhoods have experienced a dramatic economic renewal How did they do it?” she asks.

Mike Walden: “Well, like many North Carolina towns, Brooklyn was built on manufacturing. It had factories lining East River. Ships would bring in inputs, commodities. They would be put into factories and stuff would be manufactured. That all has contracted. Manufacturing has virtually gone from Brooklyn, and for many decades, Brooklyn really decayed; it declined. It was a declining city. It was a declining burrow. But now if you go to Brooklyn, everything has changed. It’s revived. It’s booming. In fact, it has the most technology firms of any location in New York City. And so the question is, how did that happen? And if you talk to people there, what they say is that while things got so bad that it was actually good. And by that I mean that if you look at Brooklyn when it was down on its knees, it had very cheap rents. The cost of buying space or renting space was very low. So it had a low cost of doing business, and so a lot of beginning entrepreneurs and artisans in particular who were priced out of the very pricey Manhattan looked at Brooklyn and said, ‘hey this is a great place to locate.’ So, they started moving in, and that really began the revival. And I think the lesson here is that if you are a challenged community where everything is gone and where you’re very cheap, labor’s cheap, land is cheap, that may be your best hope of reviving. You need to advertise what a bargain you are!”

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