Community Development

Building on Connecticut’s Industrial Past


Katy Shafer, Partnership for Strong Communities policy analyst

Connecticut’s cities read like a veritable index of the country’s manufacturing history – from copper and brass to thread, hardware and hats – and the industrial remains continue to affect these cities’ vibrancy. The state’s largest cities have experienced varying degrees of redevelopment over the years, as their economies evolved and the geographical landscape shifted with the advent of the interstate highway system and urban renewal.  But in others, the industrial legacy maintains a profound presence, challenging physical redevelopment and economic growth. A confluence of private and public forces strongly suggests that revitalization has never been more imperative. 

The rise of the innovation economy is well documented. And its multiplier effect is just as important to local economies. For each new innovation position, economist Enrico Moretti found, there are five new job openings.

So too is the pattern of urban migration of college educated 25-34 year olds. New data reveals that this cohort is moving not only to the usual suspects – like San Francisco, New York and Washington - but to economically troubled places like Buffalo and Cleveland. Cities are gaining these residents where overall population declines, in places like Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Attracting this group is a key component towards long-term economic growth, because a large, educated work force is the economic engine of a vibrant city.

Can Connecticut’s cities similarly benefit? We think so. 

New models to reinvigorate New England’s post-industrial cities are being tested.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Cities Challenge is fostering collaborative solutions in Massachusetts’ cities.  Additionally, the Gateway Cities campaign has galvanized public support for the revitalization of the Commonwealth’s mid-size urban centers.

Our next IForum, “Connecticut’s Post-Industrial Cities: Leveraging the Past to Brighten the Future” explores these new models that beckon our attention. We’ll hear from Ben Forman - Director of the Gateway Cities Institute, Prabal Chakrabarti – Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Claire Ricker – Senior Planner with the City of Holyoke, which is both a Gateway City and Working City.  With opening remarks by Governor Malloy and an outline of the state’s efforts by OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, we look forward to this important cross-sector conversation.

For more information on the Feb. 25 IForum, go here.

Click here to read previous blog posts.


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