I have spent the last three weeks in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Providence exploring how those cities have responded to economic decline and indeed economic opportunity. I have been fascinated by the levels of collaboration, the role of anchor institutions, the scale of foundation resource, and the ability to raise and redistribute taxation as means of enabling that response. While I have seen lots of good work in those localities, I have also been amazed by the scale of the remaining challenge, particularly in terms of addressing inequality.
Cleveland, Ohio has faced significant challenges over the last 20 years. The crash of the manufacturing industries in the 1990s led to a reduction in the number of jobs to the sum of some 150,000. This had associated consequences for the local population, which reduced from around 800,000 to 400,000 as people headed elsewhere seeking opportunity. It also had consequences for the physical and social feel of Cleveland: there is a myriad of vacant and derelict property and, for those remaining, high levels of unemployment and limited opportunity. The downtown area became a ghostly area embroiled in economic decline.