After decades of declining manufacturing employment in the United States, the bottom fell out thanks to the economic recessions in the early 1980s. That shock spawned a generation of Rust Belt refugees. Steel wasn’t coming back. Sun Belt jobs beckoned.  We here at Manufacturing Migration do not see this exodus as a hallmark of failure, but a signature of resilience and innovation. Call it the Rust Belt Way.

Out of the latest downturn, Legacy Cities are carving new paths out of the ashes. The urban frontier, places of possibility and opportunity, are found in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and such mythical geographies are pulling people in who go against the grain. Be it repatriates, folks priced out of New York, or risk-taking immigrants, our mission is to map this trend and make it more visible, with the intent to apply these lessons to the economic development of people, wherever they choose to live. After all, the Rust Belt Way is not tied to any particular geography, but rather speaks to the revitalization of any community, urban or rural.

Using the Rust Belt as a lens from which revitalization strategies are crafted is necessary. The region has served as a petri dish to grow ways of out of disinvestment for some time. Now it is time to culture this culture.


Jim Russell formal training: geographer; Rust Belt training: Erie

Richey Piiparinen formal training: urban planner, psychologist; Rust Belt training: Cleveland


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