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The Revitalization of Older Industrial Cities: A Review Essay of Retooling for Growth

By Timothy J. Bartik


This review essay debates the policy issues raised by the book Retooling for Growth: Building a 21st Century Economy in America’s Older Industrial Areas, edited by Richard M. McGahey and Jennifer S. Vey (Brookings Institution Press, 2008). I argue that the main rationale for adopting policies to revitalize older industrial cities is to improve the per capita earnings of urban residents. Therefore, urban economic development policy should be seen as urban labor market policy. Increasing city residents’ earnings requires progress on two fronts: increasing metropolitan labor demand; increasing the quantity and quality of the effective labor supply of city residents so that they can better access high-quality jobs. Effective policies to increase metropolitan labor demand include: reforms to business incentive policies to place more emphasis on providing corporations with in-kind incentives such as customized job training; helping small and medium-sized businesses by providing them with useful information to enhance business productivity. Effective policies to increase city residents’ labor supply include: high-quality preschool education; more time during the early elementary years on core learning tasks; reforming high school to develop stronger links with careers and employers; expanding community college efforts that provide useful career training for high-quality jobs.economic development, local labor markets, retooling for growth, urban labor market policy, metropolitan labor markets

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