Revival in the Rustbelt?

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A new book, The Smartest Places on Earth, claims some of America’s industrial cities whose glory days are behind them may see a renaissance in the years to come due to smart products and collaborative development.


We all know that quite a lot of manufacturing has moved overseas in search of lower labor costs.  Many of the products we use everyday like shirts and shoes could no longer be economically made in areas like Massachusetts so production moved to places like Mexico, China, and Bangladesh where labor costs are much lower.

Other places like Cleveland and Detroit who were once industrial powerhouses with booming populations have seen overall population declines in their urban cores as large amounts of steel production moved overseas and the popularity of foreign brands grew.

Thankfully cities like Cleveland and Detroit and their wealthy citizens invested in universities, research centers, and libraries.  So now, as the book argues, with manufacturing turning towards smarter products rather than cheaper products, cities once bustling with manufacturing activity could be well situated for innovation and production of the future’s goods.

For instance, in Cleveland there is now a biomedical industry that collaborates with the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and schools like Case Western Reserve University to develop new products. You can also take a look at our recent article about green energy innovation in Pittsburgh where new battery technologies are being developed in universities and are being spun off as private companies.

Other cities like Akron have a lot of knowledge in rubber and tire manufacturing and the University of Akron is trying to leverage that knowledge into new polymer products.

So as the world expects smarter products rather than simply cheaper products, collaboration among research centers, universities and industry in rust belt cities will help them participate in and maybe even lead parts of the new economy. That’s wonderful news and we wish all the best to the innovators and companies in these cities.

You can check out the book on Amazon.


Main image courtesy of – “Old Lathe in Workshop” by Stoonn

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