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Paths to New Prosperity in Industrial Regions of the West

RESEARCH Working Paper by John Austin and Colleen Dougherty
Industrial city skyline and bridge with blue clouds.
Karen Green

Local strategies can revive economies, nurture hope, and diminish the appeal of antidemocratic populism in struggling industrial regions.

In both North America and Europe, historic industrial regions that remain in a difficult phase of economic restructuring have become a crucible for democracy-endangering populism. Struggling communities within these regions are fertile ground for those who seek to amplify anxieties about economic and social change and the decline of community and quality of life—characteristics that nurture nativism, nationalism, isolationism, and economic nostalgia.  

Yet many communities in these regions have found paths to new economic opportunity. Building on their strengths and unique assets, these communities are navigating and advancing in the globalized, knowledge and technology driven economy of the 21st century. Their varied success paths illuminate how, on both sides of the Atlantic, similarly situated industrial communities can build new economic success. In so doing, these efforts can nurture optimism and hope for the future, diminishing the appeal of those fanning fears and anxieties for political gain. 

About the Authors
John Austin
Former Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Midwest
Council expert John Austin
John Austin served as a nonresident senior fellow of Global Midwest at the Council, with expertise in global cities and North America. He spent 16 years in elected service on the Michigan State Board of Education, serving as president for six years. Currently, he directs the Michigan Economic Center, a center for ideas and network-building to advance Michigan’s economic transformation.
Council expert John Austin
Colleen Dougherty
Research Assistant, Georgetown University