Youngstown, Ohio: the incredible shrinking city

In the first quarter of 2011, the U.S. manufacturing sector created more than 140,000 new jobs. And last year marked the first time in more than a decade that more manufacturing jobs were created in this country than were lost. But experts say manufacturing is unlikely ever to play as large a role in the American economy as it once did. With thousands of houses sitting empty and crumbling, people won’t be moving back into the old industrial cities that pepper the Rust Belt anytime soon.

So what about the residents who continue to live there? Older manufacturing towns are searching for new ways to survive in the 21st century. In a country where bigger is almost always better, cities like Youngstown, Ohio, are trying to come back to life by shrinking themselves. This Blueprint America story reports on Youngstown’s plan to restore its former greatness, but on a smaller scale.

Produced in collaboration with Blueprint America. Funding provided by Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.


Related:

Dan Kildee, leader of the ‘shrinking cities’ movement, on saving distressed cities

In Youngstown, a house now abandoned was a home

 
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Comments

  • DanL

    Big Jim is great. You really get the feeling that Youngstown might have a chance to turn things around.

  • lessik

    Instead of tearing them down? Create a program for artists and musicians to buy them. We struggle, and are always looking for a friendly place. When I can’t sell my jewelry, I work construction. I’ll do it. A couple of years and you’ll have a revitalized town. You’re giving up…

  • Murphyk1

    Bisbee, AZ was a cooper mining town – died out with the closure, everyone moving out- did just as you suggested- it s now a small artist friendly town, galleries, bed and breakfasts, jazz bars,etc- it worked great 

  • mtbanana

    I could build some cool stuff with that old wood…

  • timmmahhhh

    Move there and they will have incentive to stop tearing them down.  Left abandoned with no draw what choice do they have?  Arizona has weather as a draw – Youngstown had jobs – without them there is not much more.

  • DanL

    Are 5,000 plus artists going to move to Youngstown? And, if they do, what would artists do for their local economy

  • Meg

    A community is what people make it. It’s sad that people opt for moving rather than thinking creatively to rebuild. What role could a a better arts education play in these situations?

  • Teo

    Many towns like Youngstown dot the Rust belt, they will never be as they were when the steel mills were running.The education systems are top notch, but without opportunity everyone leaves. The idea of an artist colony is laughable, who would their clientele, the area isn’t  that interesting to draw a steady crowd.   

  • SFskies

    Is any of that material repurposed or recycled?

  • Sue from New York

    The throw away society an American vice. Profligacy a waste of old buildings with architectural interest that could have been restored what else could you call it. As for the bigger picture, industrial cities in the mid west or where I live in Buffalo New York screwed by free trade agreements, lower  import tariffs and,export of our jobs to China and Mexico. These cities were killed by large corporations like GM born in Detroit that get bailouts from our taxes only to create jobs out side the US. Manufacturing is the  true wealth of a country white collar service jobs do not create a country’s wealth they only move it around , wealth that was created in another country. You must bring in manufacturing jobs that provide living wages. Artists’ colonies don’t generate wealth, they are the precursor to a third world economy that serve a wealthy minority. Perhaps the only good thing that could come of this is when the southwest and other water starved parts of the US start running out of water or the climate change will make living there impossible then people will come up north again. If we have another revolution it will start in the rust belt mid west and north east.

  • frank

    i would sugjest, that big jim prapose a tiny house project were the town set aside land to put tiny houses sutch as tumbleweed typ homes .all built with the help of the materiels that are recycled from the old homes that are torn down.http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

  • Galeljames

    I like this idea– would love to help with in aorund the DC area… This is almost like clearing the clutter out of our homes… but the clutter are old abondoned homes…. & I know there are some cool old architectral features that could be used in some new projects too!

  • Gina

    As a resident of the city, I applaud Mayor Williams for doing what should have been done years ago. Yes, it’s painful to watch so many resources wasted…but they went to waste long ago, and have been rotting and deteriorating for years. The longer the rot is left, the harder it is to clean it all up and not kill the city.

  • Skuigcat

    I grew up in Youngstown and still have family living there.  I live in Arizona.  When I have visited my family there, I was so sad to see the downfall of the city.  I applaud the Mayor and Council of Youngstown for its work in making the City more beautiful.  Kudos to you!!!

  • http://www.useful-community-development.org useful-community-development

    Youngstown, I hope you’re looking because there are some great comments here.  Artists, people who like to recycle old buildings, maybe some young retirees, and a few people who just need a lot of community love would do a lot for you.  Since your old blue-collar but good-paying jobs identity isn’t working for you, maybe you should try build a community of some educated, “different drummer,” and differently abled folks who like to do well enough by doing good.

  • http://www.useful-community-development.org useful-community-development

    Youngstown, I hope you’re looking because there are some great comments here.  Artists, people who like to recycle old buildings, maybe some young retirees, and a few people who just need a lot of community love would do a lot for you.  Since your old blue-collar but good-paying jobs identity isn’t working for you, maybe you should try build a community of some educated, “different drummer,” and differently abled folks who like to do well enough by doing good.

  • http://www.useful-community-development.org useful-community-development

    Youngstown, I hope you’re looking because there are some great comments here.  Artists, people who like to recycle old buildings, maybe some young retirees, and a few people who just need a lot of community love would do a lot for you.  Since your old blue-collar but good-paying jobs identity isn’t working for you, maybe you should try build a community of some educated, “different drummer,” and differently abled folks who like to do well enough by doing good.

  • Nicholas Iacobucci

    In my opinion this plan has hit a brick wall.  I live in a suburb of Youngstown, Austintown, and go to college in Youngstown.  Downtown has hardly seen any changes from what I can remember as a child.  I’m 21 now and anxiously awaiting the day to move far away from here (NYC is the dream).  I would never choose to live within city limits, crime may be on the downfall but its because its moving into the suburbs now due to the shrinking.  They may have attracted one or two high-tech companies but it is still not enough!  I’m an Information Technology major at the university and I still cannot find an internship in this area, I have 3 semesters left.  Youngstown’s main problem is they are too stuck in their past: industry.  Youngstown needs to get over it and be a little more creative: more green jobs, high-tech, and more public transportation.  Maybe being a little more open minded wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  • Fbnebula

    nick, i do not know much about youngstown but i do agree with your statement.,all you mentioned is whats going to save all the dyeing towns in america.but america needs to get out of the past like you said. we will never have things like they were we can only move forward.green jobs are the future.tiney homes are part of that .

  • Wesley Melton

    I was born and raised in Youngstown and worked there for years and then transfered to OaklandCa. I have heard about all the crime and decay that is going there but I am still proud of my roots and I was very pleased to see that somebody still cares about my home town. God speed in all you do to preserve that part of American history. Time does change things but it does not have to erase it.