in U.S. Cities
Norman Walzer and Lori York
The recession in the early 1980s and the conservative approach taken in national public policies brought many changes in the approaches to financing services and rebuilding local economies in large American cities. Many cities experienced high unemployment and an economic restructuring that replaced higher paying manufacturing jobs with lower paying service jobs. Industrial Belt cities, especially, were left in difficult financial condition, sometimes with a surplus of office buildings and relatively high unemployment rates as aging manufacturing firms discontinued operations.
These trends caused local public officials and community leaders to recognize that economic revitalization of city economies rested more with local initiatives than with grants from higher governments—grants that were becoming harder to obtain. In the 1980s, more local resources— personnel and financial—were devoted to initiatives aimed at attracting industry and employment (Leveridge 1996). These efforts—the value of which has been sharply debated—included industrial bonds, property tax relief, low cost loans, and a variety of other approaches. (Bartik 1991; Green 1995; Miranda and Rosdil 1995; Pierre 1995; and Walzer and P’ng 1995).
At the same time, local officials recognized that economic development stimulation and revitalization efforts cannot be accomplished by the public sector working alone. To succeed, private investment is needed and, in fact, private sector jobs are key to long-term economic growth. This view was reinforced by the Reagan administration’s efforts to reduce the