I was forwarded this article on dying cities and thought a bit about a few things.  Entrepreneurs and startups, conversations I've had over the years with economic development people from different parts of the country, government policy, etc.

Overall I think people get that wealth is created much easier when the business environment is positive - whatever that means at the given time.  New England was a concentration of wealth in the 19th & 20th Centuries due to proximity to trading partners in Europe and the resulting infrastructure necessary to support it.  Rust belt cities did very well throughout most of the 20th Century because of the concentration of talent (white collar engineers and blue collar line workers) that led that part of the country to own a majority of the American manufacturing industry.  The West Coast has done very well recently because that's where the greatest technological innovations have emerged during the advent of the computing business, and now it's doing even better as our European trading partners are being eclipsed by Asian trading partners.

In every case, economic growth has required a few things:  intelligent/inventive population, available risk capital for funding ideas, and a concentration of activity in a relatively limited geographic area.  In today's environment, the most capable entrepreneurs are flocking to the same communities they always have, because those are the only places where you can find talent *and* have a reasonable chance to get your business funded.  It's a triple whammy against cities in "out-of-favor" areas of the country — none of these problems are solved easily.

Today, our federal government is spending a lot of stimulus dollars in ways that don't promote lasting economic growth.  We give $4,500 to families to buy new cars they can't afford, which has the further adverse effect of postponing creative destruction in the auto industry.  We've put all the eggs in the basket of the established business without doing much for new industries that might just make America (and places like the Rust Belt) more competitive in the global economy.  Somewhere in this process, you'd think we would help disadvantaged communities help and attract entrepreneurs to their cities.  It would help solve one problem early stage businesses have today, and you know the money would be efficiently spent because let's face it — it's pretty cheap to do business in the Rust Belt these days.

The solution to decaying cities will come from entrepreneurs who invent new ways of doing business and creating economic value.  We can choose to demand an environment where risk-taking and reinvention set the new agenda, or we can celebrate the glory of the past while others pick up the tab.  Sooner or later, that party is over.  For the sake of economically disadvantaged areas, here's hoping we see a little more balance in years to come.