Many cities in our nation have been struggling for decades due to changes in manufacturing and agriculture. Some of these cities are struggling with stability and development, while other are just trying to stay afloat.
These cities are beginning to discover there is hope in an unlikely place - major corporations. With the cooperation of city leaders and visionary corporate entrepreneurs, these struggling cities are improving their economy, development, and quality of life. This foundation is breathing life back into once-thriving cities.
The following article examines how Dubuque, Iowa saw positive change with the help of IBM.
Corporate Entrepreneurs Are at the Heart of Downtown Revitalizations Governing Magizine
Leah Eichhorn is thrilled to be back in her hometown of Dubuque. Like a lot of educated young people, Eichhorn packed up and left once she became an adult, lighting out for Phoenix back in 2000 because there was so little opportunity where she’d grown up. The Iowa town, which sits alongside the Mississippi River across from Illinois and Wisconsin, had lost most of its manufacturing and agricultural sector employment during the 1980s, leaving it at one point with the worst unemployment rate in the nation.
But something surprising happened five years ago. The city convinced IBM that it should move a large IT operations center into an old department store downtown. The company brought with it more than a thousand jobs—a big deal for a community of 60,000—and has helped spark a revival that has quadrupled employment in the city’s historic downtown core. “IBM really catapulted it forward,” says Eichhorn, who works as a manager for the company, enjoying the type of professional career she once thought impossible to achieve in Dubuque. “We have great potential to keep people here, rather than running to Phoenix.”
Creating opportunities and retaining the local best and brightest has long been the dream of many struggling communities. These days, many cities are getting a lot of help on that front from companies that see great potential in downtowns. In some cases, private-sector actors are reshaping central cities in ways local governments no longer have the ability to do themselves.