Along the northeastern corridor there are cities that made the jump from industrial to post-industrial economy fairly successfully, namely, those that had developed knowledge-intensive industries like finance or technology even as industry was beginning to leave center cities. In between these successful cities are interspersed others that were heavily reliant on industry, and which didn’t fare nearly as well over the past half century (Baltimore is the best example). But where the industrial core in the Midwest has seemingly entered an irreversible decline, rotting industrial hubs along the northeast corridor hit a bottom and began to recover over the past decade. Baltimore continues to lose people, but its economy is fairly stable, and much of the city has seen significant redevelopment.
The reason for the turnaround is proximity to thriving markets. The ability to take advantage of certain aspects of the Washington metropolitan market has strengthened Baltimore. Similarly, New York has generated economic opportunity for much of the northeastern corridor, touching off redevelopment in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. One of the chief lessons of economic geography is that a good way to get rich is to be near other rich places; remoteness is costly. If we could shift all the cities in the Midwest closer to each other, and then pick them up and move then nearer to the northeastern corridor, we would go a long way toward restoring the economic viability of many Midwestern cities.
We can’t literatlly do that, but we can effectively accomplish something similar by improving physical links within the Midwest and between it and other regions. We could decongest highways and airports with congestion charges, for instance, and plow the proceeds into high speed passenger and freight rail connections among Midwestern cities and between the Midwest and the northeastern corridor (as well as healthy Canadian metropoles. Richard Florida makes the case here.