An interesting podcast hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta examines how communities dependent on a declining industry have approached their economic futures. The two textile-dependent towns of Eden and Concord, North Carolina approached the disappearance of jobs in different ways and were ultimately forced to reinvent themselves by emphasizing characteristics of each area that fit their new economic reality.
The researcher who studied the trajectory of these two towns, Kim Zeuli of the FRB of Richmond, examined them within the context of the concept of “community resiliency,” which she defines as “the ability of a community to return to its prior economic growth path after experiencing a shock.” While no community ever survives unscathed from a tectonic shift (“perfect resilience”) or is irreparably damaged by one (“absolute nonresilience”), there is a wide spectrum of resilience that is influenced by a few factors identified by Zeuli:
- Thinking outside the box and trying things as a community other than that which has proven itself successful.
- Diversifying sources of support. This means trying to support a community through a variety of different kinds of employers.
- Not abandoning the originally successful industry, and trying to find ways to support what’s left of it.
- Perhaps most importantly: having leadership that is willing to do all of the above (ahead of time) , and be the cheerleaders of recovery.
To see how Eden and Concord represent Zeuli’s theses about resilience and what lessons they hold for bigger cities or regions that must become more economically diverse, read the full transcript or stream the podcast here.