If you work in Economic Development, you likely hear the same pushback for your municipality every time someone looks at a demographic report, and overcoming these challenges can prove to be a worthy adversary. You know your city needs new businesses and new residents to thrive, but how do you attract them with negative demographics? Despite these challenges, several cities have successfully reinvented themselves by leveraging unique strategies. Here’s how they did it and how your city can too.

Detroit’s well-documented economic struggles include high poverty rates and significant population decline as automotive and other manufacturing facilities left the city in favor of cheaper labor. However, the city has made strides by directly addressing these challenges. Efforts such as improving public safety, investing in education, and providing affordable housing have helped stabilize the population and attract new businesses. Once again, community members are finding pride in their city, enjoying a redeveloped downtown area and living in repurposed buildings.

When most people think about Alabama, they likely don’t think about technology and innovation, but Birmingham is changing their image. Through investments in technology, healthcare research and finance, they have diversified their employment base to attract new and younger residents. In fact, Birmingham was named as one of the inaugural U.S. tech hubs by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. As one example of this new technology sector, the University of Alabama Birmingham wrote on a new collaborative space for commercialized biotechnology. You can read that article here.

Finally, Pittsburgh, once known for its steel industry, faced significant economic decline and population loss. However, the city reinvented itself by embracing innovation and technology. By investing in research and development, partnering with local universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, and creating an ecosystem that supports startups, Pittsburgh has transformed into a hub for technology and healthcare industries. The economic development team in Pittsburgh has done a fabulous job rebranding their city from “Steel City” to “Smart City”, with a website dedicated to touting the accomplishments of their technology sectors.

If you are looking for more resources and best practices on how to market your city, our friends at fDI Intelligence, Anatolio Ubalde and Alissa Sklar, created an e-book called Economic Development: Marketing and Priorities. We would highly recommend this resource as it provides a good summary of the priorities of economic development professionals, and how they are changing their approaches towards business retention and the integration of marketing and service provision. They have practical advice on how economic development needs to market their communities as they are now, and not what they want it to be. You can find that resource here.

Marketing a city for economic development despite challenging demographics is no small feat, but it is achievable with the right strategies. By embracing innovation, implementing strategic urban planning, developing a business-friendly environment and addressing social challenges, cities can create a compelling case for new businesses and residents. The successes of Detroit, Birmingham and Pittsburgh offer valuable lessons and inspiration for cities facing similar demographic hurdles. By learning from these examples, other cities can pave the way for sustainable economic development and a brig