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Research and Analysis

Understanding the urban economic ecosystem

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Industrial Strategies 

In the U.S., it’s not the level of industrial activity that’s changing, it’s the mix … and Industry 2.0 will be in the city. Here’s what every urban mayor should know about the next 10 years.

  • Industry 2.0. ICIC’s cluster analysis helps city officials assess which industries can make the most of their city’s asset base. Industrial activity in the U.S. isn’t evaporating; it’s morphing into new sectors as legacy industries decline. In fact, total industrial employment has been stable for three decades and is expected to remain nearly constant at about 33 million jobs through 2016.
  • Large industrial land tracts available at the right time. ICIC projects that over one billion square feet of industrial space will become vacant in the next 10 years. At the same time growing industries will require an almost identical one billion square feet. 
  • Cities are the natural location for much of the growth ahead. Logistics, for example, requires access to transportation infrastructure and significant population, both of which are readily available in urban settings. America’s largest cities are home to a quarter of the nation’s deepwater ports, a third of existing inter-modal facilities and two-thirds of the nation’s 50 busiest airports.
  • The environmental case for cities. Continuing to expand industry in suburban areas sidesteps the need to clean up urban brownfields and increases the distance between firms and infrastructure assets and workers. Repurposing existing urban industrial zones puts growing replacement industries where legacy losses are greatest, while reducing development, supply-chain, distribution and carbon costs.

ICIC’s accumulated research on the next wave of industrial strategy reveals best practices from our own studies of Detroit and from a bevy of thought leaders who have presented at the American Planning conference.


General Resources

  • An Industrial Strategy for Saint Paul: ICIC, in partnership with Interface Studio and Laura Wolf Powers of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, developed an analysis of the industrial assets of Saint Paul, Minnesota. This report documents the findings from the assessment.  For a summary of the findings, click here.
  • Detroit Works Policy Audit: Urban and Economic Regional Economy (zip file of all audits): This briefing reflects the observations and analysis of the consultants on the Detroit Works Project technical team. The Detroit Works Project is an evolving roadmap designed to make Detroit work by creating a shared, achievable vision for the city's future.
  • Is there a Future for Older Industrial Cities? (video presentation): This presentation by ICIC’s Senior Vice President Teresa Lynch at Northeastern University outlines ICIC’s work on the Detroit Works Project.
  • The Fall and Possible Rise of a Greater American City: This article, which appeared in Northeastern University’s newsletter, news@Northeastern, describes the challenges and opportunities Detroit faces as the city rebuilds its future.
  • Detroit: The New Paradigm: This Urban Land Institute article gives a comprehensive overview of the economic climate in Detroit and the strategies in place to revive it.  The article references ICIC's work within the Detroit Works Project to help formulate an industrial strategy.   

2010 American Planning Conference


Case History

Rezoning Philadelphia

For Industrial Advantage


Philadelphia's future economic vitality is contingent upon maintaining a balanced and diversified economy. For Philadelphia, this means continuing to support and grow key industrial activities: production, distribution and repair industries. Together these sectors account for 100,000 jobs citywide and more than $322 million in direct annual tax revenue.

The Challenge:

Philadelphia Industrial Development wanted tgain a better understanding of the demand for industrial space in the city and create a strategy to protect and increase the employment and tax revenues generated by industrial businesses in the city.

ICIC's Role:

ICIC partnered with Interface Studio to survey 20% of Philadelphia¹s land – 90% of the industrialized zoned land – and to develop a competitive assessment, growth strategy and implementation framework for Philadelphia¹s industrial clusters. Additionally, ICIC also benchmarked six other cities to identify Philadelphia¹s industrial competitive advantages and areas for improvement.

Results for Philadelphia:

Based on the work of ICIC and Interface Studio, Philadelphia is evaluating and rewriting its industrial zoning categories as part of the first step in the city's updated comprehensive plan. As part of the project, the city is also identifying which industrial lands to intensify and what areas to transfer to alternative uses. Read More

CEO Insights

Alameda Construction Services

Compton, CA

  • A sustainable economic base can be created in the inner city through private, for-profit initiatives and investment based on economic self-interest and genuine competitive advantages.

Professor Michael E. Porter,

Founder and Chairman


for our monthly Inner City Insights.

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