My latest installment for POLITICO Magazine's "What Works" series is on the remarkable and entirely homegrown transformation of Roanoke, Virginia, which has been getting a lot of attention this week. Here's a snippet:
How did a small city in a disadvantaged region four hours from a major metropolis—one that had seen its signature industries atrophy or depart, that lacked so much as a branch campus of a state university—transform itself from the forgotten stepsister of the Appalachians into a formidable rival to Asheville, North Carolina? The answer has lessons for small, out-of-the-way cities everywhere: Roanoke’s people did it largely by themselves, in small steps and with an eye to assets and alliances in the wider region around them.Today's editorial in the Roanoke Times praised the story for not patronizing the city, which I gather has been a problem with national media treatments in the recent past. "Sometimes we're too close to things to fully appreciate them," the Times writes. "The Politico story does an excellent job piecing together how Roanoke has turned itself around."
And, in a first for the "What Works" series, there was this produced news segment on the story from
one of the local television stations, NBC affiliate WSLS. Thanks, Roanokers, for the endorsements.
This is my seventh full-length "What Works" piece this year. The others were on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood"; how Philadelphia repurposed a 1200 acre former naval base; and how Milwaukee breathed life back into a legacy industrial district, creating the manufacturing park of the future. In addition -- on the occasion of the Republican National Convention -- I had this shorter story on how Cleveland revamped its long-neglected Public Square.