Chapter 7: (Re)discovering the small and medium-sized industrial town and its development potential
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The prevailing image of small and medium-sized industrial towns (SMSTs) is inextricably negative. In the media, in politics and in research, they are often described with adjectives such as "depressed". Yet they represent a significant part of national urban systems in terms of population size and economic output. The aim of this chapter is to highlight possible new and exciting avenues of research that would add to the body of knowledge on the development of industrial SMSTs. The premise is that we should know more about their limitations on the one hand and their development opportunities on the other. The first section of the chapter examines the problems of identification and proposes two approaches to the selection and study of industrial SMSTs: systemic-quantitative and interpretative-qualitative. The second section looks at socio-economic performance and transformations and critiques the prevailing academic account of their unfavourable performance. The third section discusses deindustrialisation and shrinkage and suggests exploring emerging concepts such as the foundational economy and inclusive growth. The fourth part is devoted to single-company towns and their surprising resilience, and sets the future research agenda to uncover their inherent qualities. The fifth part addresses the underestimated socio-cultural aspects of small industrial towns such as industrial heritage and culture, social innovation and industrial values. The conclusion presents the future research agenda for the development of industrial SMSTs based on three thematic areas.