By Dave Schankweiler
In their national bestseller, Our Towns—a book highlighting the successes of small communities across America—the authors identify traits shared by twenty-nine resurrected American towns. James and Deborah Fallows stated that each resurgent community individually was knit together by a common story. As I read the book, the parallels with Harrisburg were remarkable.
For some 50 years, America’s towns have been at the center of a great drama, spanning growth and prosperity, survival and suffering. Harrisburg is no different. In many ways, our city’s upward path defined much of the early 20th century followed by a rapid decline in population and the disappearance of businesses starting in the 60s. Although ours isn’t without bright spots, Harrisburg has been haunted by four decades of the same challenges. Our slide toward total financial ruin eventually triggered state-level intervention and the sale of city assets.