Dodging decline: the post-industrial landscape of Niagara Falls, Canada

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The two Niagara regions, one in Canada and one in the United States, facing across both a river and an international border, provide a case study of contrasts. Both were developed as energy and industrial centres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but over the past fifty years their paths have diverged substantially. Through the period of de-industrialisation, the city of Niagara Falls, New York, since 1960, has lost over half its population. For various reasons, American initiatives to combat decline have been largely unsuccessful. In contrast, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has experienced ongoing, if modest growth. This can be attributed to a number of factors, some geographical, however each has been subject to very different forms of government involvement, with the differences extending back more than a century. The paper argues that very specific focused interventions, by the provincial government, have been of major importance in the development of the non-industrial economic activities that have enabled the Canadian Niagara to survive de-industrialisation better than its American neighbour. In particular, these have included the creation of the Niagara Parks Commission, and support for Niagara casino enterprises. There have also been various policies to encourage agri-business - specifically the wine industry; to leverage the historical legacy of the area, and to develop other forms of heritage tourism. The Canadian side has successfully tapped the economic opportunities, while the pro-industrial attitudes on the American side have restricted their ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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