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American companies have been slow to seize the economic opportunities afforded by Detroit and other Rust Belt cities. Photo: Scott Legato / Getty Images

As business leaders re-evaluate their future workplaces — what they should look like, where they should be — they often weigh the benefits of a traditional office against those of remote work arrangements. Lurking behind the former, however, are growing concerns about the costs of big cities — from direct expenses like office rent to indirect ones like housing prices.

But a key fact tends to be overlooked: Not all cities are expensive. From the Rust Belt's "legacy cities" (Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore) to less extreme cases of urban decline and recovery (Philadelphia, Providence, Cincinnati), many parts of the U.S. are cheaper yet still dynamic places to live and work. In 2016, when the average price of office space in Manhattan first broke $72 per square foot, it still cost less than $29 in Philadelphia.

It's time for American companies to capitalize on the largely untapped opportunities of these cities. This is not a new idea — Dan Gilbert famously moved thousands of Quicken Loans employees into downtown Detroit — but it is a reminder that these conversations need to factor in the full range of possibilities, not to mention the spillover benefits. Amazon's new headquarters, for example, will not just bring thousands of jobs to some lucky city, but also give it a chance to re-engage underutilized spaces, capturing new environmental and social gains.

The bottom line: Prioritizing in-person connections at work doesn't have to come at the cost of big city prices. Older, less popular American cities can offer modern workplaces the best of both options.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

4 hours ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.