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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

22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

2 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.