The ads shown during Super Bowl XLV have generated a great deal of both positive and negative buzz. Chrysler’s two-minute spot for its new 200 model proved to be an emotional tour de force for many viewers, not only for Michiganders, but also for those hailing from across the Rust Belt.

The stark, HD cinematography captured both the past glory and current struggle of a former U.S. manufacturing giant. Closing with the caption, “Imported from Detroit,” the commercial took a stand. According to L.A. Times columnist Rick Rojas (as quoted in the Detroit Free Press), “Chrysler seems to say that Detroit isn’t dead, and maybe the spirit of Americans making things isn’t dead either.”

While the goal of this blog isn’t to ponder the future of auto manufacturing in the US, the underlying message of “coming home” to local manufacturing

—and perhaps even increasing our export power

has now hit the mainstream, loud and clear.

Philadelphia has suffered from a decline in manufacturing along with other Rust Belt cities, and Diana Lind points out that today “the number of jobs requiring post-secondary education has grown, while more than 60 percent of Philadelphia’s adults read at a sixth grade level or below, creating a miserable mismatch that leaves both employers and the unemployed in need.”

Lind notes that blight and vacant lots are scattered across the city; Detroit has shown tremendous growth in urban agriculture as residents have cultivated green space, gardens, and farming out of once vacant parcels.

What Lind calls for, however, is a proactive land use and economic development plan: “…any plan to mitigate the vacant property crisis must not only include innovative urban planning, but also try to restore employment opportunities. We need to literally build jobs on neglected and undeveloped land.”

Numerous programs interweave the issues of vacant property and unemployment, like the Job Opportunity Investment Network, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and Roots to Re-Entry. Though these, residents in Philadelphia are trained to attain levels of local employment that “help people leave poverty behind” while they remain in the community.

The potential to focus on economic development and education are two topics vital for those invested in cities to understand, not only in Detroit and Philadelphia, but also in the DC region. And we have the opportunity to create an even larger network by bringing local community colleges into the fold. It is on their campuses that many “green” jobs are born, and from where a great part of the foundation of our sustainable development focus may come.