They are gambling on riverboat casinos to help turn around Gary, Ind. Pittsburgh hopes a new sports stadium sparks its downtown economy, following in Baltimore's footsteps.
In the shadows of rusting steel mills and abandoned manufacturing plants, blue-collar cities turned in new directions during the past decade to revive slumping economies and lure back families that left town.
So far, the results are mixed.
The 2000 census shows the cities that suffered the biggest drops in population were Gary, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and other once-prominent industrial locales in the Midwest and Northeast.
The good news: declines for many of the cities were not as steep as previously forecast. For instance, Baltimore's 2000 population stood at 651,000, about 85,000 people less than 1990, but 30,000 more than what experts had predicted.
In each of these places, officials trumpet grand economic development plans they say offer bright prospects for the future.
But their ability to rebound will be just as important for other parts of the country as well, said Bruce Katz, director of the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy for the Brookings Institution.
The once-a-decade head count confirmed long-forecast trends of population shifts south and west.
The 10 fastest-growing cities between 1990 and 2000 were all in those regions, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Austin, Tex.
Growth in the Midwest and Northeast lagged behind. The 13 percent decline in Hartford, Conn., was the largest among cities with a population of over 100,000. Gary, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Flint, Mich., were also among the top 10 losers.