Problems and solutions
The long-term development of trade, mobility and commerce has had a lasting influence on Central Europe. Demographic change, especially in Saxony and Lower Austria, and the impact of globalisation accelerated the processes of sometimes dramatic changes over the last decades. Increasingly at risk of depopulation, decay, isolation and loss of all economic activity, small towns are well aware how vital the quality of life and the success of local businesses are. Therefore, small towns are increasingly looking to revitalisation incentives that support existing businesses and attract public engagement. They have fully recognized the importance of marketing tools to attract people and increase overall activity.
Revitalisation cases and practices
The handbook presents a multitude of cases and strategies deployed to tackle the identified challenges. In some towns revitalization emphasises the development of lively small town centres as the central point of living and working for all actors, population groups and generations. Municipalities balance between two opposing interests: demands that are placed on economic and cultural heritage and its preservation.
Elsewhere inadequate transport connection is combatted by moving away from “fixed cycle operation” by large busses. Instead, public transport runs on demand between the source and destination, aided by information technology. Just as in large urban areas, smart development is a key priority.
Vision of a small town
By pursuing the ‘Europe 2020’ objectives, Central Europe is working towards a small town utopia. A small town should be distinguished by a unique civic engagement, providing a high quality of life. It should have a high proportion of working sustainably innovative businesses that are focused on growth markets. Small towns and their surrounding rural area should be attractive living space for families with children, ensuring a well-defined number of inhabitants with a balanced age and activity patterns. Small towns should be a very attractive regional location of education. In the small town culture should be experienced.
The handbook makes clear that significant investment is required from local municipalities, businesses, and the overall community in order to bring about the desired changes, but questions remain about what investments are necessary and which are most effective.