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The Guardian view on Greater Manchester’s Atom Valley plan: growth outside the city | Editorial

A project to revive the economic fortunes of former mill towns can be a model for the rest of the country

The inventor of the flying shuttle, the 18th-century innovation that transformed textile production and helped Manchester earn the nickname Cottonopolis, actually came from Bury. By the late Victorian period, John Kay’s home town and neighbouring Rochdale and Oldham were all renowned hubs of textile manufacture, while Manchester had become a globally important cotton trading hub. What contemporary economics would call an agglomeration effect – a kind of virtuous circle of growth driven by new methods and investment – spread growth across the region.

The contrast with modern Greater Manchester is stark. Partly as a result of a property investment and services boom, much of the city of Manchester has thrived in recent years. But the end of coal and cotton in the 20th century saw former mill and mining towns struggle to find a new role, and too much work in such places remains restricted to low-wage, low-skill jobs.

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