Even at a time when the national economy looks grim and the local economy only somewhat better, Evanston would do well to begin to assess its future in light of its strengths and opportunities.

Our manufacturing heyday is past; condominium construction is, at the very least, on hold; and Evanston’s major employers are not-for-profits.

But out of the public eye, many start-up companies are thriving.

Though small in scale, they tend to be cutting-edge. And they just might point to a future direction for Evanston.

Fifty such small businesses are growing here, nurtured by two business incubators, Evanston Inventure head Ron Kysiak said at the Public Service Challenge last weekend. Several of these were conceived by faculty and students of Northwestern University, an institution pointedly transforming itself into a research university that looks to attract top-notch researchers and significant grant money.

Considering the additional advantages of proximity to Chicago and access to public transportation, Evanston seems poised to become a center for knowledge- and technology-based businesses.

But if knowledge and technology are to replace condo construction as a local industry, we must continue to attract these smaller businesses – and find ways to keep them here.

With a location somewhere between Wall Street and Main Street, Evanston can be the kind of place people want to grow their businesses and their families.