The idea for writing about “Renovating the Rust Belt” flashed into my mind like a lightning bolt from Zeus while I was quietly working at my desk at BrownFlynn, a Cleveland-based sustainability consulting firm. Why this topic, you ask? Well, for starters, I grew up in Cleveland and I know a little something about what it means to be a part of the Rust Belt. After graduating from Dartmouth, I thought I would be living in high(ish?) style in New York City or Chicago, or someplace more glamorous than my hometown. Not the case.
I moved back to Cleveland for a temporary stop at my parents’ house… and then I never left. Well, I moved out of my parents’ house pretty quickly, but it seems as though I’ll be in Cleveland for a while longer. Here are some reasons why a young person such as myself stayed:
- I got a few jobs here in which I immediately felt like I could make a difference and in which I felt appreciated (where else does that happen for a kid right out of college?)
- My family and friends are closeby.
- It’s affordable to live here.
- Cleveland has some of the most progressive sustainability initiatives in the nation. And they’re happening right now.
- The people here are genuinely nice. And creative, authentic, and all the rest.
- Cleveland is a surprisingly awesome place. (We have bike polo, kickball leagues, E4S, Little Italy, the Cleveland Metroparks, urban farms, Tremont, the Ohio City Bike Co-op, art galleries in industrial buildings, APOC, and the list could go on and on).
Young people have to go where the jobs are, and I had the luxury of finding a few excellent jobs here in Cleveland. One of the nicest things about living in a Rust Belt city is that someone who’s just starting out can make a significant difference. And since I am surrounded by people who are working day in and day out on sustainability issues in Cleveland, I thought I would contribute a little something of my own.
My goal with this blog is to follow some of the progress being made in Cleveland and in other Rust Belt cities (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Erie, etc.) towards a more sustainable tomorrow. What makes Rust Belt cities uniquely qualified to lead the rest of the nation as models of city-wide restoration is their “doable” size and their ability to use all their vacant land for more useful purposes. United as a region, we can bring social, environmental and economic prosperity back to the Rust Belt, and maybe even to the rest of the nation.