Rust Wire: Live in our Nation’s Capital for Living Cities Conference

I am on an Amtrak to DC sitting in the lounge area and about me is America in the morning: a group of teenagers on a trip enjoying the confluence of freedom that is a train and headphones—a cowboy rebounding between dropped-call phone calls and catnaps—towns outside the window that bleed centrality and history. Life is at the moment.

I am heading to the Living Cities 20th Anniversary Conference. Rust Wire was lucky enough to be asked to lend a hand to Next American City for their live-blog coverage. They said they wanted some Midwest rep and they came to us. We think this shows the pull of the site; that is, people are reading. They are reading in New York and DC and New England and even Europe. And they are reading stories about us, for us.

Consider Rust Wire the Rust Belt communication arm for the full-fleshed masses, but on a budget of toiling.

As for the Living Cities conference itself, some shorthand: Living Cities is a conglomeration of 22 of the world’s biggest foundations: Ford, Rockefeller, Kresge, etc. The rationale is that better work can be done rebuilding cities by folks investing together as opposed to folks investing alone. Their mission, as such, is to “harnesses the collective power of philanthropy and financial institutions to improve the lives of low-income people and the cities where they live.” Not surprisingly—given the focus on the poor—there is much attention to the Rust Belt. More exactly, the Living Cities Integration Initiative has invested $85 million into five Rust sites: Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Newark, and the Twin Cities.

Cleveland’s Integrative Initiative is largely centered around growing the local economy using the purchasing power of its medical anchor institutions, in particular Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. The particular Cleveland method is the co-op, or largely minority-owned worker operations that will sell what the anchors require. For instance, Evergreen Co-ops is a eco-friendly laundromat that has contracts with health corridor institutions to do, well, laundry. Other co-ops in the work are a greenhouse that will grow food and a solar panel plant that will sell energy, with the products to be consumed by the anchor institutions.

In short, the core of the concept is to have locals be the recipients of the economic multiplier effect from a industry that has historically spent millions outside the proximity of the local economy. It is a simple but powerful concept, having perhaps more to do with logistic innovation than product innovation. Time will tell if it works.

Anyway, the conference is tomorrow. Keep updated at the Next American City website. In the meantime, enjoy some pics of a Clevelanders trip from rust into the nation’s white-columned capital. With America riding shotgun.

–Richey Piiparinen

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