Category Archives: Rust Belt Blogs

NPR Project to Focus on ‘Remaking the Manufacturing Belt’

I’m excited to see Changing Gears, an NPR project about “Remaking the Manufacturing Belt” is up and running. Changing Gears aims to “report on a major developing story–the transformation of the Upper Midwest’s industrial-based economy to a post-manufacturing one. This transition is a turning point in the American economy with economic, social, environmental and cultural implications,” its web site states.

I had heard some rumblings about this project awhile ago so I’m glad to see it is off to a good start.

The project is “a product of the Upper Midwest Local Journalism Center, created through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its host stations are Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor, Chicago Public Radio and ideastream in Cleveland, the parent of WVIZ-TV and 90.3 WCPN,” according to its web site.

The more voices telling this story, the better!

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Editorial, Good Ideas, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry

GLUEsters descend on Cleveland

Today, the Great Lakes Cities: Urban Laboratories conference kicks off in Cleveland. The program promises a mix of policy discussions, neighborhood tours of Cleveland and lots more.

Read what Bruce Fisher has to say about it in his column in Buffalo’s ArtVoice. He’s very enthused about “the hopeful, the engaged and the talented” who will convene in Cleveland. And he gives Rust Wire a shout out!

-KG

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Detroit’s Honey Bee Market La Colmena

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Next time you hear about Detroit having no national chain grocery stores, consider this post from Detroit blog Sweet Juniper. It highlights the city’s Honey Bee Market and its amazing food and people.

Here’s some of his description, “while Detroit may not have any national grocery chains, we do have more urban farms and gardens than any other city in America and we boast some of the best independent grocers around,” he writes.

“Honey Bee Market, so close to downtown, has become sort of the de facto supermarket for all types of downtown shoppers. Hispanic grandmothers inspect the cactus alongside gringo foodies clutching Rick Bayless recipes; hipsters park fixed-gear bikes next to professionals in spandex out for a lunchtime ride; wealthy condo dwellers wait in line behind mothers paying with their Bridge cards.”

Thanks to Rust Wire reader Vesna Radivojevic for bringing this story to our attention.

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media

Blog Spotlight: For All Things Legal and Great Lakes-Related

Check out the Great Lakes Law blog from The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit.

Here, you can read information about how invasive species (Asian Carp), global climate change and more can impact the Great Lakes.

-KG

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Filed under regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, the environment, The Media

Renn: “Buffalo, You Are Not Alone”

dsc_0175b-thumb-505xauto-11091From Buffalo Rising: Read Urbanophile Aaron Renn‘s pep talk to Buffalo.

(Though many people in Buffalo already know how cool it is!)

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Editorial, Good Ideas, Headline, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media

From Colorado to Michigan

Editor’s note: This piece was contributed by Ivy Hughes, a Lansing, Mich.- based journalist. Read more about her on our contributors page. -KG

Five years ago my husband and I moved from Colorado to Michigan — by choice — for a job in the mortgage industry. We knew we were taking a huge risk, but at the time we had no idea we were venturing into a storm of opportunity we would have missed had we stayed in an economically thriving state.

Michigan is the underdog the media loves and the public, for varying reasons, hates. But how can a state most distinguished by its unemployment rate change course if its residents accuse new people, such as my husband and myself, and new ideas, of unforgivable naivety? Nearly every time I tell someone about my decision to swap states, they say, with unparalleled indignation and hopelessness: “Why would you ever move to Michigan?”

Moving to a state written off by everyone, including its residents, is wearing. My excitement about the move quickly dissipated and I feel into a rut of complaint and disaffection. But then I saw what many Michiganders no longer have the capacity or the desire to acknowledge: a tremendous undercurrent of energy. Outside of government, outside of the state’s old and dying entitlement structures lies a phenomenal strength in innovation and entrepreneurship.

During the last five years three technology incubators opened within five miles of my house; one of the most advanced superconducting cyclotron facilities in the world invested $550 million in Michigan State University (MSU); and Lansing became home to the world’s first building project to achieve double platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. That’s to say nothing of the region’s existing successes, none of which are tied to the auto industry. Neogen, a publicly traded company that develops food safety and animal products, that produces more than $50 million in goods in Lansing every year, continues to add employees and increase both its regional and international presence. Liquid Web, a web hosting provider started years ago by a 17-year-old entrepreneur, made Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest growing companies in 2007 and recently opened a 90,000 square foot cloud computing center in Delta Township.

Lansing residents are well aware of these larger successes, but hundreds of small business owners from varying industries are fervently kicking down Michigan’s dilapidated wall of self-pity with successes of their own. Not one of these entrepreneurial endeavors is tied to the auto industry. Every single one of them is wrapped tightly in determination and held together by a sense of responsibility to create something cataclysmically transformative for Michigan. All of these ventures were started by entrepreneurs who saw potential in nothingness.

Some tag this energy Young Smart Global, a loose moniker that’s provided a networking resource for some of Lansing’s most innovative thinkers, but it’s more than a label, it’s a movement.

In less than a year, this movement has helped launch the Hatch, which provides enterprising MSU students incubation space and access to established local talent. Three Hatch graduates recently launched Spartanicity, a company that delivers food, books and other goods to dorm rooms. These same entrepreneurs also created Spartan Solutions, a non-profit offering $1,000 tuition scholarships and $500 books scholarships to college and university students throughout the state. This energy has also created mentorship programs, connecting students to local entrepreneurs and their networks, an invaluable resource for those looking to launch after graduation.

So what?

Because the students are connecting with entrepreneurs, they’re graduating and starting businesses HERE instead of in Colorado, California or New York and in turn, these young entrepreneurs are revitalizing the old ones, shooting a cocktail of desire, rejuvenation and hunger into successful veins unconsciously nearing collapse. They’re changing minds.

I was excited to move to Michigan, but that feeling quickly drained. Not because the mortgage industry collapsed — we were surprising calm when it happened — but because the people here made me feel as if I’d moved to the last place on earth, the one scorpions flick their tails upon.

At first we failed. We started and abandoned business ventures that didn’t work. After having a thriving career in Colorado, I worked as a waitress at a sports bar where I played the roll of old, objectified hag (I was in my early 20s). My husband was unemployed for several months. We failed again and again and so has Michigan. But it’s not that we have failed; it’s what we’ve done with those failures. I own a company and have more opportunities, I believe, than I would have had in Colorado. There’s less of a market to penetrate and in an environment where journalism jobs are as contagious as polio, I’m a successful working freelance journalist. My husband has created a niche within his own industry that he likely wouldn’t have been able to create in Colorado.

We created these opportunities ourselves and other young, enterprising people are doing the same.

Yeah, failure sucks. Michigan winters suck. Coming from Colorado, the lack of sunshine here is debilitating. It’s challenging, but so is life.

My question to Michigan natives is, “If you hate this state so much, why don’t you leave? And if you stay, why wait for a door to open when you have the opportunity to build the house?”

-Ivy Hughes

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry

McKeesport Gets Aggressive with Demolitions

Some good reporting from Tube City Almanac on the efforts of McKeesport, PA, to demolish vacant and abandoned properties.

-KG

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Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Good Ideas, Real Estate, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, sprawl, The Housing Crisis, The Media