Category Archives: the environment

In Youngstown, Shale Frenzy Nudges Out Other Important Issues

This post originally appeared in The News Outlet.

It’s a Saturday morning and I’m picking up trash in downtown Youngstown.

Lo and behold, what blows down W. Federal Street, landing at my picker? A newspaper called ‘Shale Play‘ which covers Northeast Ohio shale activity exclusively.

Wondering where this came from – and assuming it was somewhere downtown – I walked to the post office where most of the local and regional newspapers bins are located.


And this paper is free.

So, I grab a copy and trot over to a local coffee shop for a read.

Truth be told, when I first approached the bin, I thought it was just industry propaganda because, well, it kind of presents itself that way.

However, the second page reveals that ‘Shale Play’ is ‘published as joint project by the Morning Journal, The Review, Salem News and the Tribune Chronicle‘.

I read it cover to cover.

While it’s obvious that there’s an overarching pro-industry slant (and nearly every single advertisement is industry-related), there were several articles that were exclusively dedicated to opposition coverage. So, there was at least some balance and journalist integrity.

Anyway, this got me to thinking: just how many different regional shale-exclusive media features are there now?

By my count, the list includes (not limited to):

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s ‘Pipeline

And that’s just traditional media. Of course, there’s a mess of websites and blogs to boot.

So this, then, got me thinking: imagine if we had this type of exclusive coverage for things like: the economic impact of local food production…or technology…or smart regional planning and development…or downtown-to-downtown public transportation like high speed rail and regional riverfront and bike trail development…or even aspects of sustainable energy production that we can make happen regionally.

You know, all that idealist, ‘progressive’ stuff. Those things that are not multi-billion dollar, multinational industries nor do much by way of advertising dollars for local media…but could prove to be important, longer-term – and more sustainable – parts of an economic equation all the same…unlike natural & gas and oil which is sure to provide significant short-term economic benefit but is equally sure to fold up shop the minute the last cubic inch of resource is inevitably extracted.

Unfortunately, I doubt there will ever be a day where that paper finds itself at my feet.

And that’s ok. Obviously, natural gas & oil is something that certainly should command our attention right now.

It just can’t afford to be the only thing. And that’s something we can’t lose sight of no matter how much shale coverage is thrown our way.

But that’s for another post…

~ Phil Kidd

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Filed under Economic Development, Headline, the environment

Economic development soul-searching

The title of this post may be a bit controversial, but can also be sadly true. Far too often, it seems a blind eye is turned toward the sins of the past just to generate new economic investment. A perfect example is portrayed in the past week’s (April 17th edition) of City Pulse by an article entitled “A Tax Break Won’t Change This.” While tax breaks are being offered to GM for additional investment in Greater Lansing, a ginormous vacant parking lot blights the near south side of the city, not to mention additional deteriorated sites along Saginaw Highway on the west side of town. This case is not alone, as the Rust Belt is littered with leftovers of its industrial history – hence the nickname Rust Belt.  Is disregarding the fouled legacy of past sins what economic development is supposed to be all about? I certainly hope not.


Sadly, concerns about the past sins tend to get drowned out by the hype, hoopla, and hyperbole over new (or saved) jobs and investment. While those are important, they are NOT the only things that foster economic development and improve a community. Pleasant and safe neighborhoods, good schools, well-maintained infrastructure, quality public services, environmental stewardship, beautiful parks, inspired art, creative and new ideas, and many other community attributes also spur economic development. Vacant and blighted parking lots, abandoned industrial sites, polluted environment, underfunded schools and public services, and discarded communities are not the seeds necessary for sewing a healthy and vibrant economy. They are the seeds of our ultimate demise as a place where people want to live or work.

The economic development community needs to do some serious soul-searching and start to stand up for enhancing “community” in more ways than the perceived and spouted panacea of jobs which is so narrowly focused and aspired to. Otherwise, they/we are nothing more than a bunch of glorified used-car salespeople, and we know how well they rate in the court of public opinion.

Rick Brown

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Great Lakes, Headline, Politics, Real Estate, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

Six Rust Belt Economic Superstars for 2013








Published annually by Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, the Fourth Economy Index identifies those counties that are “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.” The index is broken down into micro (<25,000 population) small (25,000-49,999), mid-sized (50,000-149,999), and large (150,000-499,999) counties based on population.  The following five metrics are utilized as foundations for determining future economic success:

·         Investment

·         Talent

·         Sustainability

·         Place

·         Diversity

Kalamazoo - Source:






Below is a list of the Top 10 large counties as determined by the Fourth Economy Index – six of which are Rust Belt counties (shown in bold):

  1. Durham County (Durham), North Carolina
  2. Sedgwick County (Wichita), Kansas
  3. Guilford County (Greensboro), North Carolina
  4. Linn County (Cedar Rapids), Iowa
  5. Onondaga County (Syracuse), New York
  6. Dakota County (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  7. Lehigh County (Allentown), Pennsylvania
  8. Polk County (Des Moines), Iowa
  9. Kalamazoo County (Kalamazoo), Michigan
  10. Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee

It is interesting to note that none of the Top 10 are from the New England, South Central, Rocky Mountain, or Pacific Coast states. Congratulations to all those counties that made the Top 10, particularly those from the Rust Belt.

– Rick Brown


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Filed under Brain Drain, Education, Green Jobs, the environment, Urban Planning

Western Michigan University installs solar-powered charging stations

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo recently installed a bank of 15 solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in one of its parking lots at Miller Auditorium. What a great idea for making green driving greener.


Utilizing the sun for recharging eliminates the need for electric infrastructure upgrades, uses Mother Nature as the power source instead of fossil fuels, and in theory eliminates the need for the property owner and/or the vehicle owner would have to pay a utility for the electric charge since it is derived from sunlight.

Here is a brief video about the facility at Western Michigan University.

Certainly, there will

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be some places that will still charge a fee for use of a solar-powered EV charger in order to recover their installation and maintenance costs, plus earn a profit – a privately owned parking garage comes to mind. The applications for solar-powered EV charging stations is only limited by access to sunlight and one’s imagination. Top floors of multi-deck parking garages, public parks, schools, vast wastelands of asphalt in commercial districts and around stadiums, hotels, and even single-family and multi-family residences.

Kudos to the Western Michigan Bronco’s for bucking the trend by employing this application of solar-power and for being an innovative trend-setter right here in Rust Belt.
Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

Michigan establishes "dark-sky coast"

In what may be a first for the nation, Michigan Governor Snyder recently signed legislation establishing a “Dark-Sky Coast” on 21,000 acres of State-owned land in Emmet County, located north of Petoskey and west of Mackinaw City.  An aerial photograph of the newly designated Dark-Sky Coast is shown below:

Dark-Sky Coast - Source:

Combined with the existing Headlands International Dark-Sky Park, it is hoped the two sites will increase tourism while also literally displaying the numerous benefits of protecting the night sky from sources of light pollution, particularly sky glow or the urban halo effect created by communities which do not require downshielded lighting and shut-off fixtures.

Congratulations to the State of Michigan, Emmet County, and the International Dark-Sky Association for educating and enlightening all of us on the negative impacts caused by light pollution. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Wastes energy
  • Harms wildlife and ecosystems
  • Causes glare and harsh shadows
  • Disrupts human sleep patterns
  • Threatens astronomical research

Let’s all do our part to preserve the magic of the night sky so future generations will be able to “Wish Upon a Star.”

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Good Ideas, Great Lakes, Green Jobs, Headline, the environment

Hospitals: To Sprawl Or Not To Sprawl

The last few times I have visited my home state of Indiana, I have noticed a number of new hospitals recently opened or being constructed along the I-69 corridor in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne regions.  Along I-69 north of I-465 in Indianapolis, it seems like new hospitals are rising from the cornfields at each interchange. IU Saxony Hospital, Community Hospital, and St. Vincent Hospital have all recently migrated to this corridor between Indianapolis and Anderson. The map below does not even include the pre-existing Riverview Hospital in Noblesville (just above the top of the map) or the two existing hospitals in Anderson (Community and Saint John’s) located about 10 miles to the east.

Granted, this area is growing very rapidly, but are all these satellite hospitals really necessary? Particularly in one narrow corridor? Indianapolis is not alone in this migration in Indiana. Below are multiple examples from Fort Wayne.

View of Parkview when it was under construction (I-69 in the foreground)

In Fort Wayne, both Lutheran-DuPont Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center have opened new facilities at the northern fringes of town at I-69 and DuPont Road (see photos above and below). Parkview’s campus is so large (just opened in March 2012) that a new interchange is being constructed to the north of the complex to accommodate the increased area traffic. On the southwest side of Fort Wayne,  Lutheran Hospital completed a large multi-structure campus several years ago at the corner of the I-69 and U.S. 24 interchange (see campus map below).

Lutheran Hospital campus map


Each of these new campus facilities have been followed quickly by a myriad of hotels, restaurants, apartments, medical office buildings, and other ancillary facilities, creating economic development boomlets at the interchanges. Being situated adjacent to freeway interchanges can provide speedy emergency access for these wealthy suburban areas (until gridlock develops there too) and the so-called “regional” reach of a hospital, but is promoting sprawl really beneficial to a community’s health? I doubt it.

And what about emergency services for inner city residents and the poor–doesn’t a suburban/exurban campus present the same reverse commuting difficulties that suburban employment centers do?

As a comparison, none of the major hospitals here in Greater Lansing have built suburban campuses in Mid-Michigan. SparrowMcClaren-Lansing, and Sparrow-St. Lawrence are all situated at midtown locations. Personally, I see this as a very positive health and land use planning attribute for Greater Lansing because:

  • The midtown locations help maintain the viability of the adjoining inner city neighborhoods.
  • Staying put at midtown locations lessons the potential for continued suburban sprawl.
  • Midtown locations are easier for the poor and disadvantaged to access by public transit, bicycle, or on foot.
  • Far-flung suburban and exurban locations do nothing to promote active transportation options for employees. Try bicycling to a campus off an interstate exit – usually not easy or safe.
  • The suburban/exurban locations promote greater use of automobiles thus contributing to greater pollution, more congestion, and poor sedentary lifestyles.
  • Remaining at midtown locations helps promote revitalization, redevelopment, social justice, and social equity.
  • A midtown location is more accessible regionally from all compass directions.

Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Headline, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Money: Rust Belt suburb is the best place to live in the USA

Carmel Center for the Performing Arts










According to September 2012 issue of Money magazine and based on a variety of socio-economic, climatic, financial, and demographic attributes, Carmel, Indiana (just north of Indianapolis) is the best place to live in the United States in 2012. Eden Prairie, Minnesota (southwest of the Twin Cities) took third place in the annual barometer. Other Rust Belt communities included in Money magazine’s Top 100 include:

#11 Woodbury, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#12 Fishers, Indiana (Indianapolis)

#14 Eagan, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#19 Lakeville, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#22 Maple Grove, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#26 Troy, Michigan (Detroit)

#37 West Bloomfield, Michigan

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#39 O’Fallon, Missouri (St. Louis)

#48 Amherst, New York (Buffalo)

#53 Naperville, Illinois (Chicago)

#61 Bolingbrook, Illinois (Chicago)

#71 St. Charles, Missouri (St. Louis)

#72 West Hartford, Connecticut (Hartford)

#76 Florissant, Missouri (St. Louis)

#78 Shelby, Michigan (Detroit)

#80 Wheaton, Illinois (Chicago)

#81 West Des Moines, Iowa (Des Moines)

#84 Macomb, Michigan (Detroit)

#85 Bensalem, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

#88 Iowa City, Iowa

#90 Ames, Iowa (Des Moines)

#95 Millcreek, Pennsylvania (Erie)

#99 Waukesha, Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

#100 Ann Arbor, Michigan

Congratulations to all those Rust Belt communities that made the Top 100 in 2012.

– Rick Brown

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