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3318954547_4a40ac16bd.jpgThere's more to Cleveland
than you might think. (Photo: BIG Slow via
Flickr)

One of our favorite blogs in the Streetsblog
Network is Rustwire.com,
a great source of news and opinion from the Rust Belt of the Midwest.
Today they're featuring a guest editorial that asks some tough questions
about smaller cities in the region that are struggling to retain young,
ambitious citizens. Often, those youthful strivers want to go to where
the perceived regional action is -- Chicago. Is this an inevitable
shift? What do smaller cities have to offer? Can they or should they try
harder to retain young professionals?

The Rustwire piece examines our misperceptions about places where
we don't live, and wonders if we're writing off places that might be
more viable than we realize:

I have recently returned to Cleveland after several years in the“Capitol of the Midwest,” Chicago. Chicago is filled withMidwesterners from all corners, and those who have committed to livingthere have a mixture of disdain, pity, and guilty longing for the places they left behind. The opinion they expressed was thatleaving Chicago for a smaller Midwestern city would stifle careerambitions and deprive one of big city amenities. All theysaw outside Chicagoland was corn fields and closed factories. In a discussion of urban development, one economist (originally fromupstate NY) asserted, “Detroit and Cleveland no longer have an economicreason for being.” When I told people in Chicago that Iplanned to return to Cleveland, most looked dejected and some said, “I’m sorry.”

Having spent a year now in Cleveland, I realize that it is not asmall city with nothing going on. It is truly a major citywith sufficient scale for most things you find in major cities. We have finance and legal industries. We have designers andpublishers. We have bicycle messengers. Wehave at least a half dozen companies that do nothing but walk dogs forbusy professionals. We have a sand volleyball league, adozen ski clubs, and thirty-some yoga studios. We haveimmigrants from all over the world in our universities and runningethnic groceries. We have commuter trains, valets, andloft condos with concierges. Life in Cleveland is much more like life in Chicago than people there, here, or elsewhere recognize. Is our perception about smaller cities also wrong?

Just as Chicago collects people from Detroit, Minneapolis, andColumbus, I have found that Cleveland has no small number of people whogrew up in Youngstown, Lima, and Wooster. From time totime, I find myself in smaller cities or reading blogs about them --Erie, Jamestown, Flint, etc. I start to wonder about theseplaces as the people in Chicago wonder about Cleveland. How can they have an economic future? Who would move there? If I were a young, educated person, how could I justify stayingthere? Would I have returned to Flint if that’s where Igrew up? If so, who would I work for? Whowould my spouse work for? What if I had to change jobsmid-career but there’s only one local employer in my field?

These are vital questions for anyone who wants to see
revitalization of the urban landscape in this country -- not just in the
obvious big cities on the coasts, not just in regional capitals like
Chicago. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

More from around the network: Imagine
No Cars
comes to the end of a year-long car-free experiment in
Missoula, Montana. Biking
in Chattanooga
struggles to find a good biking route. And Dottie at
Let's
Go Ride a Bike
shows us in some beautiful pictures why she never
gets tired of riding.

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