Archive for March, 2008

I have had several recent conversations with some of Pittsburgh’s self-identified regional taxonomists who disagree with GLUE’s categorization of the burgh as a Great Lakes city. I will be the first to admit we are not dealing with a cut and dry categorization here.

The term “Rustbelt” is pejorative and anachronistic but attractively gritty in certain circumstances.

Alternatively, I’ve taken to experimenting with a “Midwest” tag. With only anecdotal evidence available, I’ll tell you that it hasn’t been pretty. I’m not sure exactly what the fuss is all about, but there seems to be general agreement amongst Pittsburgh natives I know that it simply will not fly.

One protester of the “Midwest” stamp went so far as to say that Pittsburgh is the capital of America’s “Middle-East” region. Does that mean we will need to start naming, and re-pronouncing, places in Arabic, Hebrew, and Farsi in addition to the Pittsburgh-ization of French names (think North Versailles, or Ver-sayles)?

Then of course there’s the “Mid-Atlantic” distinction. OK, I haven’t really given it a chance. The term wants to be followed by “Sales VP” or “Regional Manager” – an org chart classifier, perhaps, but not much else. I do not anticipate legions of Pittsburghers rallying around a call for Mid-Atlantic revitalization.

Jim Marczak did not put the taxonomy issue to bed in yesterday’s Post-Gazette, but he did proudly associate us with our freshwater oasis to the north, Lake Erie. My ardent hope is that his piece marked the beginning of a sincerely felt Great Lakes identity in Pittsburgh.

Among my favorite passages:

“Let’s face it, the Pittsburgh area is not really competing against Cleveland and Buffalo and Toronto. The entire Great Lakes region is competing for the next international investment dollar with Shanghai and Mumbai and Dubai, and we must work together to make it more attractive to investors.”

Making the region more attractive to international investors may not be the only reason mega-regionalism rings my chimes, but it’s a big one. As Erie’s twenty-something green-trepreneur Lucas McConnell said to me in January, “There is no reason industry can’t be responsible for the reemergence of this region as a global force. It will just be a different kind of industry.” Hear, hear!

If we exclude cities that don’t literally abut the Great Lakes from our regional concept, we severely undercut the potential power of cooperation.


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As costs rise and Williamsburg feels more and more like the Upper West Side, older industrial cities in the Upper Midwest are becoming increasingly attractive to artists of all stripes. Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Detroit – you name it. Sticky cities are making waves with industrial space that has been adaptively reused by artists who want to live and work there.

Are we the new Brooklyn?

GLUE enthusiast, Cleveland lover, and arts advocate Seth Beattie put together “From Rustbelt to Artist Belt” to answer just that question. OK, it’s a little less simple and lot more substantive. Seth and hundreds of artists and arts advocates (like you) from across the region will spend the day discussing strategies to attract and support artists in our hometowns. If you are a fan of GLUE, you are a fan of this event. You must not have known it’s two for the price of one.

From Seth:

“From Rust Belt to Artist Belt and Pop Up Arts District will both be taking place in Cleveland on Wednesday, May 14th … the conference from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Pop Up from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Both will focus on the unique challenges (and, more importantly, the unique opportunities) that industrial cities face in integrating artists into community revitalization efforts. We will have a series of nineteen speakers lined up (including representation from Milwaukee, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Syracuse), a couple of whom are members of the GLUE family.

Participants will also weigh in on an agenda for moving forward artist-oriented community development throughout the industrial Midwest, in preparation for a second convening next year. And we’ll be closing it all out with a fun and really thought-provoking event in the evening.”

Are you not familiar with pop up events? In short, they are optimistic manifestations of spatial ‘what if’ scenarios.

What if the vacant properties in this neighborhood were suddenly occupied by thriving local businesses that employ neighborhood residents?

What if this stretch of empty storefronts was a series of galleries?

What if this poorly designed waterfront access could have a do-over?

An overview of the program is available online.

See you in Cleveland!


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Thanks to Sonya Jongsma-Knauss for tipping Milwaukee readers off to GLUE

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On Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press published an Op-ed by GLUE friends John Austin and Bruce Katz of The Brookings Institution arguing that a change in federal policies could have a real and lasting benefit to Detroit and Michigan. But their assessment is by no means limited to one state.

All of the things Detroit and southeast Michigan are trying to do — largely unaided — to transform the regional economy could be significantly helped by a federal government that was a partner, not a delinquint.

Check out the examples they give, ranging from transportation policy to next generation energy investments to Great Lakes restoration — and others.  In addition to having partners in other GL cities and states, we should have a partner in the federal government — which will only happen if we demand it of our next president.

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The following email helpfully reminded us how important it is to be original when we contact the press. The sample letter we provided in our toolkit is only a sample. Thanks, Sonya! May all Great Lakes city newspaper staff be so responsive!

From Sonya’s comment:

We letter editors tend to pass over obvious letter-writing campaigns that are pure or even primarily form letters. There’s nothing wrong with a letter-writing campaign, but letters are more likely to get attention (and publication) if writers use their own words and arguments.

Smart, succinct letters, especially if they include some humor or a great analogy, are always a good bet.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Sonya Jongsma Knauss
Letters Editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Fear not.

In the interest of making resources available to any and everyone who wants to revitalize our cities, we’ve created a mega-region-wide list for your use in our toolkit.

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When: Late September

Where: Post-industrial city in swing state TBD

Who: Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator X

What: A Presidential debate focused on the unique issues facing America’s Great Lakes region: water, population decline in urban centers, making an imperfect (at best) transition from sole economic reliance on heavy industry, and more.

Not so fast... As much as we wish this was an official announcement, it is not. The GLUE team is interested in hearing from our team mates, friends, and site visitors about this new idea.

A regionally-focused debate would set the nation’s eyes on the natural resources, struggling economies, and cities in flux of the states surrounding 20% of the world’s fresh water (well, at least the American side), and that at one time produced the majority of the world’s wealth. Oh, and did we mention they are swing states?

Quick facts about the Presidential debates thus far…

Debates total: 45

Democratic debates: 24

Republican debates: 21

Debates in GLUE cities: 8 (Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI, Des Moines IA, and Chicago, IL)

Debates in GLUE states: 11 (Dearborn, MI and Sioux City, IA are not currently targeted by the GLUE network)

Making it happen…

All our candidates know that the support of this region is critical to victory in November. The region should hear from both the Democratic and Republican nominees about issues uniquely impacting these states.

What do you think? Please comment here!

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