Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rebranding Youngstown

Geographic perceptions are tough to shake. Consider this story about how a couple from New York City ended up in Pittsburgh:

"One of my first impressions was it was so green. Pittsburgh was just off my radar. If I thought anything about it, I thought it was going to be more like Minneapolis, very concrete, dystopian post-industrial shut-down landscape." Instead she was impressed with its lush beauty. She had also gotten wind of Pittsburgh's verdant art scene, but that is not what she experienced first.

Pittsburgh tends to surprise most people who visit the city for the first time. The White House announcement of the G-20 summit to be held in Pittsburgh shocked the press corps. Pittsburgh? Why Pittsburgh?

Journalists tend to cling to folklore geographies, thus reinforcing stereotypes. But readers do need a point of reference, even if it means writing that Lordstown is near Cleveland. You might not be from Northeast Ohio, but you've likely heard of Cleveland. But Youngstown? Youngstown?

I was pleasantly surprised with Youngstown. I was shown the good, bad and ugly of the city, but there's a lot of potential for a vital core. That's how Pittsburgh reinvented itself. I could give a tour of the bad and ugly in Pittsburgh. There's plenty to find.

I love the Garden District neighborhood and Youngstown should aim to attract outsiders to live there. The proximity to Mill Creek Park and downtown is a tremendous asset and screams gentrification. Actually, gentrification is already happening and the downtown core is on the upswing, despite what the national press thinks:

Now, experts say Elkhart can look at the recession as an opportunity to make the necessary changes that cities like Youngstown didn’t, and avoid the devastating population declines that have hurt Youngstown so badly.

A little late for Elkhart to avoid Youngstown's mistakes. Whatever Elkhart can do now to improve, Youngstown can do. Both cities have the same opportunity in front of them. What's Elkhart like? Does anyone reading this post who knows Youngstown have a firsthand impression of Elkhart?

That brings me to my rebranding suggestion, which should get me into some hot water. Imagine a reporter writing that Lordstown was near Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is breaking through the negative Rust Belt image. Deserved or not, the Steel City is now on the radar. Youngstown can piggyback on this publicity, if it so chooses.

1 comment:

  1. Your an idiot, I am sure this will be deleted, but there is no coming back for youngstown. Youngstown is a wasteland that belongs in a a sci-fi movie. Pittsburgh and youngstown have nothing in common. One has some of the best schools in the nation, and the other has a mediocre urban state university.