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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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"Many old cities are still controlled by an older generation with more nostalgia than drive. Smaller towns in particular seem paralyzed by an older leadership that flatly opposes change; for these places, there may be no future."

I was particularly struck by this comment, perhaps because I see it virtually everywhere throughout the region, save in a few exceptional places like Columbus, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. The older generations of Midwesterners living in old Rust Belt towns feel that they have lost so much, having lived through the peak and crash of the Industrial Era. But rather than to risk losing more for possible gain, they fearfully cling to the remnants of the past and eschew just about anything--or anyone--that may lead to even more losses, no matter the tradeoff. On some level I don't entirely blame them, but clinging to and even glorifying the past while ignoring the realities of the present and future is indeed a recipe for even greater loss and irrelevancy as the rest of the world changes and moves on with the times. If no one after the current generation in power challenges the status quo, much of the region will indeed collapse into a truly desolate, forgotten and ruined state.

Here's hoping that more young leaders like Walling and Williams stick around or come back home, and step up to the plate. The future of the Midwest will pivot on the injection and prevalence of fresh new ideas, forward thinkers and actors, and visions for what could yet be, rather than incessant pining and flogging for what once was but is no more.

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