Young Entrepreneurs And Leaders Innovating The Rust Belt

Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) –

Typically, when you see a story in the mainstream media about innovators, entrepreneurs, and thinkers, it’s about someone on the east or west coast, and within that in a few cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. But the April 2012 issue of Details magazine (of all places) has an outstanding story about innovation in the Rust Belt of America – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and the like. Former industrial cities that “made stuff” now have a new generation of mavericks making different kinds of stuff, as it happens.

Article co-author Jesse Ashlock recently appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. To lead in, he writes,

Maybe it hit you this past Super Bowl when you saw Clint Eastwood’s rousing, Chrysler-sponsored paean to the resilience of Detroit: Motown’s rebirth has become a metaphor for red, white, and blue fortitude in the face of adversity. But the Motor City is just he buckle on the Rust Belt, an entire region whose name speaks of decline and decay but which is now determinedly — and definitively — finding its way forward. In fact, while the rest of America has staggered under the weight of the Great Recession, the innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers, and doers in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Youngstown have raced out ahead, leading a heartland renaissance whose effects are being felt from coast to coast.

As co-host Mika Brzezinski said, “Now I’m inspired!”

There are stories about new methods of manufacturing enabling new fashion lines to be made entirely in the midwest, a former male model who bought a factory in Ohio and turned it into an entrepreneur’s coworking space, new local microbrews from Cleveland, and Pittsburgh’s Sam Franklin, the executive director of the Office of Teacher Effectiveness (backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).

Really, you should buy the April 2012 Details issue to get the full story and the great pictures, or check out this sneak peak online.

In his Morning Joe interview, Ashlock mentioned the old saying, “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” Let’s hope that the spirit of innovation and creativity in the Rust Belt is infectious in Clint Eastwood’s “second half of America.”

Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC.

Image of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood from Details.

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