[Ben] Vehorn had lived in Northern Virginia. He'd spent the '90s in Seattle. He and a friend considered moving to Pittsburgh. But Akron was cheaper than the Pacific Northwest and NoVa, and cooler than the Burgh. So Vehorn became an Akronite and small-business owner. He's a partner in Tangerine Sound Studios with Pat Carney, the drummer in the Black Keys, Akron's respected ambassadors to the international rock 'n' roll community.
Vehorn, who grew up all over the world as a military kid, was living in Delaware when he met the Keys at a show. The duo invited him to Akron, where singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach gave him a tour, showing him old industrial buildings and big lawns. Akron looked like his kind of place. Once he moved there, he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the "Studio for Rent" sign on the former Neon Cactus complex, a big white-brick block in North Hill.
"It seems like an undervalued city," says the soft-spoken and focused Vehorn. With pointy tattoos on his forearms, long brown hair and plastic glasses, he looks like a smaller version of American Chopper's Mikey - but more likable and 10 times as smart. "The inherent value of the architecture, all these cool old houses that sell for nothing ... It's nice to not have all the traffic problems and people and pent-up urban angst. People seem more relaxed here. And it's beautiful - the parks and the weather."
While I don't have the trend-spotting cred of Richard Florida, I think something significant is going on in the Rust Belt. Place rankings look at yesterday's landscape, but say little about where people are now heading. I can see a day in the not too distant future when too much in-migration ruins Rust Belt Chic.