Tuesday, July 06, 2010

BBC Celebrates Rust Belt Chic

Last week, BBC America looked at three cities undergoing a "Rust Belt Revival". David Brancaccio started out in Kokomo, Indiana. Next in line was Rockford, Illinois. Finally, on Friday, the special series hit Youngstown, Ohio. I think the Youngstown story is quite different than renaissances of Kokomo and Rockford. Those latter two cities are still well connected to their manufacturing past. Youngstown is completely reinventing itself.

The title of the piece about Youngstown is "Rust Belt Chique in Youngstown, Ohio". I suppose I should add those of the other two. Kokomo's is "Revival in Indiana's Rust Belt Towns". For Rockford, "Hopeful Rust Belt Town in Illinois". Youngstown is selling something unique and the BBC eats it up.

In the Youngstown segment, I've identified three branding themes:

  1. Urban Frontier
  2. Geographic Arbitrage
  3. Rust Belt Chic

Mayor Jay Williams handles the urban frontier meme. He talks about his generation being disconnected with the past, viewing the city as a blank canvass. Thus, Youngstown can embrace a new idea such as a B2B software cluster.

A software company growing at the Youngstown Business Incubator can employ geographic arbitrage, talent and space coming at a much cheaper price than in San Francisco. Thus, Revere Data can cost effectively move operations from Mumbai, India to an onshore site in Northern Appalachia.

Lastly, twentysomethings can indulge in Rust Belt Chic. John Slanina describes the still thriving ethnic traditions such as the Baby Doll Dance. In sum, Youngstown is innovative, inexpensive, and hip. All three are products of the Rust Belt economy, not in spite of it.

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