Sunday, May 15, 2011

From Bismarck To Cleveland

Rust Belt cities have a treasure trove of little-known assets. As for the problems, they are globally infamous and inmigration from outside of the Industrial Heartland is comparatively rare. So, I'm surprised when someone residing well beyond the pale understands the value proposition of a place such as Cleveland:

The Rev. Jim Moos, pastor at Bismarck's United Church of Christ in Highland Acres, will preach his final sermon at the UCC this Sunday before leaving to assume a post with the national United Church of Christ in Cleveland.

Across town, the Rev. Maury Millican is preparing for his final Sunday May 29 at Bismarck Community Church on East Michigan Avenue before leaving for Fort Hood, Texas, to become a trainer of military chaplains.

Moos has been at his Bismarck congregation for 15 years; Millican for 14.

Moos, a native of Streeter, will head to Cleveland, with a metro area of about 2 million. The Rust Belt city is undergoing economic transformation and challenges, Moos said, but has some world-class arts groups, the famed Cleveland Clinic, and schools such as Case Western.

Moos will become the next executive minister of Wider Church Ministries of the UCC, which includes overseas missions, health advocacy, hunger, relief and development efforts and child sponsorship.

The Bismarck UCC supports relief and development work in East Timor in Asia and Moos has made several trips there since 2002 to visit projects.

The national UCC headquarters is right in Cleveland's downtown, Moos said, and that's where he and his wife, Sharon, hope to live.

I assume the ironic relocation stems from the address of the UCC headquarters. You go where you know. I'll make a leap and introduce an upside for investing in an urban convention center, a renewal project that I understand as a boondoggle.

The UCC does "relief and development work" all around the world. That connects all those places to Cleveland via the headquarters. If the relationship is strong enough, then a detailed sense of place can travel along the UCC network lines. Furthermore, I'd guess that a trip to Cleveland for various UCC VIPs is likely to occur at least once or twice.

I had a similar experience back in 2004, when the Association of American Geographers held its annual meeting in Philadelphia. That is, the conference was located downtown. To this day, I have a positive association with that region thanks to the overwhelmingly positive visit. I would be open to living there if such an opportunity would arise.

I'm still skeptical that conference business is a financial windfall for any city given the costs of building a new facility. However, showing off your downtown to someone who would otherwise never go there is priceless as far as migration is concerned. What about subsidizing a free and frequent shuttle service between the convention center and the commercial centers of some of your better established inner city neighborhoods?

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