Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rust Belt Chic: Youngstown Equipment Company

Janko sent me a link to the Youngstown Equipment Company based in California. My curiosity piqued, I did a little digging and found the following:

Max Hackett, director of sales, had this to say: “Yes, we were inspired by Youngstown, Ohio. We wanted a name that to us represents hard work, toughness, America and Midwestern values.

“I am one of the founders with a few other guys. None of us have ties to Youngstown. We kicked around a number of names and knew we wanted to be named after a city. We liked the name Youngstown, Ohio. Then we did a lot of research on your town and we were very impressed.

“We loved the building history and the steel which went on to build our railroads and sky-rise buildings. It truly came across as the backbone of America.”

Among boosters of the Postindustrial Heartland, there is a debate about the mega-regional brand. No one objects to the ethos of hard work or the image of America's backbone. But the glove maker is invoking the Youngstown of yesterday. Doesn't this reinforce the negative Rust Belt stereotype? Isn't the brand an anachronism?

There are two sides to the industrial legacy. One is the risk averse culture unable to move forward and embrace the latest economic paradigm. The other is a wonder like Mill Creek Park, a world class urban asset right in the heart of Youngstown. The beauty and traditions of the city inspire passion. They also sell work gloves.

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