Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"We Gotta Make Ohio Cool"

Then-candidate John Kasich touring underground labs for Bionetics at the Aerospace Center in Licking County, a place in Ohio that's been around for 50 years but is still pretty "cool"
Governor John Kasich is quoted at an April 2011 press availability as saying, "We gotta make Ohio cool." [Note:  See the YouTube video clip embedded below for the more fuller context of his statement.]

Almost immediately, his one sentence was translated as a call for a revival of some bygone thinking.

I think some folks misread his comment as saying we need to imitate the coasts with high-cost amenities and hip, urban centers as the key to a better future for Ohio.  One blogger's take on the statement was to renew an old Smart Growth call for greater investment in public transportation and high-speed rail in the cities.  That take got re-transmitted across multiple social media channels too.

I don't read it the same way as they do. 

I think the Governor meant we have to properly portray Ohio and the Midwest as places that are already poised to be cool.  Ohio has future-looking capabilities and talented people to run them.  

People just don't know it.  We, in our state, need to be telling Ohio's "cool" story more often and better.

Ask the Dakotas.  Does anyone think "cool" when they think of North Dakota and South Dakota?  Probably not.  However, the Dakotas have the nation's lowest unemployment rates and can cite example after example of companies that have chosen their location in the middle of the Midwest for high-tech operations.  That's pretty cool by my book.

Ohio is cool for a host of practical reasons--a chance to have a low cost of living, in a single family home, and working near where you live.  Pretty cool.

The whole Midwest is attractive to young professionals raising families for these same reasons.  Plus, the increasing ability to telecommute and do business all over the World makes the Midwest an, even, cooler place to do business.  Ohio can reverse the brain drain with jobs here.

Joel Kotkin consistently says as much in his writings.  In fact, he wrote an "Uncool Cities" piece in 2005 that ran in ProspectMagazine.com talking about the failings of focusing on coolness of urban areas as the solution that ails an economy.  He wrote, "This ephemeralisation of urbanism derives, in part, from the theories of Richard Florida, an American academic whose theories about the 'creative class' have captivated many city leaders." 

In case I'm wrong about what the Governor intended to say, I've got a hedge.  I'm going to send him a copy of Kotkin's latest book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

Kotkin's book devotes a whole chapter in the seven chapter book to the Midwest's coolness titled  "The Resurgent Heartland."  Kotkin predicts, "The Heartland will reconnect America with its own historical strengths, as a great, largely open, continental nation, a place of aspiration that can accommodate future growth."

Yep, Ohio can be cool.  It already is.

Here's the video from YouTube:

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