29 April 2008

Reactions to Senator McCain's Visit

Yoments comments on the visit:
It seems that with every election cycle, we’re aggressively courted by the hopefuls, and it’s worthwhile to listen to what they have to say. It’s also easy to get caught up in all of the excitement and momentum of a presidential election.

What to me is particularly interesting about McCain’s visit is that he is here because he (or his people) sees Youngstown as a disenfranchised pocket of poverty. Youngstown has been, without question, struggling economically for some time now; however, if the hopefuls didn’t see a stop in Youngstown as worthwhile, they would’ve moved on by. Yet, we’ve been visited multiple times this election cycle. In other words…we’ve got potential.

While it’s fun to be visited by the famous folks, it’s important to remember that there are local activists who live and work daily with their beliefs in Youngstown’s potential . This month’s issue of The Sun magazine features an interview with political/spiritual writer Andrew Harvey, who speaks of radical humility and sacred activism. He speaks against “top-down” organization: “it is often authoritative and patriarchal and driven by an agenda.”

Here's the real shocker: Steel Valley Outdoors gets... political?
[E]ven though I started this blog to help promote the area, I have not been too political here. Until Now…

Retraining will not work for Youngstown- Retraining is why our population is shrinking. If you have a skill or know a trade, you will leave Youngstown and go where you are needed. We have less engineers here than either the state or national averages, even though YSU still has a major, well known engineering school pumping out the graduates. We have less College graduates than the national and state averages. We have a larger percentage of retirees. All these are symptoms. We do not have the business or industry to support college graduates. Until we do, things will not improve. Asking our young to get an education, then waving as they leave will not help us.

Promote The Right Benefits- As long as I can remember, this region has been promoted as “Halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh and halfway between New York and Chicago.” Great. We’re also halfway between China and China. In the global economy, and with the collapse of manufacturing, these benefits no longer matter. There’s a lot of disparagement locally about the “Service Economy” because around here “service” means restaurants. That’s not what the service economy is. It’s Banks and Insurance and Computers and the industries that support these businesses. And these businesses and these entrepreneurs don’t care where they’re located, so long as they have an educated workforce and can keep them happy. They want Arts, Culture and Leisure Activities, which we have in spades, one of our last remaining legacies of the power the mills had.

Entrepreneurship begins at home- Nobody is coming to rescue us. Not the state, not the feds, not GM or Toyota or China. We are not going to get Barge missiles, Pentagon Payroll facilities or blimp factories. The economy of the future cannot be one or two large facilities and the businesses that support them. It will be many small businesses that create a network of jobs. Offices, factories, storefronts and homes that can be enticed to do business here. And we have to do it ourselves. And to do this, we have to stop thinking of Business as “Them” and workers as “Us.” After all we’ve been through, we still have this top-to-bottom Mill mentality. That we only do what we’re told, when we’re told and it’s somebody else’s responsibility to make the decisions. This has to change. We have to help and promote those small businesses that want to support our area and do business here, whether it’s a small manufacturer, a laborer with a buyout following his dreams, or a new business idea in the incubator. This means supporting them with tax incentives and grants, good press and a positive attitude.

Regionalism begins at home- Any Organization that has “NEO” in its name is designed to do one thing: Bring state and federal pork to Cleveland and Akron. Youngstown will always be the ugly stepchild of these two bigger, more powerful siblings. Really, for all the good press Cleveland Plus is getting, does anyone think it’ll benefit us? In order to compete for these resources, we’ll have to start doing it ourselves. And that means looking for funding in ways and areas we’ve never done before. Tim Ryan understands this. Jay Williams understands this.

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