Black Monday*. Those words are awful even now. Forty years later Youngstown, Ohio, is still stuck in a bad dream of few jobs, reduced population, and negative press. I love you Youngstown! I always have. But we need to have a serious talk, and we need to have a new dream!
Do not read any further if you are happy with the status quo! But if watching our brightest and best leave town for jobs and never return fills you with dread, please read and share. I have convinced my children that our hearts are here, but if you want me to continue brainwashing my children into thinking “there is no place like home,” you are going to have to step up your game.
We have a diverse population of smart people. But those people are leaving. Between 2010 and 2015, our area lost 2.8% of its population. That may not seem horrible, but our biggest export is our people. Since the 70’s, our area has lost over 17% of our population. That is roughly the population of Lansing, Michigan, or Peoria, IL, or Clearwater, FL.
We all know why those people left. They waited for someone to save us, and then they lost hope in this area! I am tired of hearing how the politicians have passed us by. I am tired of people complaining that nobody ever starts businesses here. The problem is with us. We have bought the lie that we are not good enough. We fail to reach for the stars ourselves.
It is time to dream. I have enough dreams to make up for the people that lack them, but I can’t dream alone. I need the dreamers and innovators to team up with me! When I travel out of town I often hear from others that the Midwest is behind the times. We are stuck in our ways and won’t embrace the future. I understand that. Change is hard, but I don’t want to hear how we can’t do *fill in the blank*. I am not going to accept the status quo anymore.
I go to conferences out of town, I travel, and I have friends that live outside this area. Recently I attended a social media conference out of town, and I heard the following things, “Oh, you live in the Midwest; they are behind the times,” and “Good luck trying to get anyone to do anything different there.” I understood why they were saying those things, but I believe there is hope, so I returned home with fresh dreams. I met with a few people in the area, and I heard the same things I have always heard about business as usual. In fact, one person told me not to try anything different because Youngstown doesn’t want to change.
I refuse to listen to those people! I refuse to believe what outsiders are saying about us. I want to reach the stars, and I know way too many talented people to buy into the lie that I have been fed about this area. We can do better. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren to reach higher.
So if you are reading this, I refuse to break up with my town, but I can’t do this alone. Youngstown is my home! It is the place that my ancestors rest, my children hustle to make a living here, and my grandchildren play in these parks. My past, present and future are wrapped up in this area.
So, here’s the deal! I have some expectations. I expect you to start thinking outside the box. I expect you to tell your children that the change in this area begins with you. I want to hang onto the talent that is born and bred Ytown. We deserve better than this. We have outstanding citizens, wonderful parks, great pizza, cookie tables most people would faint over, the very best ice cream you can find in the USA, and the pierogies and kolachi are to die for! The pizza should be enough to make us innovators. We are creative and can outperform other areas.
But change starts with individuals. This is what I want you to do. If you are reading this, the next time someone you know and love comes up with an idea, say, “Let’s see how we can accomplish that.” It may be some far-fetched, crazy, insane thought, but let’s face it, most of the best and brightest ideas were crazy thoughts at one point!
Let’s see together what tomorrow will bring!
Patty @A Mother’s Random Thoughts
*BLACK MONDAY occurred on September 19, 1977. On this date, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced they would be closing a large portion of their operations. At that time, no advanced notice was required for mass layoffs. Five thousand workers were immediately out of work with more layoffs in the years following by other steel manufacturers. The Youngstown Metro area still has not recovered to this day.
Photo courtesy of: United States Office For Emergency Management, Palmer, Alfred T, photographer. Steel production. Iron in production. There’s plenty of activity at the blast furnace and stoves and on the cinder ladle train. Republic, Youngstown. Mahoning County Ohio Youngstown, 1941. Nov. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/oem2002002563/PP/. (Accessed September 19, 2017.)