Is It Time For A New Name?

Factory near Gary, IN. Photo by Robert C. Trube. All rights reserved.

The other day I drove past this scene (actually as a passenger) in Gary, Indiana. Recently I’ve been reading a collection of narratives titled Voices from the Rust Belt. My journey through this region, and listening to these “voices” from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Detroit and other cities leads me to wonder if it is time to retire that name. Is it time for a new name?

The name arose with the decline of the steel and manufacturing industries that had been the lifeblood of these cities. Thousands lost jobs and the impact rippled through the communities. Those who could moved away to find jobs. Populations declined, factories rusted away until torn down. Rust belt seemed an apt term.

I wonder if it still is. It’s not that many of those places still suffer the effects of those plant closures. But I also know that cities have redefined themselves in a variety of ways. Some, like Pittsburgh, have become hi-tech centers. Others, because of low overhead costs, have been ideal locations for business startups. Some manufacturers have remained, leaner and more competitive.

I’ve thought about alternative terms but they all seem schmaltzy or simplistic. More than that, they don’t capture the stories of each of these cities as they are now. So my proposal? Let’s stop talking about the Rust Belt and begin talking about Youngstown, and Cleveland, and Detroit and all the others on their own terms. Rust Belt is about the past. It’s time to talk about what each of these cities are…or could be.

I’d love to know what you think, and if you have a good name for this region.

6 thoughts on “Is It Time For A New Name?

  1. I think that is a great idea. Forward thinking is best. If you dwell on the past, you tend to be someone who stays there. Remember to honor the past while looking to the future.

  2. I don’t know much about the other cities, but Pittsburgh has done a pretty good job of reinventing itself as a medical and technology center. This has been referred to as Pittsburgh’s renaissance:

    I have also had occasion to drive past and through Gary, Indiana. Doing the same there would be a challenge.

  3. I agree. It is time for a name change. That name was descriptive of the area after the closings but that term doesn’t fit anymore.

    By this time, each of those cities have redefined themselves, yet they are forever linked in their proximity to each other. Therefore, I think a name that would be very appropriate would be: The Great Lakes Corridor.

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