Friday, August 14, 2009

Rust Belt Decline Affects Economy in Different Ways

One of my newest volunteer jobs is mentoring 19 chapters of the American Marketing Association located in the Southeast, the Atlantic region and the Midwest. Yesterday (August 13), the Wall Street Journal detailed the decline of Rust Belt cities ('Fastest Dying Cities' Meet For Lively Talk, outlined in its coverage of a meeting held recently in Dayton, Ohio attended by representatives from ten cities in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. While there was some venting going on, attendees bemoaned the fact that many of their residents ignore that there is actual good news not being reported in their economically-challenged towns. Four of the ten towns represented at the meeting have AMA chapters that I advise.

It got me thinking about the toll self-loathing takes when residents become discouraged and despair over the loss of jobs and population in their town. I see this in talking to the AMA chapter Presidents who become frustrated when they have board members who complain about how things are without offering solutions to the economic problems which result in marketers being laid off, which affects the membership rolls of these chapters as these volunteers can't afford to renew their membership dues. Marketers are among the best (or worst) at generating buzz. This can work to your advantage when things are going great. But when things are bad, as they have been in our society the past year, it can make a bad situation worse.

The meetings business, which helps pay my bills faces the same situation. No one wants to travel to a destination that is in decline. A bad economy in their mind also translates into a desperate citizenry which can fuel concerns about safety and other matters.

It seems to me that while problems that each of our cities face (plodding decision-making by leaders, bad local economic policies, etc.) can't and shouldn't be ignored, residents should think about victories that have occurred recently in their city (a new business relocating there, a national award won by the chamber of commerce). More importantly, if they don't like something that is happening in their city or neighborhood, they should get involved in the process to make things better. It's easy to get negative and see the things that should be changed before we look at the positive. I think it's importance to achieve a balance and raise our hands to lend a hand to further progress.

No comments: