Young professionals, the creative class, punks who think they own the city … whatever you call them or want to be called, these twenty- and thirty- and sometimes as late as freshly fiftysomethings have been recognized as a key demographic for keeping Greater Cincinnati competitive in a global marketplace.
When the young, freshly-out-of-college find this city appealing enough, we all benefit from having smart folks with disposable income help make our local economy grow. For different reasons, the same holds true for the blue-collar folks who grow up here and stay or anyone who relocates to the Tristate.
I spent part of a recent Saturday with about 10 other young professionals, locked in a new, for-sale Over-the-Rhine condo that didn’t have any heat talking about how we can make Cincinnati a better place for people like us. It was organized by CincyPAC — a political action committee of about 1,100 young professionals who specifically target Cincinnati City Council races to lobby for a better city for those in their age bracket — as a retreat where we might invigorate ourselves for this fall’s council elections.
Each group member was asked to select a city they’ve lived in, been to or heard about that might teach Cincinnati a few things. There were mentions of the typical places: San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. But others brought lessons from Louisville, San Diego and Minneapolis. I talked about what I liked about Sacramento, a place I spent two years living in earlier this decade.
It’s not that any of those places — even the great cities everyone seems to want to call home — are better than Cincinnati.
The real lesson is we can all learn from each other.
San Diego, for example, has their football stadium out in the suburbs, which kills the downtown area when games are played there. Despite the fight over where to locate the two stadiums that now adorn our riverfront and the possibilities missed because of Great American Ball Park’s not being built in Over-the- Rhine, we at least have them downtown, a boon for downtown businesses (the ones still open anyway).
For my part, I think we do a lousy job of connecting people to our city. If you aren’t from here — and I am — the No. 1 thing I hear people talk about is our citywide clique.
We have our circle of friends, and we’ll be damned to let one or more new people join the fray. Having friends — especially ones who know the city so well — is important to the quality of life people want to build if we expect them to stay longer than a year or two.
Our history is amazing, and it’s everywhere. Whether it’s the Cincinnati Reds, the railroads, the Underground Railroad, the architecture, the companies or the hidden gems of our neighborhoods and communities, Greater Cincinnati has a rich, full history that’s made me proud to be from here.
Just sharing a little bit about our place in the history of this country and the world — the home of Reform Judaism, Procter & Gamble Co., Union Terminal, Cincinnati Art Museum —swells us all with pride. Finding a way to share this pride with locals and non-locals alike, through tours and the media, is an idea worth exploring.
There was also plenty of talk about the streetcar plan and how that can help make our downtown and Over-the-Rhine more walkable, expanding how far people go without their cars.
If a person is standing on what one day will be The Banks, the area around the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and wants to go to get fresh veggies at Findlay Market, the most practical way now is to drive. Walking would take 45 minutes or more. A streetcar would easily connect the two venues and everything in between.
If past experiences in other cities are any gauge, economic development will blossom in downtown and Over-the-Rhine where the streetcar touches or goes near. And young people will flock there.
The growing opposition to the city’s streetcar plan — and now the initiative to put it on the ballot this fall — has grown out of criticism of the project being a “waste of tax dollars.” Opponents seem to miss the point altogether.
There’s so much Cincinnati has to offer, and the young people living and working here are a big part of shaping our future. Ideas from this group will keep us viable and even stronger well into the future.
CONTACT JOE WESSELS: firstname.lastname@example.org