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Issue Date: September 2013

Image Conscious

Our self-worth has taken the blunt end of jokes for decades. But as Northeast Ohio finds strength in its roots, is it finally time to embrace our gritty Rust Belt moniker?

 Richey Piiparinen, writer and senior consultant at Strategic Urban Solutions and co-editor of Rust Belt Chic: A Cleveland Anthology 

YES // Many people hate the term Rust Belt. To them, the term connotes all that is wrong with the industrial heartland, if not evoking a sense of shame relating to all that the region has lost. But, as William Blake notes, "Shame is pride's cloak." Hence, all the empty, if not desperate, attempts at civic rebranding such as Positively Cleveland or "Believeland." Yet there is a new brand of belief that's permeating the Cleveland zeitgeist. It grows from a generation who makes no apologies for having been "born into ruin," and who believe rust is not a patina of decay, but of resilience. For those, the term Rust Belt is not a pejorative. It is a badge of honor. This generation of Clevelanders will soon be leading the way.

 Rick Platt, president and CEO of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority and Northeast Ohio native 

NO // I can agree that it makes sense for us to accept our multistate region's status as a blue-collar place that is sometimes gritty. I can also agree that our cities don't need to waste time or money trying to become cool and hip or imitate some place that isn't a proper fit for our geography. Don't use the R-word though. Rust Belt is a dirty word. A grassroots movement to rid the planet of the term Rust Belt is just fine by me. Industrial Midwest. America's Metal Heartland. Great Lakes Region. All these suit us better as ways to describe our geography and describe those of us who live here. We can have it both ways. We can keep all the things that make us great and change only the pejorative term. Now, pass the Stadium Mustard and kielbasa, please.

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