Team Gears: Our Man in Cleveland

Dan BobkoffI’m Dan Bobkoff, and as the Cleveland reporter for Changing Gears, I’ll be holding down our fort on Lake Erie.

If you’re a regular listener to our partner station WCPN ideastream, you’ve already heard me for the past three years, doing reports on business and politics in northern Ohio. Many of those have run on NPR shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Here’s one I did recently for Weekend Edition on interesting new uses for excess infrastructure.

One thing I’ve learned since I moved here nearly four years ago is that Cleveland and Northern Ohio don’t have as clear a national image as Michigan and Chicago. That’s both good and bad. Many outside the Midwest have no real conception of what’s happening here and what it’s like to live here. For some, the image is stuck in a 40-year time warp conjuring up images of a Cuyahoga River on fire and late night comics picking on Cleveland as the “mistake on the lake.” Sure, foreclosures, population loss and the decline of manufacturing have taken their toll, but Northeast Ohio is also home to a world class orchestra, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a fantastic hospital, food scene, and a downtown that’s looking better every year.

All those things were a big surprise to me when I moved here from the East Coast. Besides a bit of an ingrained coastal superiority complex, I didn’t have many expectations about what living in Cleveland would be like. I’ve found it to be extremely interesting. There’s so much culture, a great diversity of people, and the prices aren’t astronomical. I just wish more poor, creative New Yorkers would emigrate and help stem some of the population loss.

I’m excited to explore what’s happening here from a more regional perspective. I’ll be traveling from Western Pennsylvania to Western Ohio to track this area’s transformation from its manufacturing past to what’s next. I want to know if green energy is really a growth industry here. I’ll ask if all that fresh water in the Great Lakes will bring people back to the Midwest when cities in the Sunbelt start drying up. I wonder if electricity is the future of the car business. And, I’ll be highlighting good ideas to make this a better place (and considering the unintended consequences of good intentions).

It’s going to be a wild ride and there’s no shortage of stories here.

Do you have ideas for me? Send them to ChangingGears (at) umich.edu with “Cleveland story ideas” in the subject line, and I’ll look into them.

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