Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
This week Changing Gears is taking a closer look at the Midwest Migration, and we’re talking with people who have left the region. Reporter Peter O’Dowd met with some of those former Midwesterners living in Austin, Texas, and brings us this report:
The Brookings Institution reports that 20-somethings fled Detroit and Chicago at the end of the last decade for places like Seattle and Portland. Cities they thought were cool. “Cool” has become a selling point for young professionals. And perhaps no city has it figured out better than Austin, Texas. Over the next few days Changing Gears will profile people who have left the Midwest, and that’s where we go next – to the home of music festivals known around the world.
John Livingston and his friends say Austin has a soul, and on a gorgeous Friday night in March you can see why.
Livingston is a lot like any other 24-year old. He and his friends still like to party, and on this night, they’re doing it on the north side of town.
Not long ago, Livingston and four others moved to Austin from Bloomington, Indiana.
It was January 2010. College was coming to an end. The friends were drinking at their favorite hang-out, and wondering what to do next in life. It was pretty clear that Bloomington – a city of 80,000 and home to Indiana University – didn’t have what they wanted.
“We just started thinking of places to go – something different, something new. By the end of the night we were all just chanting Austin. We wanted to go to Austin. We were all about Austin,” says Livingston.
But when we saw the headline above, from this weekend’s Austin American-Statesman, it just seemed like this strange, long-distance flirting between cities could be the real deal. Detroit and Austin actually have a lot in common – both have great music, both have hipsters and both are pretty weird.
So how about it Austin? Do you want to go steady with Detroit?
Hipsters. What with their mustaches, skinny jeans and bicycles, how are they not just the most adorable creatures in the world? But if there’s one thing they love even more than that navy-blue American Apparel hoodie with the white piping, it’s irony. And where do they most love casting their ironic gaze? On themselves, of course.
Sometimes it feels like there is no place more hipster-plentiful than Austin, Texas …But are other cities unscathed by the beast? Smaller, up-and-coming cities that are like how Austin was before ‘we’ showed up?
She then lists three cities that are not in the Midwest, and gently pokes fun at the hipsters there. I’ll be honest, I barely skimmed this part. But then, Modery gets to her final city on the brink of “hipsterfication,” Detroit:
When you think of Austin, Texas, the first things that come to mind are probably food, music, and the South by Southwest festival. Perhaps you know it for its high technology focus. But now, Austin wants you to think of it as an automotive capital.
Isn’t Austin too deep in the heart of Texas? How can it compete with the Great Lakes, let alone other places in the South like Lexington, Ky, Nashville, Tenn., Jackson and Tupelo, Miss., that have already crafted their identities?
Austin’s tactic is to hone in on companies that are developing advanced technology, explains Adrianna Cruz, vice president of global corporate recruitment for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
It’s using the Formula One race in November, which will be held in Austin, to draw attention to its bid to be included in the nation’s automotive centers. It’s the first F1 race in the U.S. since 2007, when the circuit came to Indianapolis.