Written by: Scott Allegrini
What the hell am I still doing in NW Ohio? I used to ask myself that question a lot, I’ve lived elsewhere, but I always end up back in the 419. It is not the water quality, as we learned last summer; it is not the low tax base, because well they’re not that low. Toledo’s quality of the night life? Meh, although it is getting better. It must be the world class newspaper, right? That’s laughable…”one of America’s great newpapers”, NOT. Maybe the local politicians who have the vision and the courage to go against the current? Nope! Ok, so really, what the hell am I still doing here?
My job, literally, allows me to go anywhere in the country, perhaps even the world, and yet here I am. Why? Well to be honest, the strongest reason is family. My wife’s and my parents live here, my brother in law and sister in law live here, with their four boys. So, it does make sense to stay near them, especially as our parents get older and will not be around forever. But, then again, there is technology! Skype, Face Time, etc. which would allow me to be in daily contact with my family. So still, that is not a good reason for me to still be here. So Why?
Let me explain by starting with a story. In the fall of 2014 my godson played his first year of football. It was pee wee league, and the kids where so cute even though they had no idea what they were doing. But, along the way as the season progressed, something happened. Suddenly, several of the kids got it. I will never forget this one boy, he was on defense and, he beat the offensive lineman and tackled the quarterback! This was the first time he had done this and as he got up, you could see that a light bulb had gone off. In a moment, he realized that tackling someone didn’t kill him or his opponent, and it was fun once the fear of the collision was gone.
NW Ohio, especially Toledo, seems to be afraid to succeed. Toledo has all the tools they need to succeed, but just seem to be unwilling to do what is necessary. Like the kid on the football field Toledo is afraid of the unknown, afraid of doing something different, afraid of challenging the status quo and so, in many ways, we are stuck in the 1950’s. What’s even more frustrating than all of the fear is the fact that everyone who is in a position to make changes is content to be stagnant.
So why do I stay? There is really only one reason, and that is the people of NW Ohio. In NW Ohio the community of people is like a big family, and as with any family, there is dysfunction and sibling rivalry. Neighbors may pick on each other, especially the eastsiders, BUT when push comes to shove, the people in this community have each other’s back.
Even though the people of Northwest Ohio and Toledo have a strong sense of community and family, that strength is not echoed through our institutions, where it seems that the old way, the 1950’s way, takes precedent to evolving and enhancing the sense of community.
The lack of change in our institutions is a shame because we are living at an amazing time in history! Never before have we had such access to information, the freedom to express our opinions, the ability to broadcast our voices. Frankly, the era of gatekeepers is quickly heading to the dustbin of history.
Think about it. The internet is amazing. We used to have to read volumes of encyclopedias (kids Google “encyclopedias”) to have access to a minute amount of information that we can get from 10 minutes of Google searches, plus the information today can be constantly updated and corrected, and you don’t have to wait until the next edition to be published.
YouTube is the Time Life books of our day. We used to have to get a book on basic wiring and then try to follow each diagram to complete a project. There used to be limited ways to receive information: newspaper, 6 o’clock news, and magazines. Now we have an almost unlimited access to news not just locally but around the world. Though we live in such exciting times, it is also scary because all the paradigms are changing.
This is part of what is holding NW Ohio back, our institutions are afraid of this change. Today being nimble, flexible and adaptable to changing technology is king. Our institutions are mired in the way things used to be, and that hurts our ability to develop vibrant and flexible businesses and career opportunities.
These communities of innovative and passionate people need to become like that ten year old boy learning to play football who finally “gets it.” Suddenly, there is a spark in the heart and mind that says “if I tackle nobody will be hurt, not me or the opponent.” Those who hold the ball are stuck in the rules of the 1950’s, but the game has changed, the rules have changed and our community of players have a lot more resources together as a team then the ones who hold the ball. We just have to be willing to challenge the guy holding the ball knowing that if we don’t, he will just keep repeating the same old play with the same old outcomes…a win for the institutions and a loss for the kid who cares passionately and plays for the heart of the team.
That is why I stay in NW Ohio because the potential is so great, while it is not easy, what we need to do is find and encourage new and young leaders whom are willing to take on the old institutions and help lead us to the end zone. The challenge is for each one of us to find our purpose and make a dent in the universe.