Final thoughts, parting glancesWritten by Karl Rundgren | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s just about time to go.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been cramming my life into boxes, and my wife and I are getting ready to play Tetris with the moving truck. My desk at FOX Toledo has gone from a cluttered nightmare to a smooth, empty space set to welcome my successor. I’ve said a lot of good-byes and received a lot of well-wishes.
Still, as I’ve learned in past moves, it’s impossible to simply walk away from a community that’s been a part of your life for years. I’ve made some good friends here, so I know I’ll be able to get updates on what’s happening in Northwest Ohio. The Internet also makes it easy to keep up, and as the Sports Arena, the Marina District and other projects get closer to completion, I’ll be able to watch from 1,600 miles away.
I won’t be the only one. There are lots of people who once called Toledo home and still follow her progress. Many might consider returning at some point. The problem for many is that the city’s loudest stories are those of problems and blunders: the Marines being sent packing, the North Toledo riots and growing economic challenges.
So here are the things I hope to see — and the things I believe could help this area cement its place in a global economy.
I’ve been here five years, and I’m still dumbfounded by the level of infighting and backstabbing that goes on in this region. Toledo city leaders sneer at the suburbs and vice versa, and economic development feels more targeted at luring businesses away from each other. Instead of circling the wagons against an outside danger, each is obsessed with protecting his/her own buckboard, willing to endanger the others in the process.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good politicians out there trying to sort things out, but they’re facing an uphill battle. For this area to survive and ultimately thrive, communities need to bury their petty squabbles and grudges and find common ground — quickly. If you think your elected officials are more interested in starting fights and grabbing headlines than working towards progress, vote them out. Period. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a good start.
Embrace the future
Since my first day in Toledo, I’ve heard people talk wistfully about the “good old days.” While the actual years differ from person to person, they usually describe a time when the economy was solid and people had steady jobs and comfortable lives. I’m well acquainted with the lure of nostalgia, but I also see the trap. Living in the past can blind you to the present and make it impossible to plan for the future.
Case in point: United Way. The nonprofit has constructed a well-thought plan that will keep them in Downtown Toledo for decades while continuing to help countless local families in need. The plan for a new efficient headquarters even adds green space to the area — something many real estate agents say is desperately needed in the central city. The price for that progress is the demolition of a single building that, while fewer than four decades old, has deteriorated beyond its years. The reaction to the organization’s commitment to remain Downtown? Some city and county officials (among others) have taken aim at the plan in the name of preservation. It’s a classic case of sacrificing the future for the sake of the past.
If such thinking prevailed, Fifth Third Field wouldn’t exist, nor would the businesses that have popped up around it (many of which have restored spaces much older than the United Way building). I hope the new sports arena continues the trend; rising from the rubble of that which came before it. It just might breathe life into several more existing Downtown structures (a.k.a. “preservation”).
Diversify and go green
Keeping all the eggs in one basket has historically been a bad thing … financially, politically, socially and technologically.While this town has built a proud automotive heritage that continues to this day, no one can argue that the winds of change are blowing.
So build a turbine … or a solar panel. American manufacturing is struggling, and it’s a testament to the skill of Toledo’s work force that our plants are still up and running. But no one can safely predict how long that will last, so the region must be nimble.
It’s already happening; it just has to happen bigger, better, faster and more. First Solar and Xunlight are expanding their Northwest Ohio operations, looking to add more production lines (read “jobs”). No one knows the future of energy production, but alternative energy is bound to play a powerful role. Northwest Ohio already has taken great strides to become a leader in the field and in the Midwest. It’s an unexpected shift for an industrial town and one that’s turning heads. Leverage that surprise factor and take the country by storm. Other regions would love to take the lead on this, and Toledo may have to work harder than some to earn it, but the dividend will far exceed the investment.
Time to go
My thoughts alone won’t turn things around, and these changes won’t happen overnight. But I truly believe that Toledo can emerge from its days as a shrinking Midwestern city into an era of exciting new technology, growth, and business — a true renaissance.
I have always said that Toledo is a town with remarkable potential. It’s up to you to make sure it’s realized.
Well, the truck is gassed up and ready for the road; my wife and son are ready to go, and the utility crews are about to cut the power to my computer. I’ll leave you with words wiser than my own:
“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.”
— John M. Richardson Jr.
Only you can decide which of the three you’ll be. Take care. We’ll be watching … and hoping.
Oh, and one last thing. In November, make sure to vote for……
Karl Rundgren used to be managing editor and co-anchor of FOX Toledo News. Now he’s growing a beard and driving a moving truck to Texas, where his family waits to welcome him home.