Wednesday, January 30, 2008

we need to represent this weekend

Urban Leaders Gather to Discuss Future of Great Lakes Cities,
Shape Agenda for Multi-State, Multi Issue Community Revitalization Effort;
Brookings Institution, Oishei Foundation, University at Buffalo Regional Institute Agree:
The Time is Now for Post-Industrial American Cities

Contact: Abby Wilson, Co-Founder, Great Lakes Urban Exchange
412 551 4609,

From January 31st to February 2nd, over 40 urban devotees from ten US States will gather in Buffalo, NY to craft a new narrative for industrial cities of the Great Lakes region, the so-called “Rustbelt.” The Buffalo gathering is the kickoff of a multi year initiative that will use new media to build networks for change. The Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE) will engage young urbanists in an effort to bolster regional identity, envision livable urban futures, and tell stories about the people who are creating them.

GLUE was developed by Pittsburgh and Detroit boomerangs Abby Wilson and Sarah Szurpicki to combat negative perceptions about the cities they call home. Its mission quickly evolved from new media boosterism to issue-based network building and resource pooling, and from a brain trust of two to a core planning team of forty young, devoted, and solutions-oriented leaders from twenty-one GLUE cities: Akron, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Des Moines, Detroit, Duluth, Erie, Flint, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lansing, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Rochester, St. Louis, Toledo, and Youngstown.

GLUE’s ten state network of younger leaders will share best practices, create a resource hub, and use new media to tell 21st century stories about cities that remain hampered by monolithic and anachronistic associations with heavy industry., the project’s online hub, is in development at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (

GLUE, sponsored by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program through its Great Lakes Economic Initiative (GLEI), will use creative research and documentary journalism to build upon the analytic foundation laid by Brookings’ “Restoring Prosperity” and “The Vital Center,” seminal reports about the immediate needs and shared challenges of cities at the core of GLUE’s mission. John Austin, Non-Resident Senior Fellow to the Brookings Institution and director of GLEI, has coordinated support to the initiative. For more information, visit

“The Great Lakes region has been and remains a significant center of economic activity, but is making a spotty and imperfect transition from the industrial era,” said Austin. “Young talent, attracted to urban centers with a high quality of life, is essential to this transition.”

“I got tired of telling my mega-city dwelling friends that there’s more to Pittsburgh than beer cozies and empty Steel Mills, but that doesn’t mean we’re living in utopia, either,” Co-Founder Abby Wilson said. “Cities like Pittsburgh have made remarkable progress, hold extraordinary potential, and have a very long way to go.”

“I moved back a year ago to contribute to the future of my first love, Detroit, and have had the good fortune of getting to know several other cities that are in the same boat,” Co-Founder Sarah Szurpicki said. “I’ve had the thrilling realization since that my hometown and its cohorts all boast communities of people devoted to sustainable, equitable, and thriving futures for all. Those communities will, I hope, continue to find peers among the GLUE network.”

Scheduled activities for the Jan 31 – Feb 2 gathering include some of the following: peer to peer interviews that will be downloadable for podcast at, a bus tour of Buffalo’s beloved, but overlooked, gems, a presentation of research from the Brookings Institution’s Great Lakes Economic and Restoring Prosperity Initiatives, a new media tools primer, a Great Lakes cities trivia contest, a tour of Hallwalls gallery, and remarks from both the Regional Institute at Buffalo and the Oishei Foundation.

“The foundation believes it is critical to engage young leaders in envisioning and planning for the future of our region,” said Robert D. Gioia, President of The John R. Oishei Foundation, a critical partner in this effort. “This effort not only links emerging leaders in our own region, but connects them to a body of experience and knowledge in other Great Lakes cities dealing with similar challenges.”

“The institute is pleased to partner on an initiative that draws perspectives and ideas from Buffalo Niagara’s young leaders together with their counterparts from nine other Great Lakes states,” said Kathryn A. Foster, director of the University at Buffalo Regional Institute, which will assist in administering the convention. “GLUE will help foster a valuable knowledge exchange and generate strategies for the Great Lakes region’s future.”

“I am proud to support the engagement of young leaders in the future of upstate New York’s urban communities, and thrilled to have diverse regional representation here in Buffalo for such an important and timely conversation,” said New York State First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer. “GLUE is a natural complement to the work we’ve done here in Western New York with the I Live New York campaign.”

“I'm thrilled to support this initiative on behalf of both my adopted hometown and the Great Lakes community at large. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership welcomes the opportunity to engage with young leaders to learn and share best practices. Specifically, we’re excited to explore ideas related to our efforts to cultivate young talent through our Young Professionals program. Investing in our assets and showcasing ourselves as great places to live and work are essential to our collective success,” said Ann Mestrovich, Business Development Specialist at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, one of GLUE’s organizational supporters in the region.

For a complete schedule of activities, or to attend open sessions at the GLUE conference, email

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