Guest Commentary: Zoom Town Boom Town

How to rebuild America’s heartland via the remote revolution

By Joe Metzger
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On a particularly cold and quiet Sunday morning during the COVID-19 lock=down, I saw something I will never forget. Driving on Wick Avenue in Youngstown, I passed a determined man standing in the rain. He was holding blueprints, pointing and discussing a nearby reconstruction project on a half-renovated building. But as I stopped to admire his grit, I saw more than a man working through an icy downpour…I saw my hometown on its way to newfound glory.

Many of America’s heartland cities who once lost their “best and brightest” to greener pastures, now have a chance to reclaim lost prosperity. It is time for courageous vision, positive thinking, economic renaissance. It is time to imagine the birth of the Zoom Town Boom Town.

Remote working is here to stay. According to projections, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and will continue to increase through 2023. “This is impossible to over hype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” said Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella, who says it’s the largest societal change in America since the end of World War II,.

Yes, your VR doppelganger is currently logging into the metaverse.

From the promise of Plymouth Rock to the Great Migration of the 20th century, Americans have always sought a better life for themselves and their families – it’s in our Pilgrim DNA. Our relocation tendencies are as American as coming home for the holidays. And people always want a better deal.

The table is set for a Middle-America comeback.

Just the facts: Most large cities are experiencing record-high housing costs, property taxes, terrible traffic, and horrific crime rates that are pushing people to recalculate where to live.

Smaller cities like Youngstown provide an affordable alternative to those feeling the squeeze of big-city insanity. Let’s crunch some numbers. A $300,000 home in Northeast Ohio can be valued at well over $1 million with identical specs elsewhere. In Youngstown, housing costs are nearly 80% less and property taxes are close to 75% less, according to BestPlaces.net. Pay less, get more.

America is poised for a major reset and economic equalization of epic proportions. My hometown is suddenly in the sweet spot.

Hometowns are sacred grounds that provide a place to reconcile the work of previous generations with the work yet to be done. This prevents small-town-living from becoming a relic of the past – and also provides an opportunity to share the shining city on the hill with future generations. And we do not have to rely on blind faith to walk the path to prosperity, because the new workplace environment shows us the way. Remote work for companies improves their bottom line AND allows us to live in places where we will be happier. This is the win-win.

“If you build it, he will come…” is the famous prophecy in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”
– Field of Dreams, 1989

This is the essence of the Zoom Town Boom Town. We are creating a space for generational reconciliation, a deeper connection to what matters, a higher standard of living, a new reality for communities like Youngstown and others across America.

Enter 1978 Wakefield Ave. in Youngstown’s Brownlee Woods neighborhood. This is the field I have been charged to plow. My cold Sunday-morning moment, and the visionary builder holding the blueprints, Dominic Marchionda, inspired me to resurrect an historic home near where I live.

Here is an excerpt from its recent listing:

1978 Wakefield Ave., Youngstown, Ohio.

Come home to Brownlee Woods and be part of something special! Nestled away in one of Northeast Ohio’s most charming neighborhoods lies the million-dollar home you’ve always dreamed of but for a fraction of the cost! Walk to numerous bars, restaurants, an acting studio, holiday events, (including 4th of July Parades and Trunk or Treats.) Additionally, world-class healthcare, major universities, and golf. Chestnut trees line the boulevard as numerous amenities are a short walk away. Welcome home to America’s heartland!

The lifeblood of America flows through the heartland, and the common goal of a better life for us and our children will drive our rebuilding for generations to come.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

— T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

The author, Joe Metzger, grew up in Youngstown. He earned a B.A. in American Studies at Yale University with an emphasis in politics and American communities. He joined the U.S. Navy as a construction engineer (Seabee), became a SEAL and Army Ranger qualified. He has extensive experience in contracting and construction management. He has served as the president and vice president of the Brownlee Woods Neighborhood Association and is a current member of Youngstown’s 7th Ward Citizen Coalition. He can be reached at [email protected]com

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.