When Conway Inc. announced recently that the 2018 TrustBelt Conference would be held in Detroit, the news served as the perfect fifth anniversary capstone.
That’s because the concept of TrustBelt was birthed in March 2013 in a Site Selection article that focused on … Michigan.
I know this because I wrote the story. The headline stated: “The Trust Belt: How the Midwest overcame a shifting economic landscape to win prized headquarters projects.”
Front and center were Domino’s Pizza electing to expand its corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Alexander Mann Solutions choosing Cleveland for its North American headquarters. The announcements came at a time when most of the national news media were still writing the obituary for the “Rust Belt” – a region that Wikipedia defines as “made up mostly of places in the Midwest and Great Lakes, though the term may be used to include any location where industry declines starting around 1980. Rust refers to the deindustrialization, or economic decline, population loss, and urban decay due to the shrinking of its once-powerful industrial sector. The term gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1980s.”
What Wikipedia fails to mention is that the term “Rust Belt” never gained popularity in the region it defined. And no region defined it more than Southeastern Michigan/Northern Ohio.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Midwest’s funeral. The region developed a pulse. In fact, it did much more. It surged back to life by recording GDP growth that outpaced the rest of the country’s, and it was widespread. Cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh weren’t just rebounding; they were thriving.
How this transformation came about, and the conditions that were needed to sustain it, became foundational elements of the TrustBelt newsletter and conference. The first meeting occurred in Columbus in 2015, followed by events in Chicago in 2016 and Des Moines in 2017.
When the fourth TrustBelt Conference is held this fall in Detroit, thanks to host sponsorship by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., it will mark the culmination of years of hard work and commitment to an idea of Midwestern rebirth.
Tim McIntyre, an executive with Domino’s Pizza, perhaps said it best when he told me five years ago, “We’re a Michigan-born company and Michigan is where we’re going to stay.”
When TrustBelt convenes in Michigan for a few days this November, it will mark the completion of a circle that’s been five years in the making. A fitting homecoming for a worthy cause.