Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Home" or something like it

...Which brings us to Ohio: I have not lived in Ohio since 2006. I do not plan to live in Ohio any time in the near or distant future, nor do I particularly want to raise my child there. But Ohio is still important to me because I am from there, and I very much want for Ohio to thrive. I think that’s where a lot of my initial excitement about LeBron’s return comes from: the idea that Ohio will thrive. That there will be tens of thousands of people in Downtown Cleveland for 40-plus Cavaliers home games every season for the foreseeable future. Sure, most of those people will immediately flee the city back to the suburbs, but maybe a few people will decide they like it in Cleveland Proper and will move inside the city limits and make Cleveland great again. 
I want Ohio to thrive, but I do not want to live there. More accurately, maybe I’m not willing to give up the life I enjoy in the District of Columbia to ensure that Ohio does thrive. This feels somewhat hypocritical and more than a little cowardly at times, but it is the bare and honest truth.* I like where and how I live and do not see any opportunities to live similarly in Ohio. So it is rather heartening and exciting to see Ohio immediately improved by the presence of one LeBron James. It’s nice that he decided to fill in for me in my absence. 
*The underlying assumption here—namely that my mere presence would improve Ohio’s prospects—may not be structurally sound.
Part of the journey of the modern working chemist seems to be a path away from where we call "home" (which can be anywhere) and, these days, seems to end up somewhere on either the East or West Coasts (or Houston). The trajectory of economic growth in these United States doesn't seem to be broad-based anymore, so deciding to move one from a large mega/metropolis to a smaller one doesn't seem like a great move for oneself and one's progeny. Of course, that isn't a particularly rational or considered opinion (it's not like I've looked up GDP growth forecasts for D.C. and Cleveland*), but at the very least, I understand where he's coming from. LeBron James might be recession-and-outsourcing-proof, but we're not.

There's also something specific about Ohio, which seems to be the childhood home of many of this blog's readers. I am probably over-romanticizing the state's economic history, but when Ohio was healthier and more pre-eminent among the states, it seems that chemistry (and manufacturing in general) was a lot healthier and stronger. I hope that will be the case for Ohio's future (and for American chemical manufacturing's), but I don't really see a path in that direction.

Best wishes to Ohio, and to all of us.

*...but I'll bet you I could draw them pretty well


  1. Meh. I grew up in Silicon Valley and ended up in a dull state neighboring Ohio.

    But then again, I do make a crap-academic non-faculty, soft money salary. So my trajectory is converse to one you stated, but still consistent to your hinted hypothesis that the good money is on the coasts.

  2. I live in Ohio and the economy here is terrible. It's become very difficult to make a living in this state (good luck finding chemistry jobs here). NMH, I am guessing that you live in Indiana? Indiana might as well be part of Ohio.

  3. It seems like if you want to have something resembling a normal life, you need to be in sales for some product that is not subject to economic downturn.
    One of my friends sells sporting apparel to HS/small colleges in the region.
    Another guy works for Budweiser.

    All the others with the House and 3-4 kids are in some form of "business consultant" or are finance adjacent.

    The world is not here for us who work with our hands...except maybe the Water Treatment people. No one wants shit to pile in drinking water.

  4. nah, I totally disagree. As a Bay Area boy with time in LA and Boston too you couldn't pay me enough to move back to any of those places now. Nice to take the family to visit on occasion, but to live there? Hell no. I'll take flyover country any day of the week. (Kentucky, in my case) People who insist on moving to the "metropolis" because that is where the growth is always seem to overlook that the cost of living tends to grow twice as fast in such places which is why salary numbers are meaningless by themselves. Sure I might could get 130K in the coastal city as opposed to the 90K I make now. But 2 acres here costs 200K while I'd have to pay 400K just to get the little pigs straw hut with unattached outhouse in the other place. There are good jobs to be found all over the place--yes there are fewer of them in the smaller locations but you also have a much better chance to land them because there is far less overall competition. IMHO.

  5. I've heard many times form co-workers who grew up in rural areas that their friends and relatives who stayed behind have nicer houses than them on blue-collar salaries due to the difference in cost of living. Seems like all that effort to get a PhD and a manger-level job is one big rat race. My current employer has a plant in a rural area, and even the low-level plant floor guys there have 40-acre yards - you'd have to be Donald Trump to do that where I live.

  6. Have I been writing with a pseudo??? Chemist? Check. From Ohio? Check. Living in DC? Check ... :-) Having the "same" experiences as Denny, I'll co-sign!

  7. I grew up in Ohio. Got a PhD in chemistry on the East Coast. Have lived in a few countries and the West Coast of the US and now am back in Ohio. Actually, there is a lot of chemistry going on in Ohio, particularly polymer-related. It is difficult to outsource chemistry jobs that involve polymers because shipping over large distances can affect the product. People like to have local suppliers. Cost of living is pretty low compared to the coasts. It is also somewhat of a bonus to know that you're impact on the local economy is greater compared to if you are living in the Bay area. When was a student and post-doc on the east and west coast I always felt like my presence was helping to bolster the property values of the extremely rich folks by virtue of adding another body to an already crowded space. Now that I have kids I am grateful for the low cost of living here. Given the amount of time my wife and I put into work and our kids, I don't think we would reap the benefits of paying a premium to live in New York City (which in my opinion is infinitely better than San Francisco and the Bay area in general).


  9. I am well settled in Ohio. I had some apprehension before I moved in and gave myself an year to work it out. After some scouting studies I was assured that all is fine at Ohio, I asked my family to move in. Here I am after 5 years, life is not bad! My dollar goes long way compared to my "New Joisey" days. Thanks to Gov. Chris Christy for moving me out. I am going nowhere as all the jobs in the East coast has evaporated. Ohio’s unemployment at 5.5% is the lowest in our country. Go Ohio!

  10. "maybe I’m not willing to give up the life I enjoy in the District of Columbia to ensure that Ohio does thrive. This feels somewhat hypocritical and more than a little cowardly at times, but it is the bare and honest truth.* "

    I see no problem with this nor company headquarters leaving the US. In both cases there are a number of reasons why this is beneficial to the ones leaving.

    Government officials which got Cleveland or the US in this spot need to get out of the way. Limited government is the only way to correct the problems in this country. Return to our forefather's vision. Sure maybe there will be less immigrant children from South America smuggled in illegally for free food, education, healthcare. (There will also be less that die, be abused, or raped in the course of those very dangerous travel routes). Maybe women will have to pay for their birth control. Maybe McMansions won't be the symbol of how good one's doing. I'll take a free market, steady job, and trusted currency over barrage of freebies and a bankrupt country any day.