By Thomas Zhang, Greater Ohio Policy Center Summer Intern
During the school year, I volunteer as a debate coach for my alma mater Dublin Jerome High School in Dublin, Ohio. As I was doing some research on a topic about market-rate housing, I was curious about the state of affairs in Columbus’ housing market. While poking around, I came across an article in the Columbus Dispatch describing legacy cities in Ohio facing the challenge of retooling for a 21st century economy, or what Greater Ohio has dubbed the Reinvention Cities. Even after living in Ohio for my entire life, I felt out of touch with the majority of the state’s everyday issues, as I lived in an affluent suburb. I applied to Greater Ohio in order to learn more about the broader economic landscape of our state and to help contribute to their efforts with my background in research.
This internship experience has been an invaluable learning opportunity. Brushing up on Greater Ohio’s previous publications before my interview, I didn’t even know what brownfields were, much less how they play a role in local communities. The largest project that I worked on this summer was profiling the recovery efforts in each of the 16 Reinvention Cities. Now, I can certainly say that redeveloping brownfields is a key opportunity for economic revitalization. My work has also given me greater insight into the current status of the Reinvention Network’s economies. While there is still much work to be done, it is not the disastrous outlook that many national media outlets like to paint either. Most of these cities are still reeling from the effects of the 2008 Recession; however through grassroots and local efforts, they are making significant progress.
I’m extremely grateful to have been part of Greater Ohio’s team this summer. All of the staff have been welcoming and helpful. The projects I worked on have allowed me to further hone my research and writing skills, and I am grateful for the peer advice I received from my colleagues. One of the most important insights that I have gained from my time here was shifting my outlook on approaching traditionally weak-market cities and policymaking in general. Greater Ohio has given me a look into what it takes to create real change on the ground-level and the staff has inspired me with their commitment to improving the state we all call home.