A Manifesto for Richmond

damon reed pete's corner cafe depot district

The Gennett Building in the Gorge

Richmond, Indiana is slowly shrinking- the population has dwindled from 43,999 in 1970 to 36,812 in 2010, a decrease of over 16%. Once a community largely supported by manufacturing, we now find ourselves in the midst of a transition to create a new sustainable economy.

The likelihood of a single manufacturer coming to Richmond and solving all our problems is slim to none; we need to think larger and we must start looking inward holding every citizen of Richmond accountable for the successes and misfortunes of our great city.

As a city we collectively can accomplish great things and show investors that we are an ideal place to relocate, but as a city if we sit by passively we will wither and continue to slowly dwindle into mediocrity- less a city, more a collection of houses – a pit stop to passers by. Using Detroit, another once manufacturing giant now bankrupt city, as a large-scale example, Richmond must change or will perish.

One of the largest problems with Richmond is that we incessantly look backward rather than forwards. “Richmond Like Stepping Back in Time.” We reminisce on the past and how great things used to be “back in the day”. We exchange “remember whens” and tell our friends and families of the glory of when we where kids or of the Richmond of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. We market ourselves as “Old Richmond” or “Historical Richmond” or the “Cradle of Recorded Jazz”.

One can only assume that this marketing ploy attracts little more than antique fanatics and jazz historians fewer of which exist than are required to support our city. I suggest we market ourselves to a larger audience, playing on innovation rather than stagnation. Of the college bound residents in Richmond many are leaving and never returning; it doesn’t take much insight to figure out why.

Richmond has accepted a fate of banality. Young people are leaving for cities with a faster paced life, cities full of people who are innovators and trail blazers people who want and need progress and change. Richmond needs these people to return and invest themselves in their hometown. We need to create an environment of entrepreneurship and need to attract entrepreneurs who will then create new opportunities for our college graduates to return home to.

Detroit’s population decreased by 25% over the past decade and without change Richmond may face a similar decline.

The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, aware that Detroit’s manufacturing sector is likely in a permanent decline said,

“We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business. We cannot successfully transition to the ‘New Michigan’ if young, talented workers leave our state.”

Richmond cannot cling on the old ways of doing business and Richmond cannot successfully transition into “New Richmond” without the retention of its residents and a change from the old. One would be remiss to think that no one in Richmond has shared similar notions and by no means should anyone trivialize their efforts; they should be commended and our city would be better off with more of such people.

We need to convince more people that there is need for commotion though- we collectively need to strive to push Richmond forward; lets give our city the momentum needed to prosper. Lets start a movement… a movement for the betterment of Richmond, for a guaranteed future for our great city.

This correspondence seeks to start a dialogue of what is best for Richmond and what is needed to progress Richmond forward. We already have people and organizations in position that can make a difference and facilitate change, but the spirit of cooperation seems to be missing and these people and organizations are lacking disciples- it is actually the followers that give leaders their titles and privileges.

We need to challenge each other and our leaders to come up with and implement new plans for the development and progression of Richmond; if we find our leaders wanting it is up to us to search out and elect new people to their positions. We, Richmond, need you- your time and your effort to revitalize our great town, to allow Richmond to reach its potential. The time is now and we are the people to make it happen.

-Evan Blum

About the Author: I was born and raised in Richmond and graduated from RHS. I have since completed an undergraduate degree from Indiana University Bloomington and am currently a student at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

I wrote this piece because I still consider myself a proud resident of Richmond even though I am for the time being living in Indianapolis. I fear that without change in our city there will be no Richmond for me to return to upon the completion of my studies. Recently during a visit to Richmond I had the opportunity to talk with some of my friends who have graduated college and have no plans for return; they have washed their hands of Richmond and do not see the potential that I see in our city. Let’s prove them wrong and let’s together revitalize Richmond into a city no one will want to leave.