Strength Busts Blocks in the Rust Belt

America’s Rust Belt is deeply imperiled. With many steel, automotive, and manufacturing companies outsourcing jobs to cut costs and boost profit, many blue-collar workers have been left to the suffer the loss. Places like Youngstown, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, once bastions of American industry, are crippled by job loss and have faced radical declines in urban infrastructure. And, those are the big cities: satellite towns around these cities are facing a magnified plight, where 600 jobs in a town of 10,000 makes all the difference. These places are paralyzed, facing fatal collapses in not only the job market, but in quality of life and basic necessities to function.

Enter the “Mayor of Rust,” John Fetterman. Fetterman and his small town, Braddock, Pennsylvania, have become the poster children for urban reconstruction. After arriving in Braddock in 2001, Fetterman recognized that the town council was no longer serving its people, and left the town to disintegrate while earning kick-backs and ignoring dissatisfaction. Cemented in their ways, the town council had built a blockage so great that Fetterman could not go through a political channel to enact change. So, he opened up is own non-profit and worked around the town council’s block. Since then, he’s built a church, a convent, art studios, and has revitalized infrastructure.

Braddock was lost without throughput. The local government’s blockage had imperiled growth, forgetting the citizens that elected them in favor of absolute control and a steady income. Instead of working in a structure that failed, Fetterman made a new structure and refocused the town on the needs of its customers–its citizens. His agility and quick decision-making brought life to the dying area, breaking through the apathy and providing real improvement. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, but Fetterman’s commitment to throughput, and strength to work around bottlenecks, is bringing life to a dying community.

In understanding Braddock as a business, you can see where it was stuck. Those at the top were more interested in serving themselves, blocking any growth in favor of their own agendas. Fetterman, an inspired leader who invested himself in the welfare of the town, helped his community move past the blockage set in place and work towards giving Braddock a new life. Strong leaders have the willpower to work around those blocks cemented in their way, and real change can result with just a little muscle and a powerful vision.

Takeaway Points:

  • Blockages can result out of habit. Wake up from your routine and see where things have slowed down.
  • Powerful leaders bring real change. Be strong for your company and anything is possible.
  • When you find a blockage, either throw resources to it or create a work-around.