It’s About Time

“When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times.”

So said beloved author Mark Twain according to local legend. I like to think it is more legend than truth, although Twain did spend some time in our fair city as a young man. He worked for a short while at the Cincinnati Enquirer before heading off aboard the steamboat Paul Jones where, I guess you could say, his adventures truly began.

Twain’s alleged assessment is a kind of metaphor for our nation’s perception of the heartland. An unfair metaphor but one that persists. There is a big difference between biding your time and making the most of your time. And there is nothing behind the times about Midwest. Just ask Allbirds shoes creator Tim Brown, who credits alma mater University of Cincinnati for the phenomenal success of his ecofriendly sneakers. And that most ubiquitous example of time efficiency, the cell phone, was invented in Illinois. One-fifth of all US patents come out of the Midwest, and we graduate 25% of all computer scientists. Behind the times? Hardly.

Even the geography of the heartland is misleading. The Midwest is “officially” comprised of 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with a population of 65+ million. But the heartland, to me, stretches beyond these boundaries, encompassing the beating heart of the nation that lives between our coasts.

There is certainly a healthy dose of truth to the idea that the center of the country has a stronger sense of community, a neighborly vibe that enhances the quality of life. Making time for family, friends, leisure activities is completely compatible with a robust work ethic. People are starting to take notice. According to a study by the Manhattan Institute, there are a number of heartland cities that are outpacing the U.S. average in job and population growth, areas with “high-value economic sectors, civic assets, and amenities.”

As we begin to recover from the pandemic, more and more workers are recognizing the fast-lane isn’t always a requisite of career success. Indeed, workers are reevaluating the concept of time itself: people are reluctant to return to unproductive activity and the waste of precious time that often accompanies life in the fast-lane. Nearly half of Americans are rethinking the kind of job they have, according to a recent study, with 38% citing work-life balance as the reason. We need to redefine, then, how and even where we can strike this balance and keep time on your side.

Because getting back your valuable time is like money in your pocket.

While this may seem at odds with the uniquely fast-paced American life we all know, we are entering a new era where economic considerations are colliding — in a positive way — with wellbeing, even happiness. Finding that balance may be the new American Dream and while you may not be turning back time, you are making the most of it.

Here are a few reasons how where you live can make the most of your time:

Commuting — Remote work may be here to stay, but it is more likely to become a hybrid model for some companies while others bring their workforce back to a physical office setting. Cities like St. Louis and Cincinnati have smaller footprints than the larger hubs and reduce not only travel times, but the often frustrating mass transit tie-ups and traffic jams. Commute times are generally shorter and less stressful and yet these regions are near major airports and within driving distance of many other major cities — time that would be lost if you are stuck in traffic, with the seconds, minutes, hours passing by just to get to and from work.

Affordability — Moving away from the big, increasingly expensive coastal cities can save money. And let’s face it, time is money. There are very good starting salaries outside of these areas and according to a recent analysis by LinkedIn, some of the top US cities to launch your career based on affordable housing, salaries and opportunities, fall in the Midwest. The top five: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Diversity of job opportunities — Nearly a quarter of Fortune 500 companies are based in the Midwest. Cincinnati alone boasts seven and Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to more Fortune 500 companies per capita than anywhere else in the world. The heartland is also rich with major research universities and innovation, allowing entrepreneurs to find the region ideal for launching startups. From blue chip corporations to exciting new tech companies, this diversity of industry means career opportunities abound, allowing you to find your dream job without wasting time in an unfulfilling career choice.

The great outdoors — You can literally stop and smell the roses when you live in the heartland. Between fleeing overcrowded cities and social distancing guidelines, the pandemic has caused many to reconsider not only where but how to live. Wide open spaces are intrinsic to the heartland and whether you choose a city or suburb, you are never far from hiking, biking, boating — or simply a walk in the park.

Coworker relationships — A slower pace and “Midwest nice” combine to make workplace experiences more satisfying. Job satisfaction, which is an indicator of success, typically relies on coworkers, supervisors, and commute. Therefore, a happy work environment means a stronger career trajectory.

You time — Attaining the “life” part of the work-life balance requires family-focused activities, spending time outside of work and taking advantage of great amenities. When you are able to reclaim your valuable time, find meaningful and lucrative work in an affordable community, you are almost there. The growing appeal of the Midwest and adjacent region has in turn produced incredible amenities, from exciting cuisine to vibrant art and music scenes to great schools and public spaces. I always like to point out that Cincinnati is a beer-lover’s paradise, with more 50 craft breweries in the area; and of course, Nashville is essentially the music capital of the country. Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got it.

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