“You can’t go home again.” Immortalized by Thomas Wolfe’s novel of the same name, the saying evokes stories of young adults leaving behind the familiarity of their hometown to make their mark on the world. Sometimes the journey leads to large metropolises far and wide. For others, the path brings them back to where their story began. In the case of these early- and mid-career professionals, that place is Toledo, Ohio, a Midwestern port city located on the western shore of Lake Erie.

A Place for Doers, Makers and Dreamers

Recently named the best mid-sized city for new business (Site Selection Magazine, 2021) and the best city for remote workers (Acorns + CNBC, 2020), Toledo, Ohio provides burgeoning entrepreneurs a business-friendly atmosphere.

“Toledo has a great business community, a low cost of living and few barriers to entry, making it a great place to start your own thing,” said Dan Barden.

Photo of Courtesy of ConnecToledo

Dan and his brother Zach spent years away from Toledo, leaving for college and having careers that took them to the East and West Coasts, across Europe and various destinations in the United States. Zach returned to Toledo in 2017 while Dan’s return to the area was a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was living in Brooklyn when the coronavirus pandemic started, so I returned to Toledo to weather the storm at my brother Zach’s place,” Dan explained.

Once reunited, the brothers realized their love for tennis could become a business and from their discussions, Launchpad Tennis was born. The business offers five indoor tennis courts, a full slate of junior programming, adult courses, drop-in classes, private lessons, court rentals and ball-machine time.

Other Midwest cities are experiencing similar trends. “In West Michigan, we see people interested in moving for many of the same reasons that the Toledo boomerangs have identified: proximity to family, low cost of living, shorter commute times and diversified economies with opportunity,” said Rachel Gray, executive director of Hello West Michigan. “When you add on arts and culture, outdoor recreation and the craft beer and restaurant scene – things a lot of Midwest cities have been improving over the last decade – then you get a really compelling argument to move home.” 

The opportunity to contribute to the Toledo region’s success while simultaneously reconnecting with family is similar to Dr. Patrice McClellan’s story.

“I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio,” she said. “I was told often that I needed to move away then come back. It was disappointing to hear, but deep down I knew I had to leave.”

Photo of Courtesy of ConnecToledo

After just over three years away, an opportunity to return arose, and Dr. P jumped at it. “I came back because I took a position as graduate program director and assistant professor at Lourdes University,” she said. “I decided that after being away, I wanted my daughter to grow up around family. I wanted her to have a connection to the people that matter most.”

While she moved back for family, Dr. P has had opportunities to make her mark on Toledo and help mold it more into the city she would like to see. She launched Dr. P The Leadership Coach, a leadership coaching service, in addition to starting a leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion firm.

Stay tuned for part two about the arts and culture scene in Toledo as well as the idea that in Toledo a person can be a part of anything they want. 

About Toledo, Ohio

Ohio’s fourth most-populated city, Toledo is a major Midwestern port city, boasting the fifth busiest port on the Great Lakes. The city also sits at the crossroads of major interstate highway systems and railway lines that connect it to industry across the nation. This enviable location has served the region well throughout its history, beginning with its origins as a leading glass manufacturer in the late 19th century, earning the city its nickname, “The Glass City.”

Today, Toledo is a top mid-sized city for new and diverse business development, from auto manufacturing to healthcare to education. The city is enjoying its own cultural renaissance, marked by a revitalized waterfront and bustling entertainment center that highlight the area’s growing art community, world-class attractions, broad and diverse culinary offerings, and revered sports teams; while a robust and growing urban park system keeps residents and visitors alike connected to the area’s wealth of natural assets.

About Hello West Michigan

Hello West Michigan was the first organization of its kind in the county and is a nationally-recognized talent attraction and retention organization for the West Michigan region, which includes Grand Rapids, MI. They focus on educating, attracting, and connecting talent to companies and the community. From 2010 – 2019, the Grand Rapids MSA had a net-gain of over 29,000 people from other states and countries (U.S. Census). This accounted for 34% of the region’s population growth.

Stephanie M. Elton

Stephanie M. Elton is an award-winning, Midwest-based marketing communications leader with a special focus on multimedia content strategy in the digital space. Over her 20-year career, she has worked with record labels, art museums, performing arts organizations and libraries throughout the Midwest, with a particular focus on content development and data marketing communications. Stephanie lives in the Toledo region, where she serves on several boards and volunteers with Girls on the Run Northwest Ohio. More by Stephanie M. Elton