The Midwestern port city of Toledo, Ohio, located on the western shore of Lake Erie is becoming a full-circle destination where early- and mid-career professionals who started out in the area are choosing to return to build their lives. 

Arts and Culture at its (Culinary) Heart

Toledo is home to a passionate and talented creative community. The city’s low-cost of living, supportive business environment and opportunities to connect with other makers provides designers, photographers, videographers and other creative professionals the freedom to explore their craft.

Photo of Courtesy of ConnecToledo

When Ellen Dziubek left at the age of 18 to attend college in Chicago to study film, she hadn’t experienced much of what Toledo had to offer. But when college was over, Ellen realized she was back in Toledo often – for work.

“The year after graduating, I began to come home often for shoots, so once my lease was up in Chicago, I decided I might as well really dive into starting my own freelance business,” she said.

One of Ellen’s favorite accomplishments since returning to Toledo is forming a network of creative professionals called Toledo Creatives, whose mission is to cultivate an inclusive environment focused on community and collaboration.

It isn’t “all work and no play” in the Glass City. Complementing Toledo’s business-friendly atmosphere is its rich arts and culture sector. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy the world-renowned Toledo Museum of Art, the National Gold Medal award-winning Metroparks Toledo park system and captivating performances from many of Toledo’s local arts organizations and touring productions.

Photo of Courtesy of ConnecToledo

“There’s something special about Toledo’s parks,” said Rachel Momenee, an urban designer who returned to Toledo after earning a graduate degree in Milwaukee and working for five years in Chicago.“Swan Creek Metropark was an especially important place to me after college.” She found nothing like the immersive quiet found in Toledo’s large Metroparks when she lived in Chicago.

Rachel also cites the investment in Toledo’s riverfront, the public realm improvements along Summit Street and new bars and restaurants in its downtown and Vistula neighborhood among Toledo’s charms. “Places like Toledo Spirits, Earnest Brew Works and Registry Bistro make it easier to be away from Chicago.”

Omaha, Nebraska is seeing similar trends. “The City of Omaha has seen unprecedented growth in the last 20 years – in economic and workforce development, an explosion of jobs, record-low unemployment, and new and exciting attractions – all while keeping its special culture and identity,” said Todd Johnson, senior vice president, economic development services for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “In fact, according to our data, 84 percent of recent new movers considering or coming to Omaha are doing so because of a job opportunity with one third of those folks being between the ages of 25-34. People come back to Omaha because it’s the town you remember only better, with growing industries and opportunities. Simply put, We Don’t Coast in Omaha.” 

Familiarity Mixed with Possibility

While Toledo’s revitalization continues, traces of familiarity can be found among the burgeoning possibilities – and the opportunities to collaborate – that come with the city’s forward momentum.

After 20 years spent away in other areas of the Midwest and Southeast, Matt Killam returned to a much-changed Toledo – but one that still felt like home. Like many others, he left for college and his career but as he moved about, Matt’s path unexpectedly led him back home.

“Toledo gave me a sense of what communities can offer,” he said.

In Toledo, Matt says, you can really feel like you are a part of changing something for the better. “I missed that if you want to be a part of something here, you can,” he explained. “You can do or be a part of almost anything you want. This town is on the move—and the difference is collaboration.”

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.

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