By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — I’ve said it before, and I say it again, I cannot know for certain what John Howard Payne was thinking when he wrote “Home Sweet Home” for his 1823 opera, “Clari, Maid of Milan,” but he, like Dorothy who uttered “There’s no place like home” in the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” and Motley Crue or Carrie Underwood when they crooned, “Home is where your heart is”, but surely they all must have had in mind the same heart felt sentiment we all feel when we think of that place we cherish as “Home.”
For me it is Niagara.
Sadly, anybody born and raised here who stayed behind unwittingly witnessed a region in steep decline; children born into this could not have known that what they were seeing was not normal, and most of the adults who suffered through it were helpless to do anything about it.
To many, decay became the norm, except on television, in the movies or in Florida, the Carolinas or out west in California, Arizona and Las Vegas where so many of their grandparents and other relatives had escaped to.
For this new crop of graduating students, the future could be a lot brighter, though they may be too young to appreciate it; our home town could be sitting on the precipice of prosperity unlike anything our children have ever seen here before.
It is difficult to see it unless you step back, put it all into perspective and have a tad of hope along with a healthy portion of faith and enough love to move mountains.
Of course, this requires vision, a virtue that not everyone is endowed with; some will never see, but some current and a growing parade of former Niagarans are seriously rethinking their moves.
• Real estate costs in the nether regions are creeping back up again, but ours not as much. We appear to have escaped the worst of the mess. In fact many houses which could be bought here for well under $100,000 or less sold for 10 times as much elsewhere; when the bubble burst, they fell in value to half as much or less leaving a lot of families upside down in debt over their heads, or homeless while the actual value of our homes remain relatively steady and affordable.
• Unemployment here is outrageously high in some areas, but it is nowhere near as bad as it got in some of the bigger cities in Ohio, Michigan and even out west in California, Arizona, Nevada and some parts of the south including Florida the Carolinas. No doubt about it, things are tough everywhere, but we have probably already hit rock bottom and we are more likely to bounce back sooner and stay up longer. In addition to the vast potential of tourism growth over the long term, alternative energy resource development and associated manufacturing industries are easily within our reach.
• Location, location, location; Niagara Falls is situated within nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population and 60 percent of the entire Canadian population, nearly 140 million people live less than a day’s drive away. Our transportation infrastructure includes major international rail, maritime and highway access, an international airport that can accommodate the world’s largest cargo planes, and a rapidly growing passenger service that can deliver tourists from all over the world.
• Water, an increasingly rare commodity out west and down south, is literally and virtually all around us. The Great Lakes, the largest fresh water supply on the planet is an abundant source of energy, intercontinental trade, and if we can keep it clean, a source of good food, drinking water, and recreational use for many generations to come.
• Weather and climate change is no longer a subject of serious debate; something’s happening! The torrid temperatures, floods, droughts, wild storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, crop damage, loss of life has become indisputable. We are, for now, though not immune, not subjected to the destructive extremes that so much of the rest of the nation is dealing with, in fact our weather, though not always perfect, is bearable, not as turbulent as many other places.
Don’t believe it?
Turn on the Weather Channel, or better yet, step outside.
For some, home is where the heart is; some people can be perfectly happy anywhere, so long as they are with loved ones, or are just happy to be alive and well; for others, wherever you lay your hat is home; for true Niagarans, home is right here.
If you are physically or emotionally too far away, and you want to come back, do like Dorothy did; put on some imaginary Ruby Slippers, click your heels three times and repeat after me, “There’s no place like home…”
Now, to all of our returning expatriates, Welcome Back ... and to those who may be considering permanent relocation, look again!
Contact Bill Bradberry at firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Bill at email@example.com