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The Hard Way on Purpose: Akron's Past Glories & Present Reinvention

Once home to the nation’s leading tire manufacturers, Akron, Ohio, was hit hard by post-industrial layoffs, factory closings and a steadily declining population.

Like other rust belt cities, the once-rubber giant has had to redefine itself and its industry.

In his book The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, author David Giffels chronicles past glories and the present condition of his home state. 

“There’s a real spirit of rehabilitation and reinvention in cities like these...we’re optimistic, yes, but it’s not a simple optimism,” he says. 

Just as Pittsburgh turned to “Eds and Meds” after the coal mine closures, Akron has embraced its rubber past and become a hub for polymer engineering and biomedical research.

Giffels says the city has even begun studying rust and its effects on infrastructure, an ironic nod to Akron’s “Rust Belt” designation.

“Instead of turning our backs or being ashamed of it, no one understands rust like we do.”

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