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Great Lakes & Upper Midwest: Final Conversations

Pedaling around the Great Lakes, along rural highways flanked by corn and soybeans, and through the hearts of cities built on American industry gave me the opportunity to speak with Americans from all walks of life: auto workers, first-time business owners, seasoned entrepreneurs, public servants, young people battling drugs and poverty. Here you can listen to a few words from some of the folks I met during the final weeks of the Water, Steel & Grit regional tour.

Does a job in United States industry still hold promise for young Americans? United Automobile Workers union officer Rick Beardslee in Flint, Michigan thinks so.

Rudy Nelson worked at Ford's Rouge River plant for more than 3 decades. It upsets him to think about how his old Detroit neighborhood in Highland Park has crumbled over the years.

Sandusky, OH is proud of its own Jackie Mayer—not only because she was crowned Miss America in 1963, but also because she is a stroke survivor, and has dedicated much of her life to helping other stroke victims work through their own tough recoveries. Here, she describes why.

Dayna Clingain sells hot dogs and other snacks in Cleveland--when she's not working with local ministries to help folks in need. She is troubled by the vacant commercial properties downtown, and has an idea she believes could benefit both the owners of these properties and underfunded entrepreneurs looking for a place to start a business.

Jim Zeller grew up in Kent, OH. He has seen change in the area and the country, and wants to see still more. Sometimes change comes fast, as it did on May 4, 1970, during his freshman year at Kent State.

There is a small corner store and deli in Greenford, OH that serves tasty roast beef sandwiches. Ailis Murphy and Will Benton are proud parents of a baby girl and the first-year business owners of the Greenford Cupboard, learning as they go. Ailis talks here about some of the challenges they faced when getting things ready for opening the doors.

Jennifer Bieber's full-time job is working for Verizon in Buffalo, NY. Her other "full-time job with part-time pay" is serving as the Town Supervisor (sort of like a mayor) for Royalton, NY--and she loves it.

I took an overnight detour into Canada to hear what our northern neighbors had to say...and to see Niagara Falls! It happened to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and so scores of Canucks were out enjoying the day along the Niagara River. I stopped to talk with a number of them, including dual-citizen Bruce, who identifies two areas where he believes Canada has bested the USA.

Self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" Chris Whitman from Rochester, NY has worked for, directed, invested in, grown, and sold numerous companies over her career. She knows American business' secret weapon when it comes to competing against foreign companies.

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