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Wilmington's Homegrown Hope Part 5

Photo by Briana Brough
Taylor Stuckert and Mark Rembert.

Wilmington's future remains uncertain. Even if the recession is showing signs of ending, the town still needs to provide jobs for the many unemployed living there. But there's hope for a green economy, and Energize Clinton County has been working towards that goal for over a year now. In the final piece of her series, Wilmington's Homegrown Hope, Emily McCord explores what this year has meant for the young men who started it all.

"We Are Integrated Into The Community"

You can often find Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert in the restaurant at the General Denver hotel. When they first started Energize Clinton County, in fact, it was sort of a makeshift office. It had the free wi-fi they needed. It's also a place for them to unwind. At Open Mic night, Mark is chatting with his long time friends, many of whom are also now back in Wilmington.

"When I was in Philly, I was always thinking what the next step is going back. Now I feel like I can finally just say this is what I'm doing," says Rembert.

Mark has always had an appreciation for his hometown, but mostly as a place where he came from, and not as a place to go to back to. But he's learned, Wilmington is a place he wants to be, at least for now; which is much different than where he thought he would be-serving in the Peace Corps in South America.

"When we started this, we were still thinking we going to go to Ecuador, so it's been interesting to transition from that perspective that this is going to a short term, Peace Corps like project, to seeing ourselves more integrated in the community," says Rembert.

This has surprised both Mark and Taylor.

"It's Not A Product"

I want to back up here and play you some tape of something Taylor told me last summer.

"I think there's a growing consensus on how large the potential green economy can be. And comparatively, the potential for the green economy verses the deficit of expertise and capacity that we have for it stands on its own," says Stuckert.

When they started, both of them talked this way. Building capacity,deficits-these academic economic terms. Now, they've learned a new vocabulary. Here's Taylor from just a couple of weeks ago.

"When people see themselves as more than just an members of an economy, where they're spending and consuming, when they see themselves part of a social construct where they have family and friends. It's not a product," says Stuckert.

You can hear the difference, it's not academic now, it's personal. And a year ago, there was a disaster-mode urgency in the way they talked about redeveloping Wilmington. Now, It's not they're resting on their laurels. But Mark says they have long term vision.

"I think patience has been the most important virtue that we've probably gained in the past year, and understanding that the change that our community needs is a long process," says Rembert.

"An Alternative Lifestyle"

"Personally, moving home to a small town in rural, Ohio is the one most difficult things that anyone that anyone can do, especially when they're young and in their twenties and dying to go to a city," says Stuckert, "And I challenge anyone who wants to move to New York, or San Francisco or Portland, pick a small town and move there."

Taylor says it took him a while to realize he likes living in Wilmington. And he says he has seen that same change in his friends who have come home.

"I know I've seen it. I know I've seen their anxiety, their grad school applications quietly going out, and then all of the sudden, they're still here. There's a calmness to it, like their mission becomes clear," says Stuckert.

This shared mission between their friends, family and community-that's what giving Wilmington hope. This isn't a story of just two guys with great ideas who live in a bubble. Maybe it was DHL leaving, maybe it was the whole national economy tanking, but Mark says that this vulnerability has helped people become willing to listen.

"We never could have done what we've done here anywhere else. It was because of our relationships with people. Because the people we were working with this place trusted that we had a respect for this place," says Rembert.

The guys from Energize Clinton County plan to continue their work in Wilmington. On the horizon, the donation of the air park from DHL to the county is about to happen. Everyone in the community is waiting to see how that will help the economy grow. In the meantime, Mark and Taylor, realize that Wilmington isn't just an economic opportunity, or a worthy investment, it's home.