Frontline’s depressing documentary draws chamber response: ‘Dayton is experiencing a renaissance’

Holly Allen, the marketing officer for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, has joined Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in taking exception to Frontline’s recent unrelentingly grim take on the city of Dayton and its prospects.

Here’s the letter Allen and the chamber released today.

“Dear PBS & ProPublica:

I appreciate your interest in the Dayton region. Really, I do. But after watching Tuesday evening’s FRONTLINE special titled ‘Left Behind America,’ I believe I could assist your reporter, Alec MacGillis, with filling in the gaps; telling the whole story.

First, I’ll give you credit where credit is due. I’m glad you mentioned the commendable work being done by the leaders of the Gem City Market to address the food desert felt by our city’s west side. They’re doing great work and have the support of us all.

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And wow, I noticed a couple of seconds of video about 49 minutes into the 53 minute piece that showed entrepreneurs at work. They flashed across the screen without much of a mention, so here’s what you missed: Included in that video was the inventor of Obi, a robotic feeding device that helps return the dignity of enjoying a meal to people with mobility issues. Obi won our chamber’s Soin Award for Innovation last year, and we featured the business in a 2017 issue of Focus on Business Magazine (pg. 28).

Obi is not an anomaly in Dayton. In fact, young entrepreneurs who have a passion for Dayton are working every day to not only grow their businesses, but to enhance life for all in our community. We see them every day here at the chamber through programs like Generation Dayton and more. A couple of chamber members off the top of my head: Indigo Life Media, Wilderness Agency, the list goes on. Additionally, the defense industry has a $4 billion impact on our community, logistics companies inject $2.5 billion annually into our economy, and companies like Fuyao, P&G, LexisNexis, Verso and PSA Airlines are investing in our community’s future.

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Speaking of business growth, investments in the city over the past few years have passed the $500 million mark. CareSource, the Omega Community Development Corporation, Water Street, the Fire Blocks, the Fairgrounds, the Oregon District … these words might not mean much to you, but these are points of pride for us. More recently, businesses such as Taylor Communications and Berry Network have chosen to move their offices from the suburbs to Dayton’s core.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our set of challenges, as do all metropolitan areas, but we don’t sit idly by and accept them. Here’s what you missed on this front: our local leaders have formed task forces to combat the region’s tragic opioid epidemic, and our area hospital groups are working together to provide more and enhanced treatment options. We’re also heavily engaged in workforce alignment to help our business leaders fill jobs with qualified workers.

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You can show video of a couple of impoverished streets on repeat, and you can fly your drone over downtown Dayton during the least busy times to make your story appear more dramatic, but we know the truth. We know that Dayton is experiencing a renaissance that hasn’t been realized before and the investment, growth and pride in our community is at a high.

If you need help getting started on the second part of your series, which will complete your story, our chamber’s video series, Hello Dayton, highlighted many of the wonderful things Dayton has to offer just last year.

No, today’s Dayton is not the Dayton of 100 years ago, but who would want it to be? The world has changed, and so has our fair city. We’ve evolved and diversified, and yes, we’ve been knocked around a little, but we are not ‘Left Behind.’ The Gem City continues to shine. But how would a reporter know that from a couple of overnight stays? We know because we live and breathe this community every day. This is OUR community and OUR future is now. Next time you are in Dayton, give me a call, I would be happy to show you around.


Holly Allen

Director, Marketing & Communications

Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.”

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