Mark Rembert

Savior of forsaken cities

It is the year 2008 and the financial crisis is spreading through the Usa like a plague -  overrunning towns, devouring jobs, and ravaging local economies. The small town of Wilmington, Ohio, faces total ruin. Meanwhile, Mark Rembert, a young Economics graduate, is leaving his hometown for a future elsewhere...

80_mark_rembert_image180_mark_rembert_image280_mark_rembert_image380_mark_rembert_image480_mark_rembert_image580_mark_rembert_image680_mark_rembert_image7In the Superman legend, LuthorCorp is an evil corporation operating in and around the small American town of Smallville, where the young Clark Kent grows up. In our story, the problem corporation is a global shipping firm, and the small town is Wilmington, Ohio, the hometown of Mark Rembert.

More than three-quarters of the 12,000 residents of Wilmington used to work at Wilmington Airpark, a shipping hub. Even before the subprime crisis of 2008, rural southwest Ohio had been in crisis for decades, seeing generations of young people leaving town for good. Mark Rembert was no exception. He left the Midwest for the East Coast to study, with the intention of never coming back. But one day, while waiting to enroll with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, Mark did come home. His return coincided with the shipping firm’s announcement that they would pull out in a few months, leaving almost 9,000 people unemployed. With his childhood friend Taylor Stuckert, Mark decided something had to be done.

From the beginning, it was obvious to Mark that the solution lay in green development. He began to channel community discussions towards bringing about sustainable economic, social and environmental change. People should be encouraged to buy local products, he argued, and a new program of weatherizing homes across the county could create jobs and provide savings on energy. Mark and Taylor founded Energize Clinton County, the organization through which they would provide the community with the tools and knowledge to rethink the local economy, and the project became a huge success.

Mark says “service is too often framed in terms of sacrifice”. The satisfaction he gets from shaping the environment around him more than compensates for the salaries he foregoes on Wall Street, and now that he has saved his entire community from misery, Mark is hoping to export a model that could benefit small towns across the United States. The future looks bright over what he calls “the frontier of developing innovative solutions.” Anyone looking at Wilmington now would never imagine that this town recently faced total ruin. “It looks normal” says Mark Rembert, with a touch of pride.