These profiles tell the story of “Rust Belt Refugees” – former residents of the Rust Belt who have for one reason or another moved on to different parts of the country. This is part of an ongoing series – for previous installments of Rust Belt Refugees see:

CFName: Courtney Fratzke
Age: 34 (for the second time)
Occupation: Finance
Current Home: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

When did you leave?
October 30, 2014

Why did you leave?
I had a work friend in D.C. who told me about a job opening in his office for which he thought I’d be a good fit. I decided to follow through on the opportunity, if only to practice the whole job interview process as I hadn’t gone through it for quite some time. After doing a few phone interviews and meeting a number of people face-to-face, they offered me the job. I took it because it seemed like a good opportunity to make some positive changes professionally as well as personally.

What do you miss about your hometown?
I miss my friends and family in Cleveland a lot! That’s a rather obvious answer, though, so I’d say that, secondarily, I really miss the food. Cleveland has such a rich and varied food culture. You can get wonderful things to eat in a whole spectrum of choices both ethnically and price-wise. I’m still searching for some really good pho here. Right now it pretty much feels like I might as well be hunting a unicorn.

Do you think about ever returning?/What would it take for you to return home?
I’d say I’m not currently thinking about returning as it’s really important to me that I give living and working here a very solid try. I will say that my proverbial security blanket in dealing with making a large work and location transfer like this is the knowledge that I can always go home to Cleveland if things don’t work out. Once I put in a few years in D.C., I imagine convincing me to return to Cleveland would not be difficult. Currently it seems that finding a job would be the biggest obstacle in any plan to return home. I love the culture, socializing, and physical recreation that Cleveland has to offer, but there are so many people in the Cleveland area that are un- or under-employed and it’s hard to enjoy the amazing things there are to do and see in the city if your primary concern is earning a livable wage. Luckily, I think Clevelanders are a tough but innovative lot and I think the city as a whole is making great strides in really showing the outside world how many great opportunities there are to be had in Cleveland.


SamPatton sizedName: Sam Patton
Age: 24
Occupation: Filmmaker (Producer/Director) — have worked on low-budget hit films like The Purge, The Call, and the upcoming Sinister 2, rising from intern to Assistant Production Supervisor. Currently I’m traveling the festival circuit with my first post-grad film “The Terms of Service” (, including a stop at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Current Home: East Hollywood, California
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

When did you leave?
I left for college in 2008 (Ithaca College in upstate NY), and after graduating, I moved to LA. I’ve lived there for the last several years.

Why did you leave?
I left to get a degree in Film Production, and then to pursue a career in it. I’ve always loved the Midwest, but I was looking to get out and find challenges further from home. At the time, there were hardly any film minors in Ohio, let alone full programs.

What do you miss about your hometown?
When I come home to visit, before I even get to the house, I stop at Skyline Chili. And then I eat it for every meal I can while I’m in town. I miss other things, like the friendly people, the small communities – but that totally unique food some how ties all the nostalgia together for me.

Do you think about ever returning?/What would it take for you to return home?
I would love to reach a point in my career where it’s feasible to split time between the coasts and Cincinnati. It’s too early to consider moving home completely, but even now, I come home as often as I can, and look forward to a day I can give back to my hometown.


JennyYanez c copyName:  Jenny Waites
Age:   38
Occupation:  Executive assistant for a hedge fund
Current Home:  San Francisco, California
Hometown:  Clio, Michigan

When did you leave?
August 19, 2000.

Why did you leave?
I kinda always had this strange desire since I was a child that I wanted to move somewhere out West, that there was something else out there for me. I spent two of my teenage summers working in Yellowstone National Park, and I met people from all over the world. This opened my eyes even wider that there was a whole universe out there – not just Michigan – to live, explore, and travel. During that time in Wyoming I visited San Francisco and was kinda scared of the “big city.” I was 19 and I had no clue that it would one day become my home.

What do you miss about your hometown?
I miss my family the most. My mom and dad, my grandma, my niece and nephew, my Aunt Penny and my cousin Jeremy. There are so many more to mention because everyone is still there except myself, my brother, and a couple of cousins. I miss the colorful fall leaves, and the lightening bugs, and thunder and lightening storms and, yes, from time to time I do miss the snow!

What would it take for you to return home?
I have lived in San Francisco for nearly 15 years, and I super love it and can’t imagine ever leaving. I do return home twice a year to visit and always wish I could stay longer, but my heart belongs to San Francisco. It would take something real crazy to get me to ever consider moving back.

This is an ongoing series — watch this space as we bring you more portraits of Rust Belt Refugees.

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