The term “heritage” has different meanings to different people. Invariably, most folks see “heritage” as involving some form of “historic preservation.” This is probably the result of one of the most obvious forms of preservation in most people’s lives—attempts at the preservation of historically significant buildings and unique architecture. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, which established the interstate highway system. Due to considerable new demolition and construction requirements, many unique, historic properties met their fate with the wrecking ball. Then, in the 1960s, the Kennedy administration launched an ambitious urban renewal program. Hoping the program would rejuvenate our inner cities, it further encouraged the destruction of many historically significant structures. Growing public disapproval festered into a firestorm of protest as protectors of the past finally screamed… “STOP!” They demanded some sort of process to identify and protect America’s historical gems. Congress responded with the National Historic Preservation Act. Signed into law on October 15, 1966, the law established a review process and protection criteria for both parcels of land and historically significant structures. The law also made it clear that the preservation of our history and heritage was a national priority.
However, time has proven that, even with the law, the “preservation debate” is rarely an easy one. We have all heard stories about how the development of some industrial park, slated to supply a hundred new jobs, is abruptly put on HOLD because of an archaeological discovery that mandates further study. Hence, we experience the proverbial “fine line” between the costs of preservation and the benefits of progress.
Why do I bring this up? I just returned from the Board of Governors meeting in Portland, Oregon. Much of the dialogue centered upon ensuring value and driving relevance to our membership. The very first goal of our new MBAA Strategic Plan and its accompanying five objectives all deal with encouraging more participation in our local districts. More than two pages of verbiage suggest…changes…to better meet local district needs.
Answering this call, those of us in District Cincinnati are discussing the possibility of changing the name of our local district from “District Cincinnati” to, well, something else. Some members of our district will certainly want to scream “STOP!” We were, after all, one of the original districts present at that first Chicago meeting where our founders formed MBAA in March 1887, a remarkable claim! Just a few years ago, we even changed our district emblem to better reflect this, by including the words: “Chartered 1887” as shown below.
We had shirts made for our district officers that showcased our heritage-inspired logo. So why, after all these 125 years, is a proposed name change even happening?
District Cincinnati has grown significantly and actually now includes all of Ohio, eastern Indiana, and northern Kentucky. The label “District Cincinnati” does not serve the vast and growing number of breweries that reside within our boundaries. It is not inclusive of these breweries. In fact, some feel that the label is outright exclusionary!
As the heritage chair of District Cincinnati, several folks have already looked to me and asked, “Rick, what do you think about all this?” These changes are never easy. This is, indeed, a “heritage question.” And for heritage issues just like this one, the district heritage chair might be the one individual to facilitate meaningful dialogue, to promote discussion, to express heritage concerns, and to remind all members that MBAA heritage is a priority. For certain, the district heritage chair must be the one individual keenly aware of the proverbial “fine line” between the costs and the benefits of preserving of our heritage.
All that said, the name-change issue is to be further discussed with our district membership. And after much thought, I am in favor of a name change. Our most discussed and most logical choice appears to be something like “District Mid-West,” but that is yet to be determined. I remind myself that, in order to drive relevance and better reflect its purpose, even MBAA has changed its name three times since 1887. In like manner, a new name like “Mid-West” also drives relevance and better reflects our purpose. It is far more inclusionary. It acknowledges and receives with open arms the gifts of the separate brewing heritages of the entire state of Ohio, all of eastern Indiana, and all of northern Kentucky. It is the right thing to do.
Whatever is finally decided, all this hammers home the need for district heritage chairs. My job as our local district heritage chair will be to encourage meaningful dialogue, celebrate our progress, and enjoy the fruits of moving forward, while ensuring the heritage of our district is not forgotten!