South Bend, Indiana, is now a small city, with about 100,000 people living there. Once, however, it was a bustling city, with old-time manufacturers like Studebaker and the South Bend Watch Company calling South Bend their home. What happened to this once-prosperous town? It isn't an easy solution, and, in Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg, the town's newest mayor, tries to find and and resolve the problem.
Pete Buttigieg's hometown is South Bend, Indiana, and was saddened to hear when, in 2011, the city was listed by Newsweek as one of America's dying cities. In his quest to find out why it is a dying city, he takes a look back at what once made South Bend successful - industry. The simple answer is, the companies once there did not adapt to change.
The South Bend Watch Company, for example, produced exclusively pocket watches. However, these started going out of style in favor of wristwatches, but they continued to make pocket watches. This eventually led to their demise. Studebaker, a car company, could not keep up with the marketing of the Big Three auto makers, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.
The theme present in Shortest Way Home is that it is important for everyone to adapt. Otherwise, you will be stuck in a past that continues to shrink. South Bend's youth population continues to shrink, and it is still dying. However, Pete Buttigieg, as mayor, is hopeful this will change.