Martinsburg resident Jeffrey Metzler is glad his home sits exactly 104 miles away from Pittsburgh.
If it were just five miles closer to the city where he once lived and went to school, he wouldn't have the chance to return and live there again, as well as become $100,000 richer.
Metzler, 57, is one of five finalists in the "Imagine Pittsburgh Experienced Dreamers" contest, which invites "people from all over the country to take a fresh look at Pittsburgh as a place to live, work, run a business, raise a family and realize their dreams," according to the contest's website.
Applicants must be 45 or older, live more than 100 miles from Pittsburgh and have lived away from the city for more than 10 years.
Public online voting to decide the winner will take place through April 15, and being the only contestant who currently lives in Pennsylvania, Metzler hopes to be the hometown favorite.
"Keeping oneself in groceries and paying the bills sort of keeps your attention focused on the task at hand," Metzler said, as he's made a career in advertising, marketing and visual communications for the past 36 years. "It's difficult to start something else, particularly something that has capital investment involved like this would have."
How to vote
dreamers.org and click "vote now" to cast your vote for one of the five finalists
Metzler is talking about his proposal for what he would do with the money - to open a studio for both his own printmaking and as a "creative incubator" for other Pittsburgh artists.
"I envision an atmosphere, a creative space where artists can collaborate, exchange ideas, share resources and provide support for one another," he said. "I think it would be a great benefit for the creative and artistic community."
It's people like Metzler and the benefits they bring that are the main reasons for the competition, said Fred Thieman, president of the Buhl Foundation that helps sponsor the Experienced Dreamers contest.
The city has drawn a large amount of residents from ages 25 to 35, Thieman said, but it's the population of "baby boomers" who are more likely to volunteer and give back to their communities.
"Smaller towns affiliated with colleges have been successful in getting baby boomers to move back because they offer five things, a low cost of living, low crime rates, arts and culture, younger people and cheaper health care," Thieman said. "We think there's not an urban area in the country that can offer those amenities the way Pittsburgh does."
Metzler moved back to Martinsburg to take care of his ailing father 10 years ago. But now that his father has recovered and is moving to Indiana, Metzler would like to move back to Pittsburgh for what the city offers culturally. Winning this contest would also be an opportunity to change his career, as opening a studio would shift Metzler's focus from commercial to fine art.
"I've always maintained a strong interest in applied arts and making art for art's sake," he said. "I've always been an artist. I don't know what else I'd be doing if I wasn't doing art."
Thieman said he'd urge anyone to vote in this contest, even if its outcome won't affect them directly.
"It's a cool way to participate in the American dream, that anyone can succeed," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.