Recent hot terms for igniting economic development include "entrepeneurship", "knowledge management", "knowledge economy", and "regional innovation economies". Kenichi Ohmae hypothesized, in his book The End of the Nation-State, that regions would supplant states as the primary geographic unit of the global economy. To the extent that regions cross established national borders (see European Union), we are witnessing a novel development and an economic opportunity. But regional economies within nation states are old news and do not offer a robust model for economic development.
However, intranational regions could integrate globally in order to jumpstart the local economy. Why do you need a regional identity to accomplish this?
Another model for a regional innovation economy would be the return of the city-state. The process of economic globalizaiton could be understood as the intensification of the networks between global cities. The scale of the nation-state is diminished, removing the mediation between the city and the world.
Missing from this discussion is the increasing mobility of labor, domestically and internationally. Increasingly, where you are is less important than who you are. In other words, the economic utility of the region is in the decline.
The goal shouldn't be to network a region, but to network a people who share a common identity. That common identity could be a shared cause. Or, it could be a regional identity carried with people wherever they can find work.
The primary barrier to developing this relatively ageographical network is the socialization to non face-to-face interactions. MySpace is a good example of a demographic socializing in a new medium. So are Blogger and the various sports fansites. The trick is turning these social networks into economic networks, fostering an explosion of entrepeneurship.
Pittsburgh could be a center for this emerging economy.