Dr. Thompson has a vision for Pittsburgh as a leader of a club of shrinking cities and that the region should do more than work to save itself. My vision is Pittsburgh-centric, but I've long thought of my adopted city as part of a larger cause. I'm a child of the Rust Belt with many hometowns. I've fallen in love with Pittsburgh, but I hope to work with other people passionate about their own cities.
The above is a roundabout way of introducing Audrey Russo's vision for the Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC). Her words should resonate with anyone concerned about the economic welfare of Rust Belt cities:
Quite simply, Pittsburgh and the surrounding region need more people with a wider set of skills. It is imperative that to retain the people we already have, we must attract talent from around the world. Yes, from around the world.
Many other parts of the country outpace us in the attraction of foreign workers. Since half of the national workforce expansion in the 1990s was accounted for by international immigrants, the region must find ways to attract this important demographic.
Overall, we have to address many issues, including immigration, as well as “boomerangers” who desire to return. Our targets ought to be people, like me, who see this region having a rich heritage that has laid the ground work for yet another Renaissance percolating around the corner.
This region – with its robust terrain, historic relevance, rich cultural offerings, interesting neighborhoods, world-renowned universities and professional sports teams – suffers from a perception problem which is exacerbated by fractionalized attempts to address it. At the Council we are going to listen to our members who ask that we help coalesce our partners and forge innovative solutions to this complex issue.
The Council is well-positioned to play both a leading and supporting role in helping Pittsburgh win the strategic positioning for talent migration and retention.
Brain drain and meager in-migration, along with the "fractionalized attempts to address it," are a common Rust Belt lament. Audrey's mission is to lead the PTC and best serve its regional constituents. However, I hope my Rust Belt kindred spirits can recognize the opportunity. As I'm calling on the Burgh Diaspora to take Pittsburgh as task and make it your own, I'm extending an offer to join together in order to revitalize the Rust Belt and transform it into a global economic power.