Innovation Works in Pittsburgh is a regional partner of the Ben Franklin Technology group and, like [Jumpstart (Cleveland)], is run by a former technology entrepreneur, Richard Lunak.
“When people think of technology entrepreneurs and venture capital, they think of Silicon Valley and that’s where they think it ends,” Mr. Lunak said. “But there is a lot going on in regions like Pittsburgh, which has over a billion dollars of federally funded research pouring into its universities annually.”
According to the Kauffmann Foundation, the most successful of these organizations are those led by a chief executive who has stood in the shoes of a start-up in that region. Mr. Lunak certainly fits the bill.
“I’m the C.E.O., but 18 years ago I helped start a medical technology company, Automated Healthcare, which was started with an $89,000 loan from Ben Franklin Technology Partners,” he said. “When I left, the company, which had since been acquired by McKesson Corporation, employed about 1,800 people. But it is still located in Pittsburgh. In that time, it has grown and acquired other businesses that have relocated to our region.”
He added that “it also drives a lot of other regional businesses, like suppliers of motors, amplifiers and sheet metal, so it has created both blue- and white-collar jobs. This is why these technology-based companies have sustainable competitive advantages.”
The NYT seems to be hot on the trend of Rust Belt revival, perhaps catching up with the folks in Ontario. While the boomtowns have been getting drunk on the latest bubble economy, shrinking cities were busy getting lean and mean. The hard work is beginning to pay off as places such as Pittsburgh are weathering the latest economic downtown surprisingly well.
I'll point out once again that all this start-up activity is occurring without the benefit of relatively robust immigration. Established immigration gateways tend to gloss over net domestic out-migration, making some cities look stronger than they really are. If foreign born entrepreneurs ever catch on to the tremendous opportunities available in the Cleveburgh Corridor, the Postindustrial Heartland will re-emerge as a driver of the US economy.