Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global Midwest Initiative

Richard Longworth chimed in at Rust Belt Bloggers. He would like to continue the conversation about globalization in the Midwest. We can do so at Rust Belt Bloggers, but I suspect that blog-to-blog would be a better medium for our discussion. The challenge before us is familiar ground and Mr. Longworth made a remark about the barriers to dealing with globalization while speaking in St. Louis:

In order to catch up to the global era, Longworth says St. Louis and other cities need to provide the infrastructure that will make the industries coveted come to the area, such as top-of-the-line public transportation and education.

As part of his solution to enable Midwestern states to better handle the problems of globalization, Longworth proposes a regional approach where state lines and barriers are broken down. He said states are too small, too parochial and too isolated to handle challenges presented by the global era.

"The Midwest really operates as a bunch of balkanized states," Longworth said. "An expert in Indiana may know everything about his industry in Indiana but doesn't have the foggiest idea of what's going on in Ohio or Michigan."

Longworth recommends building a Midwestern institute focused on global issues and, of course, economic globalization. What is currently missing is some formal mechanism encouraging collaboration between regions (e.g. NEO and SW Pennsylvania-Pittsburgh). After reading "Caught in the Middle", I would endorse the Global Midwest Initiative. However, I would pay attention to what Mike Madison is writing about our various "civic networking" efforts.

Imagine Global Midwest?

Blog Release: Creative Pittsburgh

From The Mattress Factory Art Museum:


A Conversation with the Curator and Artists

March 8, 2008

Saturday, March 8, 2008
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
FREE with Museum Admission

What will be your beverage of choice during the apocalypse? Tea or Absinthe? Both libations will be offered on Saturday, March 8th, during a captivating discussion of the current Gestures exhibit, illustrations of catastrophe and remote times.

Guest curator Heather Pesanti and several exhibiting artists will be on hand to discuss the show, the decisions they made during the creative process, and any other questions you might want to ask.

The discussion starts at 2:00 PM in the museum's lobby and a guided tour of the exhibit will preceed the conversation at 1:00 PM.

FREE with museum admission.

Blog Release: Creative Youngstown

From Brooke Slanina:

If you haven't heard yet, The Oakland (220 W. Boardman St./Downtown Ytown) is presenting a new installation of THE STAGE, our answer to open mic night, this Thursday Feb 28 from 8-11 pm.

If you've been to the Stage before, you know how much fun it is. If you haven't, then what are you waiting for? 5 bucks gets you in the door for a night chock full of the best entertainment Youngstown has to offer.

This is definitely an unmissable Stage as we bid the incomparable Youngstown fave BJ O'Malley a fond farewell as she takes her songwriting skills and amazing voice to Nashville to hit it big. Only the Stage will do for her Farewell to Youngstown performance, where she'll be joined by some very special guests. Be sure to nab a CD and send her off with some gas money.

Karen Wennberg will be painting live during performances by Matt Palka (VW-driving singer makin his way across the nation), Chris Barzak (award-winning novelist), Mona Lisi (poet and host of the infamous Mona's Open Mic Poetry night), The Real Time Digi Mob, Dr. Ray's Amazing Sideshow of Science, and other local singers, bands, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, poets, COMEDIANS...maybe YOU?!

If you'd like to perform, you can:
1. Preregister by replying to this email, calling me (330.718.5515), or heading to
2. Show up at 7 pm Thursday to sign up and rehearse/set up

Performers' entrance fee will be waived if they bring 10 audience members.

Check out the awesome flyer attached, created (as ever) by the incredible Steven Andrew.

The Oakland really needs your help this winter. We're all faced with big heating bills, so you know what it's like :) Help us out! Your 5 dollar donation and support as an audience member or performer makes a huge world of difference.

See everyone Thursday!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Youngstown's Crucible of Youth

My fascination with Youngstown's frontier urban experience should be obvious. I'm enjoying Youngstown as center stage in the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton:

But for every optimist here there are two or three hard-bitten cynics who dismiss the pledges and resent the politicians for using Youngstown as a showcase for economic distress. They remember the day Bill Clinton rode into town promising a Pentagon payroll processing center with room for 7,000 workers (it went elsewhere) and the time John Kerry set up his dais in front of a boarded-up building so the cameras would show Youngstown’s ugly rump even though there was a new state office complex on the other side of the street.

“We’re sick and tired of the empty promises and the same old story line about Youngstown and the mills,” said
Phil Kidd, 28, a blogger and community activist who has sold 10,000 T-shirts that shout “Defend Youngstown” over the image of a steelworker swinging a sledgehammer. “The problem is that this is a rubber-stamp Democratic area so they know it’s almost a guarantee they’re going to get our vote. We just have to hope that this time whoever wins won’t forget about us.”

For Youngstown and the rest of the Rust Belt, the upcoming election is about globalization. If Obama or Clinton do remember, then what should they do to help? Richard Longworth's new book "Caught in the Middle" is starting to get more play among Rust Belt bloggers. This should have been required reading for the primaries in Wisconsin, Ohio and even Pennsylvania (Longworth doesn't consider Western Pennsylvania to be part of the Midwest).

We bloggers should be debating how to best deal with globalization. I'd also like to read about reactions to Longworth's tale about Rust Belt woes, particularly how he all but throws some dirt on top of dying Cleveland. Along those lines, I suggest we try to get Richard Longworth to speak at the upcoming Rust Belt Bloggers Summit. John Austin at Brookings would be another great addition to our inaugural meeting. Even is we can't get any of the heavy hitters to attend, I recommend "Caught in the Middle" as the theme for our summit.

Blog Release: Question for Senator Obama

From Richard Herman:

I am a Cleveland immigration lawyer, trustee of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Cuyahoga County Bar Association, and the Northeast Ohio Immigrant & Minority Business Alliance.

I would like to ask you the following question in anticipation of the Debate on Tuesday, February 26, at Cleveland State University:

"There are several proposals (such as High Skill Immigration Zones) that seek to remove restrictions on High Skill immigration AND seek to provide special incentives for high-growth companies and high-end immigrant talent to relocate to economically distressed, progressively depopulating regions such as RustBelt Cities.

As President, would you support such initiatives that seek to reframe immigration policy in terms of "economic stimulus" and global competitiveness?

If so, how do you propose to lead the country into a new, less-divisive national discourse on immigration?


For background information on the High Skill Immigration Zone proposal, and other issues related to the impact of foreign-born talent on high-growth industries and job creation, please note the following and attached:,CST-EDT-brookings02.article,8599,1674962,00.html

Blog Release: Creative TreeHouse

On Sunday, March 9, Creative TreeHouse will be hosting an art and music event to benefit Invisible Children, a San Diego-based non-profit organization working in Uganda to encourage the peace process and to educate and rehabilitate former child soldiers. Doors will open at 6pm for art, food and live music from DJ OCTEEL. Talks by the Invisible Children Roadies and a screening of their Sunday documentary will begin at 7pm. To end the evening, local Pittsburgh musicians The Jim Dandies, Kellee Maize, and Lohio will perform. The cover charge is $10 and for a suggested $10 minimum donation attendees can purchase artwork, prints, or handmade goods from local artists and Invisible Children collaborators.

The evening will also include informational displays from the Univ. of Pitt branch of the Student Global AIDS Project and other local humanity groups. This event is sponsored by Creative TreeHouse, Your Mom’s Indie Department Store, the ONE Campaign, Giant Eagle, Flavorville Cafe, Nakturnal and more to come.

For more information about this event, a full list of artist participating, and other Invisible Children events in Pittsburgh, please go to or contact Jesse Hambley at To learn more about Invisible Children, please visit

Creative TreeHouse is located on the second floor of 517 Lincoln Ave, Bellevue PA 15202. Creative TreeHouse LLC was founded by Jesse Hambley, and operated by a group of volunteers including Jason & Val Head, Mick Rose, Bill Dunlop, Josh & Rachel Sager, Jason Mosley, John Bodnar, and many more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Urban Geography of Globalization

I'm a few chapters shy of finishing Richard Longworth's "Caught in the Middle." Longworth doesn't think Chicago's shoulders are big enough to hold up the Rust Belt mega-region. He spots a few success stories in the Midwest, but nothing that would raise a place to the level of world city. Most cities, such as Cleveland or Detroit, globalization will leave behind. Other cities, such as Milwaukee, might follow Chicago out of the post-industrial economic malaise. Regardless, Longworth is sure that the Midwest needs a few more winners like Chicago.

The first key to unlocking the wealth tied up in globalization concerns demographics. A few Rust Belt cities are, somewhat surprisingly, attracting a number of international migrants. However, the new arrivals bring a different set of challenges and a city needs more than immigrants to grab a spot on the economic world stage.

Longworth figures what Chicago did right is to preserve a vital urban core, The Loop. He sees the same potential in downtown Milwaukee. Cleveland isn't so lucky, with the bulk of the educated workforce residing on the fringes in suburbs and exurbs. My sense is that Pittsburgh is in the same boat as Milwaukee, but sorely lacking significant immigration. There have been a few missteps (e.g. casino development), but Pittsburgh's urban core survives intact. The topography surrounding the Golden Triangle would seem to force the kind of density that globalization rewards.

The Diaspora Network Imperative

Britain is fretting over a recent OECD report about brain drain:

In reviewing Roger Scruton’s England: an Elegy a few years ago, the journalist Christian Tyler described that feeling particularly well. “For people in later middle age,” he wrote, “the present is a place of exile in which they are condemned to live estranged from the country they knew and loved as children. Brought up in the culture and mores of one place, they are involuntary immigrants to another; there they can choose either to acclimatise or to live locked up in a state of permanent regret.” Or they can choose to become emigrants.

That might be why some people leave this country. But I think the most important one must be economic; Britain is a wonderful place to live if you are rich and can pay your way around any inconveniences. Britain is relatively good if you are poor, particularly if your country of origin was even poorer. But for the educated middle classes Britain is no longer a good deal. The main reason for that is simple: it is the oppressive price of property.

If London is world city par excellence, then why is talent leaving the country? The typical reaction is to focus on the push factors of migration and then try to fix what is wrong with home. Putting aside the Creative Class hype, substantial out-migration is a sign of urban health and the geographic mobility of British citizens is a testament to the quality of the national system of education.

Human capital is surfing the Flat World, cause for celebration for cities such as Pittsburgh. The nomads of globalization are in the market for opportunity and they are willing to relocate. But all the talk about strategies to retain highly trained people is nonsense. Pittsburgh should be trying to attract the British mobile class and all the other talent fleeing established global economic spikes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Update: East Coast Connected

New Brunswick (part of Atlantic Canada) is actively courting the return of its expatriates:

Over scrambled eggs and sausage and with the Toronto skyline soaring overhead, the expats told Shawn Graham why they swapped the quality of life in Atlantic Canada for the concrete jungle, and offered suggestions on what could maybe lure them back.

"We need your sincere input today, we don't want flattery here,'' the premier said at the beginning of a roundtable discussion organized by the Population Growth Secretariat and East Coast Connected, a Toronto-based group that promotes bonds between Atlantic Canadians living in Toronto and promotes investments in the Atlantic Provinces.

I'm familiar with the policy storyline. A geographic comparative advantage evaporates and transforms a region into a global economic cul-de-sac. Domestic and international in-migration comes to grinding halt. The government bends over backwards to keep businesses from leaving and the aging infrastructure sucks the coffers dry. In another act of desperation, policymakers finally make an attempt to attract human capital. However, the citizens and other interested parties continue to dwell on out-migration.

Is there to be a happy ending?

Turning back to the article at hand, I'll leave you with the pessimistic economic geography:

Malini Handa, a pharmaceutical sales manager who is also from Saint John, said it is unlikely she will move back. But she quickly added that she needs to be in either Toronto or Montreal to do the type of work she does.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Urban Identities and Diasporas

"Linking Pittsburghers far and wide" would seem to be a good idea, but to what end? Everyone is moving to Spikytown, where talent and globalization meet face-to-face. Pittsburgh and other shrinking cities will want a piece of that action. I think that networking an urban diaspora can help to develop a niche in the global economy, cultivating a few more spikes in the Rust Belt.

GLUE and Rust Belt Bloggers provide a forum for the exchange of ideas. What we are learning is that we share common problems and we might benefit from the experiences of others. I see the building of an urban diaspora network as a different sort of project, taking advantage of established patterns of migration (e.g. brain drain). My goal is to establish Pittsburgh as a springboard to the knowledge economy.

Local universities, namely Carnegie Mellon and Pitt, already enjoy a worldwide reputation for excellence in higher education. But alumni networks mainly benefit only members of a particular academic community. Furthermore, college graduates are fickle, even in Canada:

It is clear from this study that most foreign students do not even entertain the possibility of remaining in Canada after graduation. If the government's policy direction is to increase access of international graduates to the Canadian workforce, then a focused and well-communicated policy is the minimum required action. However, this move on its own would not necessarily produce a situation in which, let's say, over 50 per cent of international graduates would want to stay in this country. While the data show graduates are more likely to stay in Canada if they could, the fact remains that Canada is in direct competition with many other countries for the global talent pool of which international graduates as part. The choices international graduates (and domestic graduates, as well) make about where to live and work in the world has become more complicated and challenging than ever.

Pittsburgh needs more than opportunities for increased labor mobility, which is likely to be expressed as greater geographic mobility. Developing countries have long struggled with brain drain, but some manage their expatriates better than others. One result might be attracting more foreign direct investment. The Canadian example indicates that more and more foreign students are returning to the country of origin. The trend of boomerang migration is on the upswing.

But what makes me think that what works for nation-states will extend to cities? Making meaningful connections is difficult enough and the success of international diaspora networks may not apply to a domestic context. The way the world works is in a state of flux and diasporas challenge our dominant political geographies. Being a citizen of these United States doesn't mean what it once did:

Loyalties, meanwhile, are moving to transnational communities defined in many different ways: by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation. These communities are replacing bonds that once connected people to the nation-state, with profound implications for the future of governance. The lessons of citizenship in the state may not translate to these new and resurgent forms of alternate community. Where the state once stood above other forms of associations as the polestar of individual identity, it will increasingly share the stage of human association, with enormous attendant challenges for decision makers and scholars alike.

The articulation of Pittsburgh-ness is a salient form of "alternate community." As Barbara Johnstone has argued, the Burgh Diaspora promotes the notion that Pittsburghese is a unique American dialect. In fact, three Rust Belt cities have the same potential to network their diasporas:

The Midland would not hold much interest to a person searching out accents were it not for three enclaves that have retained unique speech: St. Louis, Cincinnati and, in particular, Pittsburgh, which seems to be the Galapagos Islands of American dialect.

A shared culture, even if more myth than reality, is of great value in the global marketplace. I imagine Pittsburghers doing business with other Pittsburghers all over the world, while some of the more adventurous serve as economic ambassadors. The proximity rule doesn't bind the Diaspora. The same could be said for other shrinking cities and even the entire Rust Belt mega-region.

To keep this rambling wreck of a blog post going, I'll try to tie in the Post-Gazette's Pittsburgh 250 opinion pieces. The way forward is described as mining the past or looking within. Globalization has robbed Midwestern cities of its risk-takers. The spirit that built these great places has moved to Spikytown. Urban diaspora networks alone cannot fuel another renaissance. I hope GLUE and Rust Belt Bloggers will encourage more boomerang migration. And if the international migration of talent is any indication, Pittsburgh 300 will focus its celebration on how these post-industrial refugees rebuilt their city.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blog Release: Creative Cleveburgh

Innovation Geography of Renewable Energy

I'm currently reading Richard Longworth's book about Midwestern travails with globalization. Which cities will survive the economic transformation? Cleveland and other Rust Belt cities are betting on green innovation such as renewable energy. I doubt that any shrinking city can capture a cluster away from the emerging environmental powerhouse in the Front Range of Colorado. News today of ConocoPhillips' purchase of a large (400+ acres) campus in Boulder County is case and point:

The Louisville facility will put a heavy emphasis on renewable energies while helping to support the company’s traditional oil and gas business, Tanner said. Being close to the National Renewal Energy Lab in Golden was a selling point for the company, he said.

The company also considered the quality of life in Boulder County, close proximity to Denver International Airport and the closeness of the University of Colorado and Colorado State University — ConocoPhillips already partners with both schools on research. ...

... Tom Clark, executive director of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., said he thinks ConocoPhillips’ facility will benefit the Denver area. The move could also help the resurgent oil and gas industry on the Western Slope and the budding wind energy development in the northern part of the state, he said.

The rumor going around the tech industries located in the area had Google buying the large complex in Louisville. But the regional economy is going in another direction, leveraging the numerous energy assets already in place. Furthermore, Boulder is a hotspot for a variety of firms and organizations specializing in environmental R&D. Also often overlooked is the presence of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

The economies of agglomeration that Longworth explicitly describes would stack the deck against Rust Belt cities looking at green technologies as a port in the storm of globalization. I would start exploring connectivity opportunities with the Denver cluster of innovation, the heart of the global renewable energy scene.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Network Cleveland

I'm blogging from a hospital in Boulder, Colorado. Yesterday at 3pm local time, my wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Pittsburgh's global extended family is now one member stronger. The Front Range may be my place of current residence, but it will never be home. The demands of economic globalization does scatter the members of a community, but these forces also have the ironic effect of strengthening our ties to one location.

I contend that regions must leverage some geographic comparative advantage in order to thrive in the current global economy. Despite innovations in telecommunications and the possibility of instant exchanges of financial capital halfway around the world, distance remains a barrier to economic development. The problem is a lack of trust and our dependence on face-to-face interaction. As nationalism continues to demonstrate, a shared heritage can engender trust over long distances. Even if we speak the same language and borders are disappearing, the Tower of Babel is under no threat of crumbling.

Add Chris Varley to the list of people who view translocal human capital as a unique regional asset:

It is a counterintuitive and controversial idea to think that diaspora is a good thing for a region, but in fact it is. The more people outside a place who share a tie *to* a place, the more likely it is that those people can be called upon to help support the region and its up-and-coming generations. For proof of that you can look back in history to the original Diaspora, and the support networks that exist outside of Israel that still feel strong ties to a desire to support the development of this geographic place.

So what’s got me going on this topic today? A call from
OSTN, the Open Student Television Network, which is based here in Cleveland. OSTN distributes college student produced television content. Things like Harvard University’s student-produced soap opera, “Ivory Towers.” In October of this year they will be holding a conference in Cleveland to bring together student content producers from around the country. They asked us if we knew of any former Clevelanders who had “made it” in film, television, or music and who would hold an appeal to college students today.

Of course I fully support the idea of reaching out to the Cleveland Diaspora, but I'm struck thinking about a GLUE-type learning moment. If Cleveland intends to network its entertainment industry diaspora, then OSTN might value the experience of the Steeltown Entertainment Project:

The mission of the Steeltown Entertainment Project ("Steeltown") is to nurture promising talent and to incubate meaningful and commercially viable entertainment projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania by connecting former Pittsburghers who are working in the entertainment industry with the region's human, cultural, educational and economic resources.

Northeast Ohio's close proximity to Pittsburgh could have a few beneficial spillover effects, for both regions. More importantly, the efforts in one Rust Belt city can help inform similar projects in another shrinking city. That's one of the ideas driving GLUE. And who knows, perhaps two Rust Belt bloggers can foster a meaningful connection between Arun Kumar and Carl Kurlander?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sushi Diaspora

Survey says talent nomads are attracted to superior sushi. Is the competition for knowledge workers so fierce that the cuisine opportunities would privilege one city over another? The marketing battles between Seattle and Silicon Valley indicate that the sushi variable very well could tip the scales. More seriously, the economic development these valuable migrants can help instigate is a vexing policy debate:

Pittsburgh has deep-seated economic problems that can be cured -- if they can be cured, and that's a very big "if" -- only with sustained growth. It is doubtful that Pittsburgh's growth can come entirely or even largely from within -- from local material and knowledge resources, local investment, local labor. What will it take to bring those resources, investment, and labor from outside the region? "Sushi" is a semi-serious proposed answer to that question.

Human capital is only part of the quest for extra-regional resources, but it is the heart of my ruminations about building New Pittsburgh. If the economic benefits are marginal, then the quality and quantity of information should make the difference. Pittsburgh's relative isolation has hurt the region in the quest for new human capital. Even if the city did harbor world-class sushi, putting the Burgh on the mental maps of footloose talent is a tall order.

Mike Madison includes an anecdote in his post about economic development that exemplifies the kind of tacit knowledge barriers that can impede capital (human, venture, investment, etcetera...) migration:

Find outside investors willing to put money into local businesses, that is, to compete with local firms. Right now, I'm talking with a friend who invests in small manufacturing enterprises. He's not based in Pittsburgh, but he's intrigued by my general description of the strength of manufacturing here.

There are a number of cities sporting strong manufacturing opportunities, but the marketplace where these parties might come together doesn't exist. The surrogate is hard data, such as tax rates. But tacit knowledge is what moves people and dollars. That's the kind of infrastructure I think Pittsburgh needs.

Blog Release: Managing the Inevitable!

Managing the Inevitable!
February 27, 2008 at 6:30 pm
@ the New Hazlett Theater -- Free!

We need to find ways to contain our hunger for energy and other resources that are, inevitably, dwindling. Are there solutions? How realistic are they? And how can they be implemented?

Come listen to our experts discuss and debate Green chemistry, adapting our manufacturing processes, energy options, infrastructure and more. Dr. Paul Anastas, Professor at Yale University and a Heinz Award recipient in the environmental category, Audrey Russo, CEO and President of the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Steve Winberg of Consol Energy R&D, will join the lively discussion led by Moira Gunn, of TechNation media.

Read more at Pop City.

Bring your questions, ideas and your energy! Cocktails and conversation to follow.

Respond to:

presented by: no wall productions, the Heinz Family Philanthropies and the New Hazlett Theater and sponsored by Pop City.

Blog Release: The Colored Museum (Youngstown)

The Oakland Center for the Arts will present the timeless play The Colored Museum, written by George C. Wolfe, director of the Broadway smash, Angels in America. The Colored Museum takes a satirical look at what "color" is in America today.

Coupling irreverent wit with deep compassion, Wolfe's play tackles and topples the myths and stereotypes of black culture, from slavery and Ebony magazine to hairstyles and Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun. All the sketches revolve around identity issues: the loss of it, the escape from it, the search for it, and the humor in it. The audience will be taken on a journey that parodies preoccupations with image, hair, class, culture and fame.

Directed by Johnny R. Herbert, the outstanding cast consists of Kim Adkins, Kenneth Brown, Dixie Crystals, Samantha Daisher, Thomas Fields, Carla Gipson, Brandon Martin, and Lois Thornton with choreography by Nikita Jones.

Gallery artist Fred “the Count” Molten will display his work in the Star Gallery throughout the run of the show.

Produced by special arrangements with Broadway Play Publishing and underwritten by Michael Morley. Performances are February 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 8pm and February 17 at 2pm.

For ticket information, call the Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 West Boardman St, Youngstown, Ohio, at (330) 746-0404, or visit for more information.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rust Belt Regional Strategies

News from the meeting in Dearborn continues to trickle out. The Southern Growth Policies Board again surfaces as a model for mega-regional cooperation:

The Southern Growth Policies Board, established in 1971 and still going strong, is dedicated to "strengthening the South's economy and creating the highest possible quality of life" in the region. That means not only attracting employers, but boosting education and attacking poverty. The Step Up Savannah program, described in our editorial that begins on the front of today's "On Point" section, is the kind of success you can get as an outgrowth of this kind of thinking.

The private, nonprofit board includes representatives of the Carolinas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and West Virginia, plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Membership support comes from business, nonprofit and educational institutions throughout the region.

This sort of alliance was among the ideas being advanced last week during an unprecedented gathering of business leaders from throughout the Great Lakes region at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. Part of the concept was for the participants to take regional thinking back to their political people with an eye on convincing election candidates to endorse economic polices that will benefit the region.

That's all well and good, but why not start a little self-help effort in the meantime?

I suggest that the "little self-help effort" is already in play thanks to the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE). Not to sell short the creative energies of Sarah Szurpicki and Abby Wilson, but the support from high-profile organizations such as Brookings is generating palpable interest in building a mega-regional network and joining the cause:

Late last year, [the GLUE co-founders] got a temporary Web site up and running and have drawn funding and help from some heavy hitters. One, the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution of Washington, D.C., is in the midst of a years-long effort to promote state and federal policy changes to cure the ills of the Great Lakes region.

Michigan organizations quickly saw the possibilities of a network of people in their 20s and 30s, urban innovators working together and sharing ideas. Our state's financial supporters include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, The Ford Motor Co. Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, DTE Energy and others.

Do you see that, Tri-Cities? Flint and its Mott Foundation have joined the Great Lakes Urban Exchange. So has Detroit. And Lansing.

Let's join them.

The above editorial also mentions the Rust Belt Bloggers Network, so our humble project is also receiving some notice. Occasionally, the right people come together at the right time and do something special. Already, a number of promising initiatives are on the table. We need to start moving on at least a few of them and create a few avenues of action for the people who get involved.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Talent Production and Job Creation

The answer is Pittsburgh. For thriving cities such as Austin, there is an annual shortage of tech workers. Local investments in human capital will only stretch so far, driving the national (and international) search for more talent:

And, if after all this talk about using labor market information to identify workforce availability in your region still doesn't produce the software developers you need, sign up for career fairs in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. They led the U.S. in graduates prepared for software development jobs in 2006.

The irony of the Pittsburgh labor market is that the excess capacity of tech talent has yet to result in dramatic increases in job creation. What if Carnegie Mellon University refused to host a career fair? Of course, such a policy would be absurd.

Places, such as Austin, where there are shortages of software developers can and will offer a higher salary than places, such as Pittsburgh, where there is a glut of tech graduates. Richard Florida is wrong. People aren't leaving Pittsburgh because the city isn't cool. Young adults are moving to Austin because of the demand for their skills.

Career fairs are marketplaces for cities starved for talent. The tension isn't between Austin and Pittsburgh. Austin is struggling with Silicon Valley and Seattle. I don't expect the Front Range of Colorado to absorb all the international relations graduates from the University of Denver any time soon. There are only so many positions open in New Jersey for urban planners with degrees from Rutgers. And not all meteorology majors at Penn State can expect to work at AccuWeather.

Need talent?

Geographic Dichotomies: Flat Versus Spiky

The geography of globalization is, without a doubt, uneven. But the striking examples of the concentration of innovation don't necessarily mean that the world isn't flat:

It's a mantra of the age of globalization that place doesn't matter. Technology has leveled the global playing field--the world is flat. "When the world is flat," says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "you can innovate without having to emigrate."

It's a compelling notion--but it's wrong. Today's global economy is spiky. What's more, the tallest spikes, the cities and regions that drive the world economy, are growing ever higher while the valleys, with little economic activity, recede still further.

I understand the allure of setting yourself in opposition to a popular book, but I find the debate to be disingenuous. Friedman is describing the flows across international borders ("emigrate") and Richard Florida is touting the value of density ("spiky"). I don't think the geographic unit of analysis is the same, a case of apples and oranges.

Both Friedman and Florida could be the author of the following paragraph:

The main difference between now and a couple of decades ago is that the economic and social distance between the peaks has gotten smaller. People in spiky places are often more connected to one another, even from half a world away, than they are to people in their own backyards. This peak-to-peak connectivity is accelerated by the highly mobile, global creative class, about 150 million people, who migrate freely among the world's leading cities--places such as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Someone living in the United States doesn't need to emigrate to Japan in order to tap Tokyo innovation. Instead, they move to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. "Peak-to-peak connectivity" and "distance between the peaks has gotten smaller" aptly portray Friedman's flat world. Furthermore, a flatter world is what helps new places of global innovation emerge (e.g. Dublin and Seoul).

There is a geography of the flat world and it is spiky.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rust Belt Ripples

I apologize for the spate of blog releases and lack of original content over the past week. Richard Herman's posts (latest here) about attracting more international migrants to the Rust Belt region received some media attention. An enterprising law firm in Michigan picked up on the policy suggestions. They see the EB-5 visa as an existing opportunity that remains relatively under-exploited.

A push for mega-regional policies among the Great Lakes states is beginning to take shape, the Brookings Institution leading the way:

"We could afford to go our own way in the past because we had the wealth and the jobs and the muscle," says Ed Wolking, executive vice president of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

But those days are gone.

That's why the Detroit chamber offered up an idea last year to the Brookings Institution think tank, which had issued a report in late 2006 called "The Vital Center," on economic challenges facing the Great Lakes region.

What if we brought business leaders from around the Midwest together, the chamber suggested, for a meeting to discuss promising avenues for collaboration among states? And maybe we could also agree on a few key policy needs that we can hammer home to 2008 U.S. presidential candidates and anyone else seeking votes and campaign money from our region.

I've been following this story since the release of the Brookings report and I can't say that the initiative is receiving much attention in Pittsburgh. In fact, I haven't seen much press about it outside of Michigan. The grassroots efforts of GLUE look to be more promising. But I shouldn't be too cynical about what I perceive to be urban industrial politics as usual. Some fresh voices are coming to the fore and there are a few new leaders.

What still surprises me is the lack of an accurate appraisal of the state of the Rust Belt union. Hyperbole seems to be the default rhetoric. Meanwhile, the economic outlook is a bit more rosy if you are located in Toronto:

Kennametal, headquartered in Latrobe, Pa., is a classic example of what's happened to U.S. manufacturing more generally over the past two decades. It's producing a lot more with fewer workers. Since 2002, Kennametal's global sales have soared more than 70 per cent. And yet its work force has grown a meagre 16 per cent.

In the past five years alone, the state of Ohio has lost 185,000 manufacturing jobs - most of those in the state's traditional industries of rubber, plastics, electrical equipment, fabricated metal, autos and steel.

And yet, Ohio's manufacturing output is 6-per-cent higher than it was in 1992. Since 2002, exports of manufactured goods have grown at a rate of nearly 10 per cent a year.

Business is booming, but job creation still lags. This isn't your daddy's industrial labor market and Kennametal is doing much more with less employees. But globalization remains the convenient scapegoat. Thus, I'm skeptical that the Great Lakes mega-region will get its policy priorities in the right order. The temptation to blame someone or something else is too strong and too easy.

Blog Release: Help Startups

Tuesday, Feb. 19th
Doc's Place

Our next event is on Tuesday, February 19th from 5:30 - 7:30 pm, and we're going back home to our cozy nook - the private upstairs lounge of Doc's Place on Walnut Street in Shadyside . This is a casual networking event in which you can warm yourself beside the fire with a winter toddy, and rekindle friendships. We'll be providing Doc's yummy pizza for your eating pleasure - you cover the liquid refreshments!

BIG Entrepreneurial Event Coming

On Tuesday, March 18th, Help Startups is hosting a major event in our community - a panel discussion and Q&A session entitled, "Where Do We Go From Here?" As of today the following entrepreneurial community leaders have agreed to be on the panel -
  • Audrey Russo, President, Pittsburgh Technology Council
  • John W. Manzetti, President & CEO, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse
  • Matt Harbaugh, Chief Investment Officer, Innovation Works
  • Eddie Yongo, Chief Investment Officer, Idea Foundry
Each of our panelists will first take a couple of minutes to tell us about the focus of their organization and what their current situation is. Then our moderator, Gary Rosensteel, Executive Director of Help Startups, will ask each to comment on their vision for the future of their organizations and how they see the southwestern PA entrepreneurial community advancing. We will then entertain questions from the audience in regard to our evening's theme - Where Do We Go From Here.

The event is intended to be somewhat of what is occasionally referred to as an Imagineering session. Putting lots of ideas out for discussion to foster collaboration, cooperation and the betterment of our entrepreneurial environment.

Make an entry in your calendar - Help Startups, March 18th, 5:30 - 7:30 pm.

The venue will be announced in our next newsletter.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blog Release: GLUE and Primaries

Don't Stop With the Compact:

'Rustbelt' Cities Coalition Thanks Presidential Frontrunners for Supporting Great Lakes Compact,

Calls for Regional Urban Agenda in Three Upcoming Great Lakes Primaries:

Wisconsin: February 19
Ohio: March 4
Pennsylvania: April 22

Thursday, February 14th - With the eyes of the nation fixed on the increasingly influential Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania primaries, members of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE) network urge Presidential frontrunners of both parties to develop an agenda for the urban revitalization of the post-industrial cities of the nation's freshwater basin, and to make that agenda public as soon as possible.

The Great Lakes Compact, to which Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama all pledge support, would ban diversions and establish fair, consistent, and binding rules for Great Lakes water use. State legislatures across eight states are in the process of approving the Great Lakes Compact, which will also require U.S. Congressional approval.

Commitment to the Great Lakes Compact, GLUE members argue, is a laudable but incomplete idea portfolio for a region that boasts 33% of the country’s population, 90% of its freshwater, 36% of its advanced degrees, and close to 40 million urban dwellers.[1] The US cannot afford to ignore the challenges this region faces.

"The economic potential of the Great Lakes region will not be fully realized unless water protection is paired with inclusive and innovative reinvestment in cities like Milwaukee, Erie, and Youngstown," said Pittsburgh native Abby Wilson, Co-Founder of GLUE. "The shared potential of our region's environmental and human capital is truly extraordinary, but untapped – partly because our cities are struggling. The region’s cities should be the laboratory, the nucleus, and the expression of that possibility."

Official campaign websites of Senators Clinton and Obama reveal "rural" issue platforms that address economic development and quality of life, yet neither they nor Senator McCain have established a similar forum for "urban" proposals, let alone one for Great Lakes cities specifically.

“Even today, Midwestern states send more of their tax dollars to the federal government than they receive in return investment,” said Ryan Horton, Senior Policy Researcher at the Public Policy Forum, Milwaukee resident, and GLUE team member. “It is critical that our 44th president, whether Democrat or Republican, is prepared to implement an urban reinvestment strategy the day he or she takes office."

"Across the world, the number of people moving to cities drastically outpaces the ability of infrastructure to support them. Yet my city and others like it are fighting tooth and nail to stave off population decline,” Detroit native and GLUE Co-Founder Sarah Szurpicki said. “We can’t continue to sideline this region as our nation evolves in the 21st century.”

GLUE, a coalition comprised of post-boomer urbanists located in the "rustbelt," was founded to promote the power, aide in the positive transformation, and address the shared challenges of similarly-storied older industrial cities situated in the Great Lakes watershed. Among the ranks of GLUE coalition members are community organizers, urban planners, artists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and students living and working in over twenty cities in ten states. GLUE operates on four guiding principles:

Urbanism: Cities are our world’s economic drivers. Decision makers cannot afford to underestimate their value nor overlook their needs.

Regionalism: Great Lakes urban centers need to overcome outlooks of despair and isolation by forging a shared perspective and developing strength in numbers.

Storytelling: White papers alone cannot propel an agenda, particularly for the emerging generation of leadership. No need is expressed more powerfully than via human narrative.

Building Networks: Connecting people and institutions who share challenges and objectives will foster regional collaboration and transfer examples of success throughout the basin.

GLUE was developed in the fall of 2007 as a forum for people to exchange stories, ideas, and

best practices between otherwise isolated cities ranging from Buffalo to St. Louis to Minneapolis. GLUE’s permanent online home,, is in development at Detroit's College for Creative Studies. Visit GLUE’s temporary blog ( for a complete list of involved cities and the latest on their activities.


Abby Wilson
Co-Founder, Great Lakes Urban Exchange
801 N Negley Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15206

412 551 4609 (cell)

Ask me about NY, PA, OH, KY, MO

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blog Release: J'Burgh Back in Action

J'Burgh Hires Interim Coordinator

As of February 1st, 2008 J'Burgh has officialy hired David Katz as the Interim Coordinator. David is originally from Dayton, OH and is a graduate from The Ohio State University. David has lived in Pittsburgh for the past two years and has been working as the Youth Director at Congregation Beth Shalom. In addition to his duties as Youth Director, David will be working part time to ensure that all of our favorite J'Burgh programming continues as planned. David is excited to be working with us and wants to hear from all of you, so please feel free to contact him with any programming ideas, or just to say hi.

A Message From David Katz

Hi, my name is David Katz and I am very excited to be the interim Coordinator for J'Burgh. I personally have had the pleasure of living in Pittsburgh for the past two years and I'm excited to share my experiences in this city with all of you, while continuing to explore it through fun and innovative programming. We will be working over the next few weeks to put together a calendar which will continue such successful programs as, The Shadyside Minyan and Jew Eat. We also plan to add exciting additions like happy hour, a kickball team, movie nights, and different Jewish learning opportunities. The sky is the limit for J'Burgh programming, so please contact me with any ideas for events or groups that you may have. I'm more than happy to meet any and all of you for coffee, or beer. Please feel free to contact me or 412-621-8875 ext. 111.

More About J'Burgh

Blog Release: Digital Democracy--You're Invited

Digital Democracy is a special event happening here in Pittsburgh next month. This is a project I've been working on for months and I'm excited to let you know about it now.

It's a conference that will explore how the digital revolution -- including blogs, online video, websites and social media -- is changing traditional news media coverage and citizens' access to the political process.

The event includes national-caliber speakers who are coming to town on Saturday, March 15.

Its website is now online at:

Our speakers include:

• New York Times Online Politics Editor Kate Phillips, who writes for and edits The Caucus, The New York Times politics news blog.

• Executive Editor Matthew Sheffield

• Senior Fellow & Director of Special Projects Paul Waldman

• Hearst-Argyle Director of Digital Media Content Jacques Natz

• J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer

• Media Bloggers Association President Robert Cox

Other speakers include former USA Today reporter Toni Locy, who's topic is "Subpoenaed For Her Sources". She's the subject of a contempt-of-court request for her refusal to identify sources who provided her information about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the subsequent investigation.

There will also be sessions on "Bloggers as Journalists and Journalists as Bloggers", on new media skills and digital literacy for reporters, and on Open Records laws.

Digital Democracy is a Society of Professional Journalists regional conference, hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter. Region 4 covers Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, but the event can draw from beyond. Its something for all journalists -- and you don't have to be a member of SPJ. In fact, given the theme, bloggers, students, and others with an interest and involvement in the conference theme are welcome to attend. The Digital Democracy website has links for online registration and there's a special rate for students and SPJ members.

If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging as much here on the Busman's Holiday for a while, it's because I've been working on this event. I'm program chair and have been lining up the speakers. I also created the website for the event. I know some fellow journalists check out the blog here, and I want to encourage you to join us and to spread the word. This is a professional enrichment event intended everyone in news organizations across the region. Links to more specifics are on the website. I hope to see you there.

--Posted By Bob Mayo to The Busman's Holiday

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blog Release: EnterPrize Business Plan Competition

The Pittsburgh Technology Council has announced that its EnterPrize Business Plan Competition will kick off this year on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 with a workshop entitled, "Developing the Idea." The workshop will be held at the training facility at the Council's offices in the Pittsburgh Technology Center, starting with registration at 5:30 p.m. The workshop will wrap up with a question and answer session at 7:30 p.m. The cost for EnterPrize competitors and Council members is $25.00, and the cost for non-members is $40.00.

Each EnterPrize workshop will feature subject matter experts and distinguished professionals who will present a wide variety of key topics that are necessary to consider in developing a business plan. Budding entrepreneurs with ideas for potential high-growth business are urged to attend this and seven other workshops throughout the series to ensure that their business plans include everything potential investors require, all the while competing for cash prizes to fund their businesses. Last year, EnterPrize awarded $80,000 to participants in two categories over three phases of the competition. Participants in the competition, regardless of whether they have won or lost, have attracted a total of more than $100 million in venture capital funding over the course of the nine years the competition has been in existence.

The three phases of the competition include:

Phase I: Business Concept

Three businesses in each category will win cash prizes for developing an executive summary that:

  • defines customer value
  • estimates market size
  • selects target audience
  • determines feasibility
  • predicts profitability
  • generates business leads

Phase II: Business Plan Components

Two businesses in each category will win cash prizes for expanding their business plans by:

  • examining the components of a successful plan
  • understanding what investors seek
  • focusing on the final product
  • working with a coach

Phase III: Business Plan Details

One business in each category business will win cash prizes for finalizing its business plan with:

  • market, competition and sales information
  • product or service features
  • implementation schedules
  • financing requirements

Additional topics and dates for this year's workshops include:
  • "Entrepreneurial Marketing Strategy" (Wednesday, March 5, 2008)
  • "Business Plan Writing" (Wednesday, March 26, 2008)
  • "How to Get Your Plan Ahead" (Wednesday, April 2, 2008)
  • "Entrepreneurial Finance" (Wednesday, April 9, 2008)
  • "Legal Issues of Starting a Business" (Wednesday, April 23, 2008) -- "Funding Sources" (Wednesday, May 28, 2008)
  • "The Pitch" (Monday, June 16, 2008)

The objective of the EnterPrize Business Plan Competition is to increase the number of start-up companies in the Pittsburgh region, to increase access to capital, and to establish a channel for the commercialization of products, services and technology. The geographic scope of EnterPrize encompasses Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland Counties.

Sponsors for this year's EnterPrize include the Idea Foundry, Innovation Works and the R.P. Simmons Foundation. For more information on the 2008 EnterPrize Business Plan Competition, contact Melissa Ungar, director, entrepreneurial programs at (412) 918-4292 or by visiting

Pittsburgh Technology Council

University Globalization

Yesterday, I described universities as gateways to globalization. A New York Times article about the growth of American branch campuses abroad is an excellent illustration of this function. But US politicians are concerned about the lack of spillover into the communities that public universities are charged with serving:

Some lawmakers are wondering how that rush overseas will affect the United States. In July, the House Science and Technology subcommittee on research and science education held a hearing on university globalization.

Mr. Rohrabacher, the California lawmaker, raises alarms. “I’m someone who believes that Americans should watch out for Americans first,” he said. “It’s one thing for universities here to send professors overseas and do exchange programs, which do make sense, but it’s another thing to have us running educational programs overseas.”

Domestic institutions may benefit from running programs in other countries in more ways than improving the bottom line. Critics see only new market opportunities, but universities claim that international linkages offer a global perspective currently lacking at home. Even if such dividends do materialize, how does a Carnegie Mellon University branch campus in Doha benefit a non-student living in Pittsburgh?

The problem isn't providing higher education to foreign nationals living outside of the United States. The issue is a lack of a useful interface between a university and the region where the school is located. CMU, Pitt and other local institutions of higher education need to flatten the world for more people than students and faculty.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

University of Human Capital Mobility

On the heels of understanding what Pittsburgh's universities cannot do, Richard Florida comes to a similar conclusion in his weekly column. However, Pittsburgh's very own talent magnet would prove wanting in the battle for brains:

The reality is that most regions export their talent. [Kevin Stolarick (Martin Prosperity Institute)] developed a measure called the Brain Drain/Gain Index that compares the percentage of an area's population in college to the fraction of college grads in its work force. The upshot: Ten per cent of regions are brain gainers; nine in 10 experience brain drain.

The university's most important role today may be in terms of the third T: tolerance. Societies flourish when they are open to new people and ideas, while stagnating during periods of insularity and orthodoxy. Creative people vote with their feet and they tend to move away from communities where their ideas and identities are not accepted.

The lesson is that the geography of talent is spiky. Vital human capital is pooling in a small number of places that can absorb tech graduates seeking jobs (e.g. Google); provide ample innovation (universities); AND promote creative thinking (tolerance). Pittsburgh is short two of the three ingredients and the result is brain drain.

I still contend that Dr. Florida overstates the push factors of talent migration and that policies designed to retain homegrown human capital are misguided. Brain gain or drain is a function of net migration, not an indicator of a region's ability to keep people from leaving. Since the post-industrial exodus ended, Pittsburgh's problem has been and is attracting talent.

My theory is that human capital seeks places where the world is most flat. A city could meet all three of Dr. Florida's (necessary but insufficient?) conditions and remain a location of brain drain. Perhaps the university assets are being misused, but the fundamental problem is a lack of global connectivity. I notice a strong sense of isolation in shrinking cities. Richard Longworth does a great job of describing this phenomenon.

Local universities are effective gateways to globalization, but how does that help you once you graduate? Most people must pack their bags and head to the spiky world. What is your city's Globalization IQ or Connectivity Profile?