Sunday, August 31, 2008

Boomerang Buffalo

Like just about every Rust Belt city, Buffalo is hoping its former residents will return. Boomerang migration is getting more attention and Buffalo would seem to be at the forefront of this trend. But there is one thing missing from the value proposition attracting natives back, jobs:

Marti Gorman, organizer of Buffalo Homecoming, which tries to lure back ex-Western New Yorkers, says she has assigned herself the job of attracting people to live here. Less-expensive housing is just one selling point, she said.

Gorman said connecting people in their 20s and 30s with the jobs they need to move here can be an issue. There are some good jobs that go begging for candidates, she said, while some potential hires with the right skill sets don’t know where to find job opportunities. A job fair that is part of Buffalo Homecoming tries to bridge that gap, using only local employers.

I've had a few adventures trying to help expatriates move back to Pittsburgh. The process could be streamlined and helping people live near parents in need of care is a vital service. However, this kind of boomerang migration isn't a strategy for economic development. It doesn't really help solve the brain drain dilemma.

A better model is China's management of its diaspora. The Chinese actually helped talent leave the country, only to call back a key demographic known as the Boomerang Generation:

Twenty-seven year old Liu Lu had a good job in New York, but she quit last November to return to her native Beijing.

The aspiring fashion designer opened a boutique store in May on Nanluogu Xiang, a hutong in a trendy part of Beijing's Dongcheng district.

The area, famous for its merchants since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), is now a hip tourist area with bars, cafes, hostels and souvenir shops. She named her small boutique "Lu 12.28", after her given name and birth date.

After studying in France and working in the United States, Liu decided that China was the place where she wanted to launch her brand. "In Paris, designer boutiques are the most popular places to buy clothes, therefore young designers have the opportunity to show their talent in their own stores," says Liu. "I think it will be a trend in China in the future."

Liu didn't return to China looking for a job. She went home to become an entrepreneur. She created her own job. You might remember the story about Grow Home, a program designed to help Youngstown State University alumni move businesses to Youngstown. I recommend Buffalo take a closer look at the Grow Home model, which I consider to be a best practice for boomerang migration.

Minneapolis Miracle

With the upcoming Republican National Convention, Minneapolis is receiving plenty of global attention. The Twin Cities have come a long way over the last 20 years and this metro is now an important destination for talent. An article in the Financial Times describes the boom in Richard Florida terms, making a dubious claim in the process:

How did the Twin Cities manage to avoid the exodus that has weakened other centres? The Cities are lucky to have a robust and diverse business community, unlike many neighbouring states, which have historically been dependent on manufacturing and agriculture. But the jobs are just a part of it. Government and business also have invested heavily in educating the local population. A strong tradition of philanthropy has made the region a cultural powerhouse. And those outlays have transformed a spot occasionally called America’s Icebox into a magnet for young talent.

Minnesota has a reputation for being unusually progressive. It was one of the first states to adopt an income tax – in 1933 – and also pioneered spending liberally and equitably on schools. Whether this approach can be directly traced to the values Norwegian and Swedish immigrants brought with them when they poured into the region in the late-19th century is unclear. What is indisputable is that it helped produce a well-educated population. In 2000, Minnesota had the highest percentage in the US of residents with a high-school diploma, and the seventh-highest percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree.

These graduates don’t have to leave the state to find a well-paid job. Unlike Detroit, which is dominated by one mega-industry (car manufacturing), the Minneapolis-St Paul economy looks like a cross-section of the US marketplace. Its 18 Fortune 500 corporations include Target; 3M; medical device maker Medtronic; and food producer General Mills, maker of Cheerios and Wheaties.

Cleveland and Detroit are two city centers mentioned as victims of the key demographic exodus. The story of attraction to frigid Minnesota is compelling. But the tale of out-migration is a myth pedaled by advocates of the Creative Class strategy. Shrinking cities boosters are also part of the problem.

I don't have any best selling books to legitimize my brain drain crusade, but I do have numbers. They will do in a pinch. The US Census looked at the domestic migration of the young, single and college educated from the period of 1995-2000. In 2000, the MSAs of Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul had about the same total population. However, about 2,500 more of the young, single and college educated left the Twin Cities metro than left Cleveland. But double of this golden demographic moved into Minnesota's largest city region than relocated to Greater Cleveland.

If there is proof that Florida's 3 Ts (talent, technology, and tolerance) helps keep the Creative Class from leaving, I've yet to see it. On the contrary, the bulk of the evidence says otherwise. Yet, as the article in the Financial Times represents, we continue to read about empty promises of how this strategy will stem the tide of out-migration. Nonsense.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Authentic Ohio

Either we will re-brand the Rust Belt or embrace its parochial authenticity. The suggested path depends on how one would characterize the perception of the Postindustrial Heartland. Some outsiders need an update. Others simply have no idea what goes on in flyover country:

I first got wind of this confusion in eighth grade, when my best friend moved from Dayton to Connecticut. What did her new classmates want to know about her? Whether she had lived near cows. (We encountered no heifers while rollerblading in her cul-de-sac.) When I arrived at Georgetown University from Ohio, several of my fellow freshmen remarked that I must have been "so glad to get out of there." One insinuated that she never would have expected someone from the Midwest to do well in Italian. (I wonder what she would have made of my high-school buddies who went to medical school.) By my sophomore year, I felt like lobbying the study-abroad office to supplement its programs in Paris, Cairo and Beijing with a junior year abroad in Columbus, Ohio's capital, which is also known as Cowtown.

Actually, I like the idea of a domestic study abroad program. In many ways, New York City is closer to Paris than it is to any city in Ohio. The central business districts halfway around the world are better known than other places within one's own country. This network of intimate geographic knowledge establishes lines of trust and facilitates business transactions of all kinds. This understanding is a strong argument against the re-brand the Rust Belt camp.

Re-branding the Rust Belt replaces one stereotype with another. The perception is still one of a homogeneous region (e.g. Richard Longworth's Midwest), an abstraction that will fail to generate a deeper appreciation of place. Each Midwestern state (however you would define it) has at least two regions. For that matter, I would expect that every state has a couple of identities that defy stereotyping. Large-scale myth making won't generate much, if any, economic activity.

I doubt there is any such place as authentic Ohio, but the author of the above article in the Washington Post has a lot to say about authentic Dayton. An idea I have is to map just how far outside of Dayton one could grow up and still subscribe to a shared experience that would allow for a deep connection in some Dayton Diaspora hot spot. My hypothesis is that the greater the industrial legacy, the smaller the region of diaspora identity. I've used this perspective to help identify the best potential for a successful urban diaspora network.

I've come to realize that charting the urban diaspora geography also outlines another opportunity: Rust Belt urban networks and more effective economic regionalization. I've studied the long distance exodus from places such as Pittsburgh, but I've mostly ignored intra-regional migration. Someone born in raised in Dayton probably doesn't have any better idea of what it is like in Youngstown than someone located in New York City who never lived in the Rust Belt. But there is substantial talent circulation between Rust Belt cities.

The Cleveburgh corridor is economically coherent because of all the human capital exchange going on between those cities along the line running from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. Now that we've identified this economic geography, the next step is to facilitate more inter-urban intimacy within the corridor (i.e. build lines of trust) and work on improving the mega-regional infrasture:

Five or six stops would be included in the rail service from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, including Youngstown and Warren. The high speed trains would travel at approximately 110 mph and could accommodate about 300 passengers, said Don Damron, ORDC passenger rail planning manager.

I think social media can be instrumental in building inter-urban networks. Come to PodCamp Pittsburgh in October to learn more.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pittsburgh Regional Compact

I've been delinquent in welcoming TECHburgher to the blogosphere. If Pop City were a blog, it would be TECHburgher. There are already a few posts up of interest to me, with the Allegheny Conference talking about talent standing out:

The Allegheny Conference has identified [talent attraction] as one of the central issues to be addressed within our next three year strategic plan. I am sure that you know about the Pittsburgh Compact. In the fall we will launch a new initiative to support our employers and those engaged in talent attraction efforts. We wanted to have the opportunity to brief you on this new effort and to discuss ways in which we might work together for our collective benefit.

As it stands now, the Pittsburgh Compact is operating on an outdated model, training local students to fill local jobs. So, I'm excited to read that the Allegheny Conference is updating its workforce strategy. The Talent Attraction Forum was last Monday (25th) and I haven't seen anything indicating what happened. I guess we wait for the official unveiling.

As far as I can tell, implementing a plan for talent attraction is at least 5 years in the making. Better late than never? Here is the claim:

Because of our region’s demographic profile, we believe have the opportunity to become a model for the nation as for many years to come other regions will face similar challenges as baby boomers exit the work force.

Pittsburgh may be out front of the looming demographic challenges associated with retirement brain drain, but I think the window of first-mover advantage has already sailed. Two years of blogging about the Burgh Diaspora has taught me that there are a variety of talent attraction strategies already in play. A number of them provide good models for Pittsburgh to emulate. Does the Allegheny Conference have a novel approach up its sleeve?

Rust Belt Chic: Buffalo

The era of the alpha global city is waning, the Soft City experience to be found somewhere else. Not New York City. People vote with their feet and the Creative Class is fleeing America's biggest, coolest cities. When you consider domestic migration, cities such as Chicago are losers. Big losers. Where are all these urban refugees going? To the Rust Belt:

After further consideration, I doubt I could become Newell Nussbaumer if I moved to Buffalo, because that job is clearly taken. And I have to admit that the small-town, everyone-knows-your-name thing doesn’t appeal to me—escaping this is, in fact, a big reason why people move away from a place like Buffalo and go to a place like New York. But we tend to think that one of the consequences of leaving New York is giving up all sorts of opportunities. And yet, one quality common to everyone I meet in Buffalo is that, like Nussbaumer, they see opportunity everywhere. Where you see a boarded-up building, they see a future arts co-op. They use the phrases blank canvas or blank slate a lot ...

... I found [Buffalo] appealing for a different reason: not for how similar it is to New York (which is not very), but for how different. New York will always offer you the singular opportunity of testing yourself against the best, of sharpening yourself against the city’s fabled grindstone. Hopeful people will always scrape together their savings to come here, to split a one-bedroom apartment with five other people, whether that’s in Greenwich Village (then) or Bushwick (now). But New York, for all its mythology, is no longer a frontier. Buffalo is a frontier. And when you think of the actual frontier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had really good local theater. They moved looking for opportunities. They moved for the chance to build a new life for themselves.

This, ironically, has always been the siren song of New York City: the chance to turn yourself into someone new, to live the life you’ve always imagined. But what a city like Buffalo offers is a very different promise of what could be. It offers the chance to live on the cheap and start a nonprofit organization, or rent an abandoned church for $1,000 a month, or finish your album without having to hold down two temp jobs at the same time, or simply have more space and a better view and enough money left over each month to buy yourself a painting once in awhile. A city like Buffalo reminds you that, beyond New York, there are still frontiers.

Somehow the urban frontier effect has eluded Richard Florida. He's busy chasing yesterday's city stars. The rise of places such as Austin also had a lot to do with providing a frontier experience. In the Sun Belt, blank slate geographies abounded (see Houston for the best example of a frontier political geography). And then the scene of opportunity shifts as the hipster cities mature (i.e. get more expensive). This is the fickle fortune of geographic mobility.

The Rust Belt is where creative pioneers are moving:

It's strange how I used to only want to visit the "cool" cities (New York, Austin, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco), or perhaps I'd consider Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC. Now my recent obsessions are Baltimore, Buffalo and Cleveland (and other places in Ohio), all of which I've barely seen, and getting back to Kansas City, Louisville, Minneapolis, and Omaha, none of which I've visited for years. I swear, I don't just plan my trips around how many abandoned buildings I'll find...Meanwhile, architecture/urban exploration contacts on Flickr continue to ruin me, giving me a strange desire to visit, for example, St. Joseph, Missouri; Cairo, Illinois; Wheeling, West Virginia; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Denver; Los Angeles...I wish I knew how to get a job out of all this.

Time to pack up the faux woody wagon, destination Buffalo. I reckon you need to light out for the territory ahead of the rest. Tell them Uncle Rich was trying to sivilize you and you've been there before.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yo Cleveburgh

Since I am growing a backlog of blog fodder today, I will share some of the good reading in a classic pithy fashion. Any of the Rust Belt faithful should check out Janko's post about Grow Home, a project designed to encourage successful Youngstown State University graduates boomerang home in order to take part in the "Mahoning Valley Miracle." A Creative Class blogger picks up on another Roboburgh article in the Wall Street Journal. Lastly, learn why Pittsburghers will drive to Cleveland to fly across the country.

Foreign Born Talent: Optional Practical Training

Richard Herman has an article about strategies to tap into foreign born talent in the latest issue of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. I'm familiar with Mr. Herman's ideas, but I still found the angle refreshing and thought provoking. Instead of lobbying for changes in US immigration law, Mr. Herman offers a practical approach to attracting immigrants to Cleveland working within the existing legal framework. One suggestion is Optional Practical Training:

Recent changes in immigration law now extend work authorization for international students graduating from science, technology, engineering, or math programs from 12 months to 29 months, without requiring any sponsorship by the employer.This work authorization is called Optional Practical Training and is secured for the student by the university.There are more than 500,000 international students currently studying in the U.S.

Dramatically increasing immigration to Cleveland or other Rust Belt cities is unrealistic without some significant changes to current US immigration law. However, that doesn't mean your shrinking city can't up the number of foreign born residing there. A good start would be the mapping of foreign born domestic migration, a flow that I rarely see discussed.

While researching my invective about the struggles of Propel Pittsburgh, I was intrigued with the following provocation:

In the meantime, despite all these slings and arrows, we actually have gotten some work done, particularly about immigration. More on that in a future post.

You can read more about Propel Pittsburgh's interest in immigration here. Optional Practical Training might be a useful avenue for them to explore. They should also check out Cleveland's Talent Blueprint Project. Of course, I'd like to see some Cleveburgh collaboration on this issue and I hope to explore that idea further at PodCamp Pittsburgh.

Blog Release: Bottle Shock Recap

From Steeltown Entertainment Project:

Dear Friends of Steeltown:

On behalf of Steeltown Entertainment Project, I would like to thank each and every of you that attended our "Bottle Shock" premiere party and fundraiser on the evening of August 21st at the South Side Works Cinema. The event was a great success, as over 180 of you attended and were able to experience the flavor of a Hollywood-style film premiere! Complete with a red carpet walk prior to the screening, a Q&A period with the film's producers Marc and Brenda Lhormer, and an after screening party, we all enjoyed the company of the fellow guests and the delicious food and wine provided to us by Tusca Global Tapas and Kunde Estate Winery & Vinyards.

Congratulations once again Marc and Brenda! Our special thanks to you both for working in conjunction with Steeltown to premiere "Bottle Shock" in Pittsburgh. We wish you continued success! For those who missed the event last Thursday, "Bottle Shock" is still playing at theatres in the Pittsburgh area, including:

• South Side Works Cinema - 12:15pm, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:45pm, 10:15pm

• AMC Lowes at the Waterfront - 1:35pm, 4:20pm, 6:55pm, 9:25pm

• Cinemagic Squirrel Hill Theater - 3:00pm, 5:05pm, 7:25pm, 9:40pm

PLEASE GO SEE IT, OR SEE IT AGAIN. AND PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ABOUT IT TOO! For further information about Bottle Shock, please visit the official movie website at

For those of you who generously made a financial contribution on behalf of Steeltown:
THANK YOU! And for anyone else who would still like to make a contribution to help us continue our mission of "building a sustainable entertainment sector in the Pittsburgh region," we would be grateful to accept your personal check, made payable to "Steeltown Entertainment Project," 4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Again, our sincere appreciation for your support.

We would also like to extend a special Thank You to all of the wonderful volunteers who helped our organization make this event such a success, and to the Soffer Organization and its employees. We could not have done this without you.

Lastly, please look for Steeltown at the upcoming Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh chapter's Opal Awards event, Saturday, September 6, 2008 at One Oxford Center. This year's awards honor special guest Margaret Loesch, the Emmy Award winning Executive Producer who
recently filmed R.L. Stine's "The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It" in Pittsburgh in conjunction with Steeltown Entertainment Project. We are proud to be a sponsor of this fun annual event and encourage you to attend. For more details or to buy tickets, please visit:

In conclusion, it is worth raising another glass in salute to each and every Pittsburgher, near and far, who are Steeltown champions. Thanks for all you do. And, we'll see you in the movies!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Immigrants Wanted

News continues to pour in about the looming labor shortage crisis. British Columbia frames the issue in terms of productivity and increasing immigration is offered as part of the solution. Thus, news of Canada's rapid advancement of initiatives to do just that shouldn't come as a shock. But before critics of US immigration policy bemoan the sluggish response here, consider possible drawbacks to the initiative:

First, this new class does not address – and may further exacerbate – existing problems of excessively long waiting lists for overseas immigration applicants.

Second, and even more disquieting, this new ‘class’ promotes unequal access to the protection and rights attributed to Canadian permanent residents by excluding lower-skilled labourers who also make important contributions to the Canadian economy and society and who comprise the majority of temporary permit holders. It is important to ask whether Canada wants to advance a system with differential paths to citizenship based largely on the fluctuating economic valuation of certain types of knowledge.

Lastly, it also seems probable that this new fast-track scheme will become an admissions strategy for young migrants able to afford the expense of studying as an international student in Canada. While the financial picture for international students is complex, varying from high tuition fees for most undergraduate studies to receiving scholarships for funded graduate students, the financial accessibility to this potential route to citizenship complicates the already unclear picture wherein international students are desired for their future ambassadorial roles, for their financial contributions to individual institutions, and/or for their potential economic input as desired young researchers and future ‘knowledge workers’.

I'm not confident that I fully understand that last sentence, but I think the point is that countries such as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom still lack focus about how to leverage the presence of foreign-born students at domestic universities. Pinning down talent in order to generate a geographic dividend is notoriously difficult. The interests of the community, the students, and the university are far from aligned, pulling immigration policy in different directions.

A clear common benefit to all stakeholders is still missing from the policy equation. The United Kingdom is struggling to convince their citizens of the benefits of immigration, fueling the boomerang migration to countries such as Poland. In the United States, native tech workers are skeptical of industry's cry for more talent. And shrinking state support of public universities has schools scrambling for revenue in order to maintain excellence in research. Meanwhile, the geographic mobility of talent continues to increase, perhaps making this debate moot.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rust Belt Homecoming

The blog fodder is a bit thin today. So, I'll share a diaspora story I've been tracking over the last two months: Homecoming Scotland 2009. Pittsburghers might note that Scotland is celebrating (in a fashion) its own 250th anniversary, that of Robert Burns' birth. Some of you may have taken part in a Burns Supper, which is held annually on January 25th and enjoys worldwide recognition.

The primary goal of the homecoming is not to entice boomerang migration, but increase tourism and deepen Scotland's global links. The program is not without its critics:

[Former Scottish Labour Party leader Jack McConnell] told The Herald: "Our international strategy for Scotland needs to be wider than North America, Australia and New Zealand and it needs to look at the modern world in its entirety - making Scotland a location of choice for tourists from Asia, who are going to be the biggest tourist market in the world 20 years from now, but also those with diaspora connections in other parts of the world. I'm extremely disappointed the First Minister has such a limited vision of this, but I hope that, on reflection, he will be willing to think again."

Read the comments below the article. Some of them are hysterically funny. I don't see Homecoming as a global initiative to increase tourism, but I do appreciate Mr. McConnell's position that Scotland is missing an opportunity to tap into growing markets. But the aim would appear to be a windfall from people taking a heritage vacation. I don't get the sense that the celebration is a networking event. That is too bad.

Scotland is an excellent model for the Rust Belt to follow, particularly in view of out-migration as a potential economic asset. Homecoming Rust Belt could attract the tourists who still considered themselves Industrial Heartland natives. Actually, many of the people who left your city probably are not all that far away. And a little networking or encouragement to boomerang back home couldn't hurt.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Via the Post-Gazette, I learn that Mayor Luke's plan to enfranchise young adults is withering on the vine:

The fundamental problem, though, is one that seems to plague many public boards and commissions: people just plain don’t show up. We know there have been several resignations, although the complete list isn’t available. Beyond those, there’s another five to ten people who haven’t been seen since the first meeting. There was pretty steep competition to get onto this commission in the first place, and we see a bunch of empty chairs that are itching to be filled. The reason for this non-attendance is unclear, but as far as we can guess, it’s about schedule. We meet Downtown in the early evening, because the city officials who support us want to go home just as much as we do. Problem is, most young people don’t have total control over our work schedules, and if Propel is at the wrong time, then one more Commissioner is SOL.

I serve on a city commission here in Colorado and I'm familiar with the problem of getting enough people to attend. Scheduling snafus happen, but that's why my city appoints alternates. Looking at Propel Pittsburgh's website, I see a couple problems:

  1. The website needs an update. The last meeting minutes posted are from January of this year. The next meeting is "scheduled" for May 21, 2008.
  2. I notice that Mayor Luke is chair of this commission, but I get the impression he isn't attending. He has a proxy, Neil Parham (see minutes from January meeting). Perhaps that is standard operating procedure for the Big City, but the message the Mayor is sending is a bad one. His commitment to the initiative is suspect.
  3. 6pm seems a bit early for a meeting. The commission I serve on meets once a month at 7pm. Sometimes we meet twice in one month and meetings can run long, pushing midnight on a few occasions. We have a representative from the city council who sits in on the meetings and we manage to take care of business on a regular basis. I'm not buying any of the excuses for the poor performance of the Propel Pittsburgh commission. Mayor Luke dropped the ball.
Since the Mayor is chair of this commission, the egg is on his face. He made a big deal about this initiative:

The commission's 35 members, yet to be chosen by the mayor and Youth Policy Manager Neil Parham, will be charged to "ensure that the city of Pittsburgh remains competitive to attract and retain young people," Mr. Ravenstahl, 27, said. "What better way to talk about those issues than having young people at the table, talking about issues that are important to us, and moving forward with aggressive agendas on the city government level?"

That was in April of 2007. The Mayor is only now getting around to cracking the whip? Back to the Pittsburgh blogosphere:

You may still vaguely remember the Propel Pittsburgh Commission, Mayor Ravenstahl’s plan to get together a bunch of smart young people to find ways to keep other young people in Pittsburgh. So far, it’s been a little less than stellar; we’ve been around for a year, and we’ve yet to even make a single formal recommendation, let alone start trying to do something. At our meeting this week, we were told in no uncertain terms that His Honor The Mayor is aware of this, and he is not pleased. Longtime readers know that I’m more of a Peduto-head, but nevertheless, Mayor Luke deserves credit for at least keeping an eye on his creation and trying to make it produce something useful. He’s even gone a bit further and given us a new staff person who has orders to whip us back into shape.

Someone needs to crack the whip for Mayor Luke. The above inside scoop reveals a full-blown fiasco.

Brain Drain Texas

Is Dallas shrinking? Dallas-Ft. Worth doesn't have Tier 1 research university. That spells crisis and the metro region is on the path to doom in the battle for brains:

David Daniel, president of the University of Texas at Dallas, told the UT System board of regents this month that it would take a minimum of $70 million per year in additional incentive and matching funding to bring just one of the state’s "emerging research universities" (a list that includes UT-Arlington and UT-Dallas) to Tier 1 status.

The cost of not building up those universities, the value of lost economic opportunities, is harder to tally. Still, we know this: In 2006, Daniel said, 10,163 Texas high school students left to attend doctoral-granting universities in other states. Similar institutions in Texas attracted 4,358 high school graduates from other states. That’s a net brain drain of 5,805 Texas students going elsewhere.

The ploy for more money is obvious to me. Daily, I read stories about the same issue in just about every state. Different red herrings are invoked, depending on the economic context, but the fear played upon is always the same: Local graduates are leaving the state!

That cry loosens up the purse strings and taxpayers throw their nickels around in a desperate fashion. The presence of a Tier 1 institution doesn't mitigate the brain drain in Rust Belt cities. Why should it work in Dallas? If innovative companies can attract the necessary talent in order to thrive, then Dallas shouldn't worry about graduates leaving.

Just for the record, Dallas County, TX is shrinking, at least in terms of net domestic migration. A bit dated (2006), read the following passage from a Houston blogger:

Here's a trivia question you won't believe the answer to: Guess which city is losing domestic migration at the slowest rate (i.e. doing the best) among these six: NY, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, or SF? The answer: Detroit! It would fall into the sixth position in the table graphic at the bottom of this post. Don't believe me? Just check out Table 3 on page 8 of the report. Looks like housing costs trump healthy industry economics when it comes to domestic migration for a city.

Linking through that blog, I found a story about "Bay Area Brain Drain." International migration tends to cover up the domestic exodus, which demonstrates that different factors explain those respective flows. I read a lot about the influence of housing prices on domestic migration (ye olde "drive until you qualify"), but I think the quality of schools is another important value proposition attracting talent.

Here in Colorado, I know a lot of California refugees who toil in the IT industry. Those in location-independent jobs maintain Bay Area salaries in a relatively low cost Front Range residence. The quality of life is much better and there are a number of excellent schools where you can send your children. But the knowledge of the opportunities here is not all that fluid.

I see a similar trend beginning to take hold in Pittsburgh. But the word is slow to get around. There should be a way to do this more efficiently.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cleveburgh Tech Belt

The Cleveburgh innovation corridor is making news again. Biotech is the centerpiece of the initial round of collaboration. The main barrier to success concerns the geography of trust:

When two business-development groups last year announced their intention to make Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh the ''Biosciences Tech Belt,'' there was some skepticism as to whether the regions could really collaborate.

The objective was to market the 150-mile span as a ''mega-region,'' leveraging resources to draw greater levels of funding and talent into the area.

But advocates knew they faced a historic rivalry driven by sports, traditional us-versus-them economies, and the inherent challenges of working across state lines.

This is where bloggers come into play. The Rust Belt Bloggers Summit in Erie was intimate and our agenda none too ambitious. I walked away from that experience with a greater appreciation of the value of face-to-face interaction. I also learned that these relationships can be maintained over a long distance via the tools of social media. I intend to explore this dynamic further at PodCamp Pittsburgh in October (18th-19th).

Bloggers and business aren't the only stakeholders advancing Cleveburgh:

YSU, as [Dr. David Sweet, president of Youngstown State University,] noted in his ninth annual State of the University address Monday to campus faculty and staff, must think of itself as the center of the emerging tech belt between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. That goal is not as far-fetched as it may appear, given that [Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th,] and his colleague in the House, Jason Altmire of McCandless, Pa., D-4th, have been working closely to develop the technology corridor. They share the opinion that YSU is ideally positioned to be a major player.

Cleveburgh isn't just a figment of my over-active imagination. Youngstown is where Cleveland meets Pittsburgh. You can spy fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers regularly reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Youngstown has its own deep loyalty, but both Pittsburgh and Cleveland are part of the mental maps of most residents. The awareness isn't mutual (a bit like the relationship between Canadians and Americans), but we bloggers are working to change that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Labor Shortage Diaspora

Trying to dig up online an article I read in the Wall Street Journal during my internet holiday, I discovered another news search query as robust as "brain drain." Plugging in "labor shortage" yields an impressive number of stories. Tales of a looming demographic crisis read as follows:

"Everybody has interpreted the shrinking population of working-age people as a mass exodus by young people out of Vermont, but that's really a very small part of the story," Art Woolf, a University of Vermont economist, told The Times Argus. "The biggest part of the story is that people just aren't being born."

Kevin Dorn, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said the shortage of working-age Vermonters is a major economic hurdle facing the state. In the past year, Vermont's workforce fell by about 2,000.

"This low birthrate is a component of a much bigger problem," Dorn said.

The median age of Vermont's workforce is 42.3, the highest in the nation.

Replace "Vermont" with "Pittsburgh" in the above passage and the narrative has that familiar Rust Belt ring to it. Yet the New Hampshire solution to the problem is also (disappointingly) familiar:

The University System of New Hampshire has set a goal to try to get 55 percent of college graduates to stay in-state. Titled The 55 Percent Initiative, it is defined as "working together to convince more of our future college graduates to "work, play, and stay" in New Hampshire."

Veering back to the WSJ article, local workforce development is insufficient when faced with the demand for labor:

In many parts of the economy, there are too many workers, rather than too few. Since January, the U.S. has lost 463,000 jobs. Residential construction and manufacturers that rely primarily on the U.S. market have been hit especially hard.

But the energy industry is hard up for workers who, among other things, can make precision welds, fit pipes for pipelines and oil refineries, and understand the complex electrical wiring in modern power plants. Though the weak housing market has idled many workers who did similar jobs for home builders, their skills often aren't sharp enough to make the cut.

There is a chronic geographic mismatch between the location of the jobs and the location of talent. There is also a disparity between the skills taught at schools and the needs of industry. So, more efficient labor migration won't solve the shortage by itself. There still should be a premium on strategies to attract outsiders and establish new pathways for talent, as opposed to the refrain about retaining graduates.

The other common theme is the lack of awareness about local value propositions. Enough people know about the opportunities in a world city such as Chicago. But too few have even heard about what places such as Vermont have to offer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brain Drain Report

The creative class is fleeing Phoenix. Where are they going? Detroit:

And as if all that weren't bad enough, word's in that we're losing Liz Cohen. Cohen, the topic of a New Times cover story not so long ago, is the super-cool multi-media artist whose latest obsession has been rebuilding car bodies, along with her own. She's off to Cranbrook, an artsy-fartsy school near Detroit, to teach photography. She can pal up with Mark Newport, a former ASU prof with a thing for knitting superhero costumes.

Rust Belt Chic attracts another talent.

Nebraska is feeling the labor crunch with bored young adults moving away in droves and no boomerang migration on the horizon. A human resources expert from Grand Island thinks the solution is to make the community so cool that recent graduates won't leave. Where else have I seen that plan?

Actually, the latest rage to stop brain drain is to match instate jobs with instate graduates. Like online dating, the right people are having trouble finding each other:

“We also recognize that someone who lives, say, in the Lakes Region may know nothing about the greater Nashua area,” [Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce,] said. “For example, our ambassadors could work with St. Joseph Hospital and a candidate from Dartmouth College in Hanover.”

Of course, I think trying to keep graduates from New Hampshire universities and colleges from leaving the state is folly. However, Mr. Williams does describe a significant barrier to the migration of talent. The intimate knowledge about any community doesn't travel well. Philadelphia has come up with an innovative solution to retain a bit more of the talent that immigrates to study at the region's excellent institutions of higher education:

Recruit bright, public-spirited grads from local colleges. Deploy them into one-year stints doing meaningful work for local nonprofits, which contribute $10,000 to underwrite each position. Set the fellows up to live together, five to a house, in regular Philly neighborhoods. Make the housing free, and give each fellow a modest stipend, enough dough so he or she can sample what the city has to offer.

The Philly Fellows initiative suggests that college students don't know the city that well and the value proposition of living there never sinks in while they are matriculating at school. I like the program because it helps increase the spillover from universities into the local community. In keeping with the monastic traditions of scholarship, college campuses are not designed to integrate into the host city.

No matter how clever, working to keep graduates from leaving is not the best approach to increasing talent. Last November at the first IntoPittsburgh meeting, Mike Madison mentioned Bulldogs in the Bluegrass:

Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is an innovative summer internship program designed to bring approximately 28 Yale students to the Greater Louisville, Kentucky area for the summer of 2008. The program, sponsored by the Yale Club of Kentucky, is now in its 10th year, with nearly 300 Yale undergraduates having already experienced the best summer of their lives as Bulldogs in the Bluegrass! The mission of Bulldogs in the Bluegrass is to employ hardworking Yale students in meaningful internship positions, introduce these students to the assets and leadership of the Louisville community, provide benefit to local employers and enhance the community as a whole.

This successful program is expanding to other cities and helps facilitate the migration of Yale graduates to cities that otherwise don't appear on the mental maps of highly sought after talent. Mike should get busy organizing Bulldogs in the Burgh. Pittsburgh is already behind Cleveland on this count. Read more about the brainchild of Rowan Claypool, the founder of Bulldogs in the Bluegrass, here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Toronto Steelers

Sorry Rich, Tor-Buff-Chester will have to take a back seat to Network Pittsburgh:

When Donte Whitner walked onto the field Thursday night at the Rogers Centre, the Buffalo Bills strong safety was shocked to see more Pittsburgh Steelers fans clad in black and gold than Bills fans wearing red, white and blue.

When they began cheering for his Steelers counterpart, Troy Polamalu, he realized that at best, this would be a game played at a neutral site.

I doubt the same thing would have happened if the game was played in Buffalo and given my experience watching road games with other members of Steelers Nation, I suspect that many of the fans who showed up are residents of Ontario. Once again, inter-urban connectivity trumps mega-regionalism.

Rust Belt Chic: Detroit

David Miller, part of the growing cadre of bloggers for Richard Florida's Creative Class enterprise, writes about the continued importance of frontier spaces:

The more I read of [Frederick Jackson Turner], the more I find his theories fit well with many of the structural economic and social changes the US (and much of the global economy) is currently experiencing. Moreover, many of the attributes that Turner argues were present on the frontier are present on today’s college and university campuses. One example is the diversity of the population that inhabited the frontier. Today’s campuses are incredibly diverse along many lines (age, sex, race, work experience, religion, musical tastes, nationality, field of study, economic status, etc.)

Another attribute that the frontier and the campus have in common is distance from control. On a campus much of the population is far from parents or from former employers, while those who went to the frontier were beyond the reach of governments, churches, families, and tradition.

Jonathan Raban, concluding that My Space and Facebook comprise today's frontier, writes about London's former position as creative crucible par excellence:

Yet in Soft City I was trying to write about metropolitan life as it had existed since the 18th century – as a theatre in which the newly arrived could try on masks and identities more daring and extravagant than any they had been allowed in their villages or small towns, as a place that guaranteed a blessed privacy, anonymity and freedom to its inhabitants and, most of all, as somewhere where every citizen created a route of his or her own through its potentially infinite labyrinth of streets, arranging the city around them to their own unique pattern. That was why it was soft, amenable to the play of each of its residents’ imagination and personal usage. A town, even a large one, imposes on its people certain fixed patterns of movement and, with them, a set of rather narrow expectations of what kind of character you’re permitted there. If I live in Worksop, Worksop largely defines me; if I live in a great city like London or New York, I can make the city up as I go along, shaping it to my own habits and fancies. In an article published a few weeks ago in London’s Evening Standard, David Sexton cited Soft City and nicely summed up its essential argument in one sentence, writing that the book was about “how we all construct our own different versions of London, in our imaginations joining up the streets and places each of us knows, so that associations and familiarities matter more than the map and thus we all mould for ourselves a different city in which to live”. Aboard his newly bought bicycle, Sexton was busily discovering the intricate geography of his own soft city.

Has the university campus replaced the world city as frontier? I think the answer is no. Cyberspace doesn't qualify either. Turner's all-important social tabula rasa is located in the heart of any shrinking city:

The nightmarish view of downtown Detroit and its suburbs is ancient history. The city is currently home to a strong (though small by coast-city standards) art scene. Wayne State University is becoming known for it’s cutting-edge gallery shows, while older artists have contributed much to Detroit’s exceptional public art installations. Detroit is also the epicenter of the Urban Adventure movement, with intrepid explorers coming from as far away as Europe and Australia to clandestinely explore the city’s beautifully decaying factories, mansions, hotels, mental hospitals, and skyscrapers.

Belle Époque Paris, Soft City London or Beatnik New York were never quite as wild as Post Industrial Detroit is now. Perhaps Berlin just after the end of the Cold War compares. Dubai might be globalization's frontier capital. But to wander among the creative destruction dominating the urban landscape of the Rust Belt is to understand one's own limitless possibility.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Greenmarkets Diaspora

A teaching gambit popular in the geography graduate program I attended was to make students unload the contents of their backpacks and figure out from whence the items came. The intent of the exercise is to help people understand globalization. Produce traveling thousands of miles for consumption in Colorado is particularly remarkable. But once again, I find the exception to the rule more interesting:

The Cumberland Valley Produce Auction in Shippensburg, Pa., began in 1994 with roughly 500 Amish and Mennonite growers, whose customers were primarily local grocers and restaurants. Since then, it has doubled in size, thanks in large part to the demand from large, well-known companies. Buyers come to Shippensburg from New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and other points.

Furthering developing this obscure connection between Pittsburgh and New York City, I present "Michael Hurwitz, the director of New York City’s Greenmarket program":

Before joining Greenmarket as director in February 2007, Mr. Hurwitz was the co-director of Added Value and Herban Solutions, a nonprofit youth and community development organization that he co-founded in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and that operates a 2.5-acre urban farm and two independent farmers’ markets as well as a local community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A., project. Mr. Hurwitz, who grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990 and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, where he was a Public Service Scholar, in 2007. He was a 2006 Union Square Award, given to grass-roots activists, and a 2004 Petra fellow.

Not only do Pittsburgh and New York share a similar source for trendy agricultural goods, they share talent that is redefining the landscape of small-scale farming. Might Mr. Hurwitz be interested in lending his expertise to similar projects in urban Pittsburgh? Not to undermine Amish and Mennonite growers, but clearly there is a market for quality produce that might be better served by more local urban farms.

Marcellus Shale Diaspora

On a flight from Pittsburgh to Denver, I sat next to a young man who made his living working on various oil drilling projects that often sent him well beyond his home base in Colorado. He was on leave from a job in Southwestern Pennsylvania, which is why this article in the Washington Post caught my eye:

The Pennsylvania fossil-fuel boom points to a broader national reality: The old energy sources come from mature industries that have the infrastructure, know-how and capital to put a big drilling rig in a hayfield at the snap of a finger. Oil and gas companies also benefit from a federal tax incentive, dating to 1918, that allows companies early deductions for "intangible drilling costs."

My first read of the story sparked a blog post about another common thread that could string together an economically coherent region, in this case the map of the extent of the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus Shale is the location of this "old energy source" that resulted in a temporary migration of labor from Colorado to Pennsylvania. I intended to add geology to my case for Cleveburgh, but I kept finding other tangents to explore.

The more compelling theme is one of geographic comparative advantage that is re-emerging. Needed workers can be flown in, but the infrastructure to exploit the opportunity is not so easily generated. That the know-how and capital are also still amply present in the Rust Belt is more than a bit ironic. But living in the Inter-Mountain West, I'm aware of the perils of embracing the boom-bust commodity economy. The financial windfall needs to be invested in less ephemeral development. Luckily, the Marcellus Shale region also has the infrastructure, know-how and capital to do that as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

STEM Anxiety

The stories of brain drain are much exaggerated. I'm amused that only now I am making the connection between out-migration hyperbole and the manufactured crisis about declining maths and science skills of Americans. Bill Gates is playing on our irrational brain drain fears:

Let's not exaggerate: science and engineering are not the new Comp Lit or philosophy, those undergraduate majors for which employment prospects are so dicey that parents practically beg their kids to go to a trade school instead. But about those claims that the United States suffers from a shortage of scientists and engineers—claims such as the National Science Foundation's warning in 2004 of "an emerging and critical problem of the science and engineering labor force"—Vivek Wadhwa, founder of Relativity Technologies and executive-in-residence at Duke University, has a terse response: "It's a lie."

Keeping Mr. Wadhwa's unequivocal assessment in mind, consider posts about domestic migration found at Civic Analytics and Urbanophile. When people leave Ohio, a common destination is a neighboring state (Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania). Inter-city moves are also more commonly instate. To use Urbanophile terms: Why would a person move from one weak city (state) to another? I'll leave that as an open question for policymakers to ponder.

Returning to the issue of the shortage of engineers and the like, I submit this from the Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship:

In this sense, the steady drumbeat for 'more scientists and engineers' begins to appear a bit shallow. We need them, of course, but before simply recruiting more students into the existing disciplines, maybe we should think about restructuring those disciplines. In an odd way, the age-old story of specialization, increasing returns, and greater knowledge that continues to shape the economy, may push us toward an educational system that emphasizes integrative, consilient thinking.

The above describes Disneyburgh. It could describe a number of Rust Belt cities if significant educational reform were possible AND we could get beyond the myths informing bad policy. But if you won't take my word for it, then listen to Vivek Wadwha. India's global tech ascendancy still leaves a lot to be desired.

I propose applying the model of Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center to Rust Belt urban primary and secondary schools. My plan is to revitalize these cities with a value proposition akin to what is helping Akron outperform the likes of Cleveland, Canton, Youngstown, and Dayton:

The Best Urban School System in the State. APS has its challenges, but does urban education as well as anyone in Ohio. The Ellet and Firestone clusters help keep taxpayers living in the city. Boutique schools like Miller South and (soon) the Inventure Place sci/tech school enhance the revenue stream by bringing students in from out of district. APS has also put special programs like Project GRAD into the most challenging schools with some results.

The goal isn't to catch up with the Chinese or Indians. The aim should be to work with our strengths, which is a creative approach to problem solving. Take the best that Rust Belt universities have to offer and integrate it into shrinking city schools, making them the best place to learn how to compete in a global marketplace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Political Economy of Isolation

Jessica Fenlon serves up the apocalypse stemming from the political geography of industrialization. Braddock's disconnectivity, the legacy of Carnegie's brilliant strategy to keep labor captive, is expressed in the haunting landscape Ms. Fenlon paints. Digesting the images, I still see a frontier landscape where the crippling isolation offers a perverse opportunity.

Destruction breeds creation.

This is the Rust Belt ethos that has captured my imagination. But I'm more drawn to what seems to be an unsolvable problem, urban decay juxtaposed with the splendors of globalization. For every Oakland, must there be a Braddock in Pittsburgh?


Hot on the heels of my consideration of Pittsburgh's particular propensity to solve the proximity problem, Disney announces its intention to horn in on the action:

[Joe Marks, vice president of research and development for Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios,] said Carnegie Mellon stands out with its expertise in computing, robotics, human interaction and entertainment.

"CMU is No. 1 in the world, and that was obvious to Disney," he said, noting that advances in computer technology led to creation of Pixar and its documented success with computer graphics and animation in such films as "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," and "Ratatouille."

Developing a relationship with Carnegie Mellon represents Disney's attempt to create "the perfect collaboration of industry, academics, art and science," Dr. Marks said.

Rising transportation costs are fueling a comeback for industrial Pittsburgh, but the established connection with the Los Angeles knowledge economy is much more indicative of the ongoing Rust Belt rebirth. The branding of Pittsburgh as a unique global creative center probably surprised just about anyone who read about Disney's intention to tap Carnegie Mellon University.

Then there is the story behind the above story. I suspected that a link between Disney and CMU already existed, paving the way for the big announcement. The kind of research that goes on at CMU likely put at least a few of the faculty there in the same idea circle as Dr. Marks. The out-migration of talent from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles is another factor that deserves consideration when piecing the deal together. Brain drain is an excellent economic development strategy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blog Release: Bottle Shock

"BOTTLE SHOCK" Premiere Party and Fundraiser

Steeltown Entertainment Project is pleased to present the

Pittsburgh Red Carpet Movie Premiere & Party

for the "hugely entertaining*" film: "BOTTLE SHOCK"

Thursday August 21, 2008: South Side Works Cinemas.

The party begins at 6:15PM. And you're invited!


In 1976, a small American winery sent shock waves through the wine industry by besting the exalted French wines in a blind tasting, putting California wines on the map for good. Not only is "BOTTLE SHOCK" based on this infamous true story of love, victory and fermentation, but it was produced by Pittsburgh's own Marc and Brenda Lhormer of Zin Haze Productions. "BOTTLE SHOCK" was directed by Randall Miller and stars Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Dennis Farina, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Chris Pine and Eliza Dushku. See the trailer here:

"A marvelous, beautifully made, feel-good movie that is guaranteed to revive everyone's flagging faith in American pride at home and abroad."

– Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"Rocky for wine aficionados. Intelligent, affectionate,

beautifully acted. Gives crowd-pleasers a good name."

- Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

"Hugely Entertaining! There's magic in it! It's a winner!"

-Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


"BOTTLE SHOCK" Premiere Party and Fundraiser


Join Steeltown Entertainment Project as we celebrate the opening of this "magical*" and "not to be missed*" independent film with California wine tastings, international tapas, and a chance to enjoy Q&A with Pittsburgh's own Marc and Brenda Lhormer, the film's producers and former directors of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival.

6:15PM – Opening Night Kick-OFF - Walk the WHIRL MAGAZINE red carpet into the theater and sip a complimentary glass of California Chardonnay prior to the introduction of the film by its producers, Marc and Brenda Lhormer.

7:00PM – Movie Premiere - Enjoy the Pittsburgh premiere of the movie "BOTTLE SHOCK," hailed by Stuart Lee of WNYX-TV as "Enjoyable and delicious. A sweet, sweet summer treat."

9:00PM – VIP AFTER PARTY- Immediately following the screening, join us for a private reception and Q&A to be held outside the Theater and under the stars. Amidst the backdrop of Hollywood-style searchlights, savor California wines and a variety of delicious international tapas from TUSCA Global Tapas Restaurant.

TICKETS: Are You In?

$65.00 each, proceeds benefit Steeltown Entertainment Project.

Seating is extremely limited. All tickets available on a first come, first served basis only.

CLICK HERE TO RESERVE your tickets now, or visit


South Side Works Cinemas

425 Cinema Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15203


Steeltown Entertainment Project is a Pennsylvania 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The mission of "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. For more information, please call 412-622-1325 or visit

* Quotes from the "Bottle Shock" review by Peter Travers, Rolling Stone magazine.

Special Thanks to:

Damien Soffer/South Side Works, Whirl Magazine, and Freestyle Releasing.

Creative Virtual Communities

The Proximity Rule should be broken, not heeded. And if cities are analogous to businesses, at least concerning the issue of talent, an Australian company's innovation might interest Rust Belt cities (i.e. Pittsburgh):

The model is an attempt to stop the inevitable “brain-drain” of experience and knowledge as the plant’s work force ages. The project models and demonstrates a number of jobs around the iron-making plant, such as how to do a mantle change. In the metal plant, machinery must be taken apart, parts replaced, and then reassembled in extreme conditions. The 3D model is a step toward making the entire process clearer for new workers.

When I write about Pittsburgh's economic cluster of solving the proximity problem, the above virtual training technology is what I have in mind. Eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction is the goal. Startups such as ImpactGames strive to make long distance collaboration viable, thus enabling the hive mind to solve problems. In this world, there is no such thing as brain drain as long as you remain connected.

Regarding the migration of talent, quality of place gurus such as Richard Florida help cultivate the awareness of cool cities that might otherwise escape the notice of the geographically mobile. The best way to learn about an ideal relocation destination is to visit that city and speak with like-minded locals, face-to-face. Perhaps unwittingly, the place rankers are attempting to take travel out of the decision equation and minimize the proximity rule. Conveying over a long distance the value proposition of a certain neighborhood is difficult, which is why many cities struggle to attract talent.

More Rust Belt Chic

This Youngstown brewer is way ahead of this New York Daily News journalist:

Think about the immediate market share of a new beer company that decides to purchase and set up shop in an abandoned rust belt steel mill. Think how much more goodwill it gets when it pledges to pay its workers a decent wage, and source its wheat, hops and barley only from American farmers.

Better yet, think of growing the ingredients at a local urban farm and hosting the Rust Belt Beer Festival in the pedestrian friendly downtown.

Green Diaspora

Austin, Boulder, Eugene, Portland, and ... Pittsburgh?

That's right, our green tour starts in the rust belt. Steel town might be the 57th most populous city in the nation, but it ranks number eight in terms of green building (as measured by the amount of LEED-certified floor space in the city). The green building movement traces some of its roots back to this town, where the Green Building Alliance originally formed in the 90s with the help of local philanthropists led by the Heinz family. Local governments saw the writing on the green-built walls and encouraged the movement through zoning incentives that reward green building and investments in new green facilities for conventions and other public uses.

Philadelphia and South Bronx also make the list of green innovative US cities. A shrinking city never looked so good.