Friday, January 09, 2009

Pittsburgh Outposts: NYC

My Steelers obsession this week turned up another boomerang tale thanks to the Pittsburgh themed Freakonomics blog post. New York Times journalist Holly Brubach recently returned home:

“The whole time I was growing up here I never really appreciated Pittsburgh,” she says. “I thought it was an ugly city. My idea of beauty was Paris. Pittsburgh was industrial. It seemed provincial to me. Partly I’ve changed, and partly the world has changed. Industrial is now an aesthetic. People decorate in the industrial style.

“And the Internet has decentralized culture. When I was growing up and you wanted to be in magazine publishing or dance or art, the only place to be was New York. Now, there is no ‘only’ place to be. You can do that work from anywhere.” ...

... Brubach is proving the theory that people can live in relatively inexpensive Pittsburgh and work anywhere. She’s consulting and working on several books, even as she contributes columns on books for the New York Times Magazine T supplements. She’s also consulting for her old friends at YOOX, the once fledgling site that has become a hot seller of end-of-season designer merchandise. And she’s on the prowl for Pittsburgh buildings that she and other investors can acquire and transform.

Brubach's move to Pittsburgh is exciting and offers a template for other natives pining for a familiar landscape, not to mention an inexpensive cost of living. In fact, I think her story is much more important than the Burgh boosterism piece making the rounds. Imagine what you can do in Pittsburgh with New York City wages.

Brubach is my prototype for how Pittsburgh can garner a return on its investment in talent that leaves the region. She is also part of the vanguard that I see transforming the region into a global economic power. Pittsburgh repatriates could be an army of experts in virtual collaboration and long distance transactions, something that dovetails nicely with one of Pittsburgh's innovation niches. Regardless, the alpha world city networks that these boomerang migrants build are a boon to Pittsburgh's fortunes.


Amos_thePokerCat said...

... Imagine what you can do in Pittsburgh with New York City wages.

Doesn't that beg the question of why wages in Pittsburgh are so low?

It seems to me, that when people only move back if they get to still make the better salary by working remotely, that does not bode well for the city.

How many people are really going to be enthusiastic to move for a pay cut?

Speaking of moving ...

When last I commented on your previous blog, about 18 months to two years ago, you were looking a job in , and to move to PIT, but could hardly even get people to respond to your resume because you were applying from outside the area. Any luck since then?

If PIT is just a great place, and fantastic bargain, why haven't you moved there already?

Jim Russell said...

I've read that Pittsburgh produces much more talent than it can employ. There is a labor glut because people are not leaving Pittsburgh in droves.

I've also read that there is a talent shortage in certain sectors of the Pittsburgh economy. I don't know if wages are higher in those jobs and I've struggled to find some hard numbers for Pittsburgh's labor landscape. However, I have access to good research from other regions and I think I have a pretty good idea what is going on in low wage Pittsburgh.

Regardless, people will move for a variety of reasons and one job is better than no job. The real problem is over-leveraged mortgages and a soft real estate market. Moving is difficult with so much debt.

I did dabble in the Pittsburgh job market a few months back. I drummed up a couple leads, but the only interviews I garnered were in the DC area. If I want to raise my kids in Pittsburgh, I'm going to have to be creative. Thus the blog make-over. Apparently, my education and experience fail to align with the talent shortage.