Friday, May 29, 2009

More G-20 Pittsburgh

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal curiously explained the site location of the upcoming G-20 summit as an economic boost for a struggling city. At least, that's how I read it. A more formal article (as opposed to the blog post), gets back to the Pittsburgh showcase angle. I suppose the two narratives might overlap in the observation that the federal government is targeting Pittsburgh for further economic development, the engine for a revitalized Rust Belt.

Chris Briem points to a Dennis Roddy authored article that helps to explain why anyone would be bullish on Pittsburgh's future economic prospects:

Steel was the manufacturing base that made possible so many of the other businesses, so when the steel mills closed, the machine shops went out of business. When the machine shops went out of business, the tool suppliers went out of business. When the tool suppliers went out of business, those people lots their jobs, they didn’t shop anymore, they didn’t go out to eat anymore, and school districts suddenly found themselves denuded of pupils. We’ve actually closed high schools in the city of Pittsburgh, because it’s now half the population it once was.

Our depression twenty-five years ago started from here and spread out. Now, it’s nibbling in from the outside on us. It’s still a recession, but it’s not the implosion it was before. We’re not rotting from the center this time.

Roddy offers a powerful geographic abstraction. Cities currently suffering in the core, as opposed to the periphery, are the ones in dire straits. Pittsburgh's economic geography is remarkably dense and its regional drivers (eds and meds) are still creating jobs. The current collapse of manufacturing isn't dragging down Pittsburgh with it.

Contrast that with Charlotte and you get a very different story. Pittsburgh and Charlotte roughly have lost about the same percentage of manufacturing jobs. However, if you look at the total losses of non-farm employment, you'll see how much more Charlotte is suffering.

Charlotte is imploding while Pittsburgh's core is thriving.


Schultz said...

It's one thing to cheerlead Pittsburgh but you're statement regarding Charlotte. is misleading. Charlotte is hurting because of it not having the diversified economy that Pittsburgh has - I posted this here the other day - but it is not imploding.

Jim Russell said...

It's not imploding to the extreme that Pittsburgh did, but the pattern of job losses is consist with Roddy's abstraction.

I have no doubt that Charlotte's core industries took a huge hit. The article you link to supports that perception. Your characterization of my blog post as cheerleading is misleading.