Monday, May 25, 2009

Post-Rust Pittsburgh

Read the bold proclamation in the Wall Street Journal story contrasting Ann Arbor with Warren, Michigan:

While some of America's once-dominant industrial centers, including Pittsburgh and, a generation earlier, New York City, have been able to make the transition away from a manufacturing-dependent economy, others, such as Cleveland and Buffalo, have floundered. Warren, for its part, does have well-trained engineers and designers -- GM's technical center is there -- and Wayne State University is building an advanced technology education center in Warren.

Mission accomplished?


Paz said...

It brings up an interesting question. How will we know when we're "done"? I guess I've always been of a mind that we'll have turned the corner when we as a region aren't losing population anymore and just experiencing flight from the city itself like normal metros. But I don't think you can compare us to New York of a generation ago because the population and the amount of capital is so radically different. I'm not really sure who we look like (or imagine ourselves to look like). Boston during my lifetime, perhaps?

Jim Russell said...

My impression is that Pittsburgh has turned the corner. We look like a new urban paradigm. I read at least one "we aspire to be Pittsburgh" story per week. Also, I'm wary of leaning too much on population/migration numbers as an indicator of success.

From the WSJ article:

And despite Ann Arbor's educated work force, employers here find Michigan's reputation as a failing manufacturing economy can deter potential hires from moving to the state.

At HandyLab, an Ann Arbor firm that makes a DNA-analysis device, Chief Executive Jeffrey Williams says he has had a hard time finding Ph.D.-level workers with highly specialized skills. His company, which has doubled to roughly 60 employees in the past year, has 10 job openings.

"It's definitely gotten much harder with all the stigma around Detroit," he says. "Somebody tries to pigeonhole us as Detroit, we say, 'No, it's Ann Arbor, it's a completely different environment.' "

The Rust Belt as part of America's mental map is Pittsburgh's biggest obstacle to better demographics (i.e. more in-migration).