Thursday, July 02, 2009

Talent Sheds

You know what a "watershed" is. You may have also seen the terms "commuter shed" or "labor shed". A Richard Florida post has me thinking about the usefulness of "talent shed":

Housing prices have declined less significantly in greater D.C., Chicago (hub of the great Chi-Pitts mega-region and a magnet for regional talent), Seattle (a high-tech, high human capital center), Atlanta (a talent hub for the southeast), New York, Portland, Boston, Denver - (talent hub for the Rockies), Dallas (a mega-region hub), and Charlotte (which along with Atlanta hubs the great Char-lanta mega-region). Cleveland breaks the pattern, but like Detroit its absolute housing values have fallen. Prices in greater D.C., along with Denver, Dallas, and Cleveland, were actually up in April.
Rich uses "talent hub", but the idea is the same. There exists a delineable region for talent migration. However, I haven't encountered any agreed upon methodology for making such a map. I mention this because Chicago isn't the talent hub for Pittsburgh. DC holds that distinction, somewhat complicating the coherence of Chi-Pitts as a mega-region.

Defining the migrant is easy enough. We're already tracking where people with a college degree are heading. I also think we have an approach that could work for measuring talent connectivity. If you haven't viewed the Atlas of Hinterworlds, check it out:

  1. We have selected the top 123 cities in terms of global network connectivity and measure the connectivity between each city and the other 122 cities.
  2. These individual city inter-linkages closely reflect the overall pattern of global network connectivity (i.e. every city is most connected to either London or New York).
  3. For each city we regress its connectivities with other cities against their global network connectivity.
  4. We compute the residuals from the regression line and these are interpreted as a city being either over-linked (positive residuals) to another city (relative to its global network connectivity) or under-linked (negative residuals). It is these residuals that are mapped to show a city’s hinterworld.
  5. The standard error of estimate indicates how close the scatter of points is to the line: it is interpreted in this context of indicating the specificity of a city’s hinterworld (i.e. zero would indicate a hinterworld exactly the same as the global network connectivity pattern and therefore the higher the standard error the more unlike a city’s hinterworld is from the general pattern of global connectivities. In the analyses, standard errors range from 0.013 (Madrid) to 0.067 (Indianapolis)).
  6. The same ordinal scale is used for all maps to facilitate simple comparisons between hinterwords. An initial discussion of comparisons can be found in chapter 5 of P.J. Taylor (2004) World City Network: a Global Urban Analysis (London: Routledge).
  7. The maps are in cartogram form to show each city in equally. The cartogram places cities in their approximate relative geographical positions.
Just how big is Chicago's talent shed? Let's map it and find out. I would think we could define regions in this manner just like we do with commuter sheds.


Robert Pontzer said...

IMO Pittsburgh is only part of the ChiPitts megaregion because it is connected via a rather loose urbanized/suburbanized corridor via Youngstown, Akron, Cleveland, Sandusky, Toledo, South Bend, Gary, Chicago. Conversely, Pittsburgh is much closer to DC, Philly and NYC than Chicago... but is not connected to the East Coast via an "urban corridor" due to the intense topography of Central Pennsylvania's mountains.

While connected via a very long semi-built-up corridor, it is a mistake to consider Pittsburgh as part of Chicago's "cultural/economic sphere". PGH obviously has much interaction and connectivity with nearby Ohio cities... but it's relationship with Chicago is unremarkable... especially when compared to East Coast alpha hubs (even PGH's relationship with nearby Detroit is unremarkable due to PGH's absence of auto industry reliance... two cities that are on different planets in today's economy).

PGH should be identified as a western outpost of the East Coast mega-regional economy. DC is obviously the number one region for talent churn... but Philly is also more important than it might otherwise be due to the "in-state factor" and PGH has long had a special relationship with NYC. Pittsburgh just being located in Pennsylvania helps solidify East Coast ties regardless of our coordinates... for example... East Coasters flock in droves to Pitt, CMU, IUP, Cal U., Slippery Rock, and if you extend the region... WVU and PSU.

This is why a high-speed rail line heading east (to Philly) is much more important than west to our neighbor Cleveland (and eventually Chicago). While I'd like to go in both directions... if only presented with one option... the East Coast is the obvious destination for Pittsburgh travelers. Philly as a destination is appealing in itself... but also offers a midpoint outlet onto the Northeast Corridor line between NYC and DC (which would be a slight backtrack... it would be nice to have a direct HSR line to DC as well... making PGH the intersection of multiple lines).

I think PGH's weak relationship with Chicago and most of the Midwest was evidenced by the quick failure of the Megabus Chicago/Cleveland bound route from PGH. Send that Megabus east to NYC/Philly/DC and they would've packed the bus.

In order to further enhance PGH's ties with the East Coast... we need to identify what we offer to the East Coast... and why they should look at us. We are obviously aware of Pittsburghers leaving for DC and NYC for professional employment (and often boomeranging back)... and the potential of the diasporan network they produce. But beyond the Pittsburgh diaspora/boomerang community, what can DC, Philly, NYC get of out of a relationship with PGH? What does a region of say 3 million 4-6 hours away offer the NYC-DC corridor?

As I mentioned previously... Pittsburgh is a major hub of higher education... we have all sorts of institutions clustered in the urban core and in periphery counties... "new ivy" CMU, top-tier public Pitt, prestigious Catholic Duquesne, state universities, liberal arts colleges, arts and culinary institutes, etc. These institutions have recruited fertile grounds on the East Coast aggressively... even a place like Cal U.... assumed to be an institution designed for "the neighborhood kids"... has transformed itself with an influx of eastern Pennsylvanians. If our universities can attract these outsiders, expose them to Greater Pittsburgh, and get them to establish their lives here... we plant the seeds of future economic and population growth here. For as much as the old yinzer set loves to lament the kids that leave... kids arrive from elsewhere. Outside perspectives erode provincialism.

Beyond universities, Pittsburgh can offer other opportunities to the East Coast... a diverse range of attributes including: a very highly educated young adult population, lower cost of business and living (perhaps a factor in Bank of NY's focus on growing here), centralized location between East Coast and Midwest hubs, and even quality of life issues.

sasmorris said...

This looks like the basis for a Ph.D. thesis!