Friday, May 21, 2010

More Jobs In Pittsburgh Than Florida

The Sun Belt to Rust Belt rush continues:

From the Sunshine State to the erstwhile Rust Belt?

Pittsburgh as a potential destination is an interesting case. In the early ' '80s, after the steel industry collapsed, its economy was in more of a shambles than Florida's is now. Since then, though, the city has shifted from steel, steel and steel to education, finance and health care. Urbanists, economists and social scientists point to the place as a great example of how a city, state or region can work through calamity and create a more balanced, more diverse economy. Florida, many of them believe, could learn something from Pittsburgh.

Last year, iWork had a man move to Pittsburgh for a job. So did LaBelle.

McCafferty wanted to stay but made his decision by looking mainly at two factors:

1. Family. He's from there. His mother, who's 80, still lives there, and two sisters, too.

2. Desperation. "I'd been out of work for a year," he said, "and it was the only offer I had."

Sometimes, you have to move to where the jobs are located.


rootvg said...

If this were really true, we wouldn't have the waves of Chinese and Armenians and Mexicans still streaming into California. My wife and I attended an Oracle conference on Wednesday and three quarters of the attendees were non whites.

Jim Russell said...

Of course, the exodus from California continues as it has for at least two decades. Without immigration, San Francisco would be shrinking faster than any Rust Belt city.

As for the immigration you notice, it is highly path dependent. Your conclusion is erroneous.

Stephen Gross said...

The particular combination of education/finance/healthcare is a productive one. However, I have the impression that a lot of cities have banked on that particular combination. Do you have a sense of whether Pittsburgh's implementation of this combination is unique, or uniquely productive?

Jim Russell said...


Pittsburgh isn't all that remarkable in terms of the eds and meds economy. As you are well aware, there are stronger regions in terms of meds. And a city such as Rochester has a similar impressive combination of the two. As that recent Brookings report makes clear, Pittsburgh is in an urban cohort that has plenty of members.

That leaves finance and a recent Financial Times article pointed out something unique about Pittsburgh:

Another source of finance is charitable foundations. They have featured in the regeneration of Pittsburgh, in which Jim Rohr, chief executive of PNC Financial Services Group, has been closely involved for the past 30 years.

He explains that the city benefited from foundation funds from “old money” steel and oil industries. The foundation community worked closely with local businesses to enhance the community and attract new businesses.

One of many projects was the $90m (£62m) Strategic Investment fund, which provided low-interest mezzanine finance. “The charitable dollars from foundations were leveraged by commercial loans, so we don’t end up with a bunch of bankrupt projects,” Rohr says.

“We made no bad loans and the fund got its money back with a return. We could have liquidated it, but it has been such an excellent vehicle, we have kept it going.”

Social capital may be the magic ingredient. Check out Sean Safford's "Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown".

rootvg said...

Jim, it almost sounds as though you're justifying the sort of microeconomy that appears to be evolving there. You can't expect to build a future on that. I know you're in the business of selling the region but just because you stand there and insist that two and two add up to five, doesn't make me any more likely to believe it. I'm not that weak and neither are the young professionals that region has failed to retain.

My wife and I grew up there, and the place never changes. The region has been starved of financial resources for years. The skill sets stink especially when it comes to technology. The current state of physical infrastructure is awful. It takes us thirty minutes there to explain to friends and relatives what we do for a living where here it takes about five.

If all of that weren't enough, there are the negative demographic trends and of course the weather. A headhunter friend of mine says, yes...there are quite a few job orders for Cleveland and Columbus and Cincinnati right now but that's because no one wants to move there. If you lose a job in that environment there's nowhere else to lose everything. Here again, this is old news. We saw it growing up there.

Nothing's changed there, nothing at all. They don't want it to change and that's what this whole argument is really about.

Jim Russell said...

I'm not in the business of selling the region. My paycheck is in Colorado. Just so happens that my analysis differs from yours. I can live with that. I don't feel a compelling need to change your mind.

Stephen Gross said...

Hmm... I hadn't really thought about Pgh weather as a bad thing. It's
always been pretty nice there: good seasons, mild winter, pretty
spring and fall. The summers can be a bit difficult, but I grew up in
Virginia, so I can handle it. Heck, I live in Minnesota and I'm
willing to put up with the winters! Weather isn't actually that
important in the face of other factors.

Eds and meds and banks, eh? Seems like a workable combination. As for
the role of foundations' charitable giving, I can see how that is a
factor. Needless to say, it can't be the only factor! Old money may
feed foundations' bank accounts, but in the long run you still need
innovation and job growth to fuel a metropolitan economy.


BrianTH said...

I think of Pittsburgh as offering the full range of business support services: financial, legal, accounting, marketing, IT, and so on.