About six months ago, Washington and Butler counties were in the news as the only two Southwestern Pennsylvania counties that added population during the past decade.The figures, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that from 2000 to 2009, Butler County added about 10,000 people, while Washington County gained nearly 5,000 residents in the decade.News of the two counties arose again last week, when the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment and wage information comparing 2010's second quarter against the comparable quarter for 2009 for the 326 largest counties across the U.S.This time, Butler and Washington counties rose near the top among wage-gaining counties on a national basis. ...... It's safe to assume that the energy industry was responsible for much of the wage gain in both counties, although the case could be made for a diversified economy helping to play a role in Washington County's strong showing.Over the past year, Westinghouse, which designs and builds nuclear power plants around the world, began moving several thousand highly paid workers to its new Cranberry campus in Butler County.In Washington County, which began billing itself as the "Energy Capital of the East" last year, the growth of companies involved with the exploration and drilling of the Marcellus Shale for natural gas has created thousands of new jobs in the area. Southpointe alone now counts more than 50 energy-related companies, while other smaller drilling and supply companies have taken up residence in various locations within the county.
As far as being the "Energy Capital of the East", what other region is in the running? Everyone knows about eds & meds. Pittsburgh has that in spades. It is also a financial center of national importance. Now add energy to the economic portfolio. For now, I will leave the growing entertainment technology sector out of the discussion. There's an expanding Google office, too. There are many reasons to be bullish on Pittsburgh without talking about higher education and medical R&D.
The above should be a bigger story. Instead, we read about the real estate market that didn't bust because it never boomed. The economic tortoise beating out hares such as Las Vegas. Rust Belt mesofacts still dominate headlines. Young adults continue the pilgrimage to Portland to swell the ranks of the unemployed or chronically under-employed. Boom goes Pittsburgh.