Friday, November 30, 2012

Globally Ascendant Pittsburgh

Are you still reluctant to buy the Pittsburgh-boom hype? Do you remain skeptical? I'm not sure what will change your mind. For some people, mesofacts never die. Brookings takes a look at the economic recovery for metros around the world. Two paragraphs from the report:

Several global metro economies experienced little to no ill effects from the worldwide downturn. Forty-seven (47) of the 59 developing Asia-Pacific metro areas achieved new peaks of GDP per capita and employment in 2012. Thirty (30) were Chinese and Indian metro areas that suffered no recession at all. Other developing Asia-Pacific metro areas, such as Jakarta, recovered strongly from small declines in previous years (see sidebar).

In contrast, all metro areas in developed Asia-Pacific, North America, and Western Europe experienced recessionary losses on at least one of the indicators. Few, however, have recovered fully from those losses. Metro areas in developed Asia-Pacific achieved the highest recovery rates among the three regions, with about half returning to GDP per capita and employment levels higher than their peaks since 2007. Only five North American metro areas— Dallas, Edmonton, Knoxville, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver—fully recovered on both fronts.

Emphasis added. In terms of GDP per capita and employment levels, five North American metros have recovered. Only three (Dallas, Knoxville, and Pittsburgh) of the seventy-six US metros assessed (the report covers the top-300 metros worldwide) are "fully recovered on both fronts." Pittsburgh is in rarefied company. It is exceptional, even more so among the Rust Belt cohort. The metro economy has reached escape velocity.

Pittsburgh's turnaround is no longer just a regional story, a bright spot in a dismal post-industrial landscape. The recovery is globally significant. Pittsburgh is one of a few shining stars for all of North America. Talent is streaming into Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh metro sets labor force records every month. The Atlantic Cities makes an attempt to explain the success:

The economies of Dallas, Knoxville and Pittsburg rely heavily on large local service sectors in education, health care and government, as well as on financial and businesses services like banking and insurance. This can equally be said of plenty of other U.S. cites on this list. But each of these metros have growing local clients for all of those services, in the form of energy companies (Dallas), shale and natural gas extraction (Pittsburgh) and construction (Knoxville).

That's a direct cut and paste. I didn't drop Pittsburgh's "h". A telling oversight when you consider the uncritically recycled narrative of the government sector fueling the metro economy. The same should be said about the shale gas rush. Good for Pittsburgh? Yes. The biggest plus is the publicity. It's a manufacturing renaissance! The myth-making has gotten out of hand. Boosters of drilling are using hyperbole to influence policy.

Ultimately, the link between "Pittsburgh" and "Marcellus Shale" is good for business. Geographic stereotypes drive migration and impact firm relocation decisions. Pittsburgh is becoming the urban face of America's new energy era. What's changed? Shale gas. A new mesofact is born.


JRoth said...

I went over just to check on the H - they fixed it!

Anyway, I'm glad you reposted that link; it drives me nuts that the Brookings study seems to be nothing more than another opportunity for people to parrot that Pittsburgh is growing due to Marcellus. It's actually a really dangerous new mesofact, one that could distort perceptions and strangle our future.

JRoth said...

I went over there to check on the H - they've fixed it now.

Anyway, I'm glad to see you link that post about the facts about Marcellus job growth. I'm afraid that good news like this is quickly turning into a new, false mesofact about Marcellus-fueled growth, a falsehood that could distort public policy and even strangle our real boom in its cradle.