Friday, February 15, 2013

Brain Drain Champion Pittsburgh

At first blush, brain drain is an indicator of place failure. If everyone is leaving, then there must be something wrong with the city. However, all economically vibrant metros bleed thousands of people every year. New York City is dying.

Pittsburgh is dying. That's the good news. Richard Florida is on record espousing "Pittsburg's" shortcomings. A lack of talent and tolerance were killing the region. Florida is mistaken:

It is a story that the city knows well by now, as it has transitioned from one of the great hubs of corporate and industrial America to a new economy based on small technology and medical companies with unfamiliar names. It is only somewhat of a coincidence that on the same day as Heinz’s announcement, US Airways, which grew out of the old Pittsburgh carrier Allegheny Airlines, said it was merging with American Airlines, a Texas-based company.

Heinz is the latest in a long list of prominent American companies that have significantly reduced, or all together eliminated, their presence in the Pittsburgh area, including erstwhile giants like U.S. Steel and Gulf Oil, which were among the nation’s 10 largest in 1955, according to David Hounshell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Now there are none among America’s 100 largest companies.

But in the course of reducing it reliance on industry and big corporations, Pittsburgh has become one of the more envied stories of urban revival in the Rust Belt. The proportion of Pittsburgh’s work force in manufacturing is now actually lower than the national average, according to Christopher Briem, a University of Pittsburgh professor. But so is its unemployment rate, at 7.2 percent.

Emphasis added. The corporate (and talent) exodus is a Pittsburgh strength. The urban revival doesn't tip its cap to the horribly confused Creative Class policy recommendations. The brain drain, something Richard Florida himself tried to address, is the real Pittsburgh success story. Miami and Windsor, take note.

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