Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The New Geopolitical Significance of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I'm celebrating an anniversary. Thursday, June 1st, 2006, I wrote my first blog post. What you are reading now is my 3000th pithy effort. But enough about me and onto my muse, Pittsburgh. In 2006, the city and the region were a Rust Belt basket case. In 2016, Pittsburgh is the blueprint for Rust Belt urban revitalization. What happened?

Poetically (not ironically), one of Pittsburgh's failures is its greatest success. In the mid-1980s, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) was supposed to put Pittsburgh on the new economy map:

"It`s Silicon Valley for chips, it`s Boston for electronics and it`s going to be Pittsburgh for software", predicted Dr. Angel Jordan, provost of Carnegie-Mellon, the intellectual pivot of this turnaround.

That's a great article written by one of the greatest journalists ever to cover economic development and globalization, Richard C. Longworth. He captures Pittsburgh's Andrew Carnegie-like ambitions at a nadir of the steel collapse. Pittsburgh was in a tailspin that continues to haunt the region's demography to this day (read Null Space by Chris Briem, who had his own decade anniversary a few weeks ago). Fair to say, the SEI didn't pan out for Pittsburgh. Or, did it?

I've talked to a few people who know better than I do that SEI didn't save, as the fish the did, Pittsburgh. In the late 1990s, the policy powers that be accepted that fate. I accept that fate then and now. Software landed in Seattle.

The SEI couldn't fly. This turkey would prove to be a feast. What the SEI looked like last summer:

Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute will continue research and development work for the Department of Defense thanks to the extension of a contract that could reach $1.73 billion.

The contract ensures that SEI, the only federally funded research and development center dedicated to cybersecurity and software engineering, will continue work under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics for at least the next five years, with an option to extend an additional five years.

Burgh Diaspora drops the mic.