Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Knowledge Worker Mobility II

Pittsburgh need not look west towards Silicon Valley. The engine driving the Knowledge Economy in this part of the world surrounds Washington, DC. Despite the mobility of the knowledge labor market, this geography is unlikely to change.

Knowledge workers tend to bounce between a small numbers of places. For the most part, these locations are already determined. In terms of the Burgh Diaspora, where the top-end talent will go is predictable. A significant number of them will travel no further than the DC region. Furthermore, Pittsburgh itself is already locked in as a nexus for scientists and engineers.

The key variable in the study linked above is federal funding. Follow the pork and find the counties with the most scientists and engineers per capita. Venture capital can chase ideas wherever they go, but subsidies mitigate risk. Tapping into this treasure trove of public investment is worth the effort. However, government labs are unlikely to move. Instead, the best and brightest will relocate to where these jobs are currently located. This is true for every region, not just Pittsburgh.


tannybrown said...

But why not look west. I heard on the radio this morning that Californians are leaving in droves, and the reasons why (real estate, cost of living) may offer an opportunity for Pittsburgh.


Smart folks are leaving the coast. I imagine that the majority of knowledge workers leaving CA will go where the jobs are, but I don't know enough about the migration to say how far east they'll go. Colorado and Nevada seem like more likely destinations.

Anyway, short of having a politician piggyback their pork onto a bill, how does one region tap into federal dollars?

Jim Russell said...

The DC area has similar real estate pressure pushing people out of that region and there are a huge number of ex-Pittsburghers living in that area (#1 Burgh Diaspora Region). Plus, migrants don't tend to travel far. Distance is a key variable for explaining migration patterns.

However, I'm really talking about linking to the DC region. The is a knowledge economy infrastructure that isn't going anywhere else. I'm suggesting fostering a strong inter-regional relationship.

But Pittsburgh might take your suggestion and go after the California real estate refugees. That would be a worthy marketing campaign.

Concerning federal dollars, pork may be the only way.

tannybrown said...

The equity built up over the last real estate boom may allow Californians greater flexibility in moving. It's not at all uncommon for a twenty something couple to have earned over $100,000 in equity in just a few years off their two bedroom condo.

Still, why choose Pittsburgh? We need a marketing campaign. I'm surprised that Vegas grew at the rate it did but I guess it makes sense if you consider that the city is basically a family theme park now. Even those stupid "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" have an innocent feel -- I mean, if you can advertise your debauchery on prime time cable, it's pretty tame debauchery.

Could Pittsburgh create (and sell) the image of a great little city on the upswing prior to it actually happening? Or does the chicken have to come before the egg?

Jim Russell said...

Californians certainly would enjoy a massive equity advantage moving to just about any region in the United States, but they don't have to travel all that far to enjoy the benefits.

Vegas boomed because of its proximity to LA. I think Pittsburgh could boom because of its proximity to the western exurbs of DC.

If I was an enterprising young man, I'd start a company to link DC and Pittsburgh. There's little to no intentional infrastructure to connect the Burgh Diaspora with the homeland and inter-regional initiatives are just beginning to take shape.

As a side note, I just found out that there are no direct flights from Pittsburgh to Miami. Took my father-in-law all day to get there to do some business. No so splendid isolation.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Vegas boomed for a lot of reasons, not just being close to LA. No state income tax for one thing. Gambling. Duh. Retirement.

I still have not seem any chart, ranking, or spreadsheet showing where the diaspora landed over the total 30 year, and continuing, exodus. Claiming DC as the #1 region maybe true, but I have seen no documentation of this.

Jim Russell said...

I haven't looked at a 30-year aggregate of county-to-county, but I suspect that the near city of Cleveland would be close to the top of the list for distinations for Pittsburghers leaving the state. Chicago would be up there as well.

If there aren't any 30-year numbers, I should put them together. I could make some cool maps with that data.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

I have had a similar comment thread with c. breim about this. He says that most of the old data is only on computer printouts. Ick.

There may be old newspaper articles, but those are unlikely to be online too. Or not for free.

The last destination ranking for PIT was this, "Graphic: Where Pittsburghers moved", from the 3 part PG series about the diaspora back in 2004.

Oh, Tanny, that MarketPlace was yet another bit about white flight. Note, the line, "Foreign immigration continues to bulk up California's total population ...", and ...

"Jobs are also moving away.

Jack Kyser is chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

He says employers pay more here for workers' comp, overtime and paid family leave. Kyser says companies increasingly expand elsewhere."

Of course, the thing that people that move to PIT don't count on is the cut in wages. My nurse wife, a highly desirable skill in PIT given all the old people, toke a 30% pay cut compared to Denver.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Oh, on that graphic about 1985 to 1990, number #1 location was Fairfax, VA, but, surprisingly, #2 was LA.

The total accounted for in that graphic is only 44K out of 330K that left the MSA during a 30 years period.

Jim Russell said...

I'd rather look at the entire set of raw data, but I think the tale is telling enough.

"The total accounted for in that graphic is only 44K out of 330K that left the MSA during a 30 years period."

And that graphic was only for 5 years (1985-1990) and did not include any parts of Pennsylvania that are outside of the Pittsburgh MSA. Of course, you have seen the 1995-2000 US Census data. The DC region shows very strongly during that time period as well.

Coupling the above with Briem's work, I'm convinced. That said, we should get the 30-year data online. I should talk to Chris about that.

LA would be an interesting case study. I'd bet there is a strong network of chain migration. That's a long way to go all on your own.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Again, I thought the focus was more on Da 'Burgh diaspora, not the PA diaspora.

That 44K is only 13% of the total diaspora, and the total for Fairfax is only 1% of the total with only 1/6 or 1/8 of the 30 to 40 year aggreagate exodus. It may be telling for you, but it hardly definative for me.

I actually have know a number of people (mainly from CMU's fine art school) that went toward LA. My ex-sister in law for one. She went from LA, to Harford, CT, to Louisville, to Detriot, to Trenton, NJ outside of Philly over about 20 years time. Five big moves.

Jim Russell said...

I know a few people who moved to LA as well. There are a number of Pittsburghers toiling in the film industry there. But I am sure you know about them.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

There was a PG article, Pittsburgh on Broadway from T-day 2005. (Only one person I remember in this photo. We went to the same HS as well as CMU, but had little or no interaction.) It probably would be interesting if the PG did an article about the LA diaspora.

sustainable said...

How did you qualify that link to be worthy of a knowledge worker discussion? I see that data was derived from a Population Census.

Then again, I do not understand your definition of the Knowledge Worker. Would you please direct me?