Friday, November 03, 2006

Resilience Pittsburgh

Pittsblog pinch hitter Chris Briem served up a dish of optimism about Pittsburgh startups. While Briem stopped well short of joining the cheerleading squad, the part of the article that caught his eye piqued my interest:

Like all such pieces it captures a lot of big issues that it nowhere near has enough space to treat appropriately. So skipping a lot of the economic development story there, I do have to say I appreciate Max Kings quote at the end..

``It's remarkable to see how resilient the people are.''

If you are interested, my own comments on a similar theme were in this oped a few years ago: It was twenty years ago today.

The point is that Pittsburgh now demonstrates significant economic resiliency and is now better prepared to deal with structural shocks like the one that occurred during the 1980s with the collapse of the industrial complex. Briem's commentary highlights what I view as a tension in development circles between the paradigms of sustainability and resilience.

I'll say upfront that regional stakeholders should promote resiliency, not sustainability. The difference between the two perspectives concerns economic cycles. Sustainability would lessen the boom and bust, promoting small and more manageable growth. Resiliency allows a region to ride out the bust, emerging better positioned to take full advantage of the boom phase.

Shocks to the economic system are inevitable, at least in the near term. I suppose advocates of sustainability would claim that their approach can mitigate all types of shocks, but that strikes me as unrealistic. Meanwhile climate change, terrorism, and political turmoil pose constant threats to increasingly integrated markets around the world.

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