Thursday, March 29, 2007


The Wall Street Journal continues its look at the debate about globalization, "As Globalization's Benefits Grow, So Do Its Skeptics." From our "paranoia" about immigrants to the fear of jobs leaving the country, many Americans harbor negative opinions about globalization:

Changes in the global economy aren't making the case for trade any easier. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found only 35% of those with at least a four-year college degree believe "that the U.S. is benefiting from the global economy." And these people are more likely to be winners.

For the first time in generations, says Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary, the U.S. is trading on a huge scale with places where wages are 20% or less of American wages. "We've never had that before on as large a scale," he says. That's unsettling. So is the pace of all this. "Because of the Industrial Revolution, within a single human life span (then only about 40 years), it was possible to imagine that living standards would increase by 50% to 75%," he says. At recent growth rates in China, he added, "living standards don't double in a single human life span...they rise 100-fold, or 10,000%." That's good for the Chinese, good for the American worker whose employer sells to China, not so good for the American whose job can be done in China.

The transition to a post-industrial economy was particularly hard on Pittsburgh. So, I can understand any and all anti-globalization sentiment in the region. But those feelings won't stop the train from coming. Furthermore, the shock could be worse this time around. I hope that Pittsburgh will hop on this opportunity, as opposed to fighting it tooth-and-nail.

However, if the "likely winners" fear globalization, the resistance scenario seems much more probable. Also, I doubt the parochial mindset will be of much help. That's why I think the Burgh Diaspora should lead the way. If anyone understands how globalization can be a good thing, it is these economic nomads.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Globalization Pittsburgh

I contend that globalization is the great debate of our time. I agree with Thomas Barnett and his thesis that much of today's military conflict largely concerns the advance of economic integration around the world. The Wall Street Journal tackles this controversy, outlining the battle over globalization in an article titled "Pain From Free Trade Spurs Second Thoughts--Mr. Blinder's Shift Spotlights Warnings Of Deeper Downside":

His critique puts Mr. Blinder in a minority among economists, most of whom emphasize the enormous gains from trade. "He's dead wrong," says Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati, who will debate Mr. Blinder at Harvard in May over his assertions about the magnitude of job losses from trade. Mr. Bhagwati says that in highly skilled fields such as medicine, law and accounting, "If we do a real balance sheet, I have no doubt we're creating far more jobs than we're losing."

Mr. Blinder says that misses his point. The original Industrial Revolution, the move from farm to factory, unquestionably boosted living standards, but triggered an enormous change in "how and where people lived, how they educated their children, the organization of businesses, the form and practices of governments." He says today's trickle of jobs overseas, where they are tethered to the U.S. by fiber-optic cables, is the beginning of a change of similar dimensions, and American society needs similarly far-reaching changes to cope. "I'm trying to convince a bunch of economists who are deeply skeptical and hard to convince," he says.

The dramatic social upheaval that Mr. Blinder describes is a good way to characterize the reason for resistance to globalization in other parts of the world. Global economic integration may have many long-term benefits, but Mr. Blinder endeavors to caution us that the resulting transformation will come as a massive shock.

The short-term prognosis is one of economic, political, and social instability of the kind that Mr. Barnett captures in his map of conflict around the world since the end of the Cold War. I think you could look at the 2008 US Presidential election as dealing with issues of globalization, including what to do about Iraq. However, the debate isn't framed in those terms, but I think it should be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Global Pittsburghese

English is the language of globalization. However, this imposition on non-native speakers is hardly a case of cultural imperialism run amok. Global English might confuse native speakers of American or British dialects:

Not everyone is as open-minded about English, or its advance. The Web site of the Association for the Defence of the French Language displays a "museum of horrors"—a series of digital pictures of English-language signs on Parisian streets. But others say such defensiveness misses the point. "This is not about English swamping and eroding local identities," says David Graddol, author of the British Council report. "It's about creating new identities—and about making everyone bilingual."

Indeed, English has become the common linguistic denominator. Whether you're a Korean executive on business in Shanghai, a German Eurocrat hammering out laws in Brussels or a Brazilian biochemist at a conference in Sweden, you're probably speaking English. And as the world adopts an international brand of English, it's native speakers who have the most to lose. Cambridge dons who insist on speaking the Queen's English could be met with giggles—or blank stares. British or American business execs who jabber on in their own idiomatic patois, without understanding how English is used by non-natives, might lose out on deals.

The criticisms of the cultural advance of globalization are almost always overstated, verging on hyperbole. What is emerging is a culture that most Americans would find foreign. The rest of the world might see a great deal of irony in the American fear of globalization.

In the same vein, I've often wondered if Parochial Pittsburgh shares this irrational fear of the rest of the world. In global terms, Pittsburgh is surprisingly disconnected. In regards to the service economy, Pittsburgh has a decidedly domestic orientation. As a result, Pittsburgh risks being as quaint (and as increasingly irrelevant) as a Cambridge don.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Parochial Pittsburgh Meets Global Pittsburgh

Akin to a reward for redoubling my blogging efforts, some like-minded people made the effort to connect with me. While Juan's blog explores the meaning and possibilities of global culture, I see an exposé of the emerging transnational identities of the diaspora:

Global Culture should not be about MacDonalds and Starbucks in every little town around the world. It should be the opposite: being able to experience your own cultural heritage in the context of a foreign community. So if you come from Venezuela, where good coffee is a century-old tradition, you should be able to find the equivalent to your traditional coffee house wherever you go. If done well, becoming a global citizen should not require you to loose your cultural baggage.

Jon Udell makes a similar pitch when asking, "First, why would I want to hop from one network to another? Second, is making that easier a good thing for me and for everyone else involved?":

...the answer to the second question is that there are wrong ways and right ways to grease the skids for culture-hoppers. An example of the wrong way is the Burger King on the Champs-Élysées. An example of the right way is the ATM machine next door that takes my American debit card and dispenses Euros.

I mention all this because I’m returning from a meeting that brought together people from very different networks and cultures. The purpose of the meeting was, somewhat reflexively, to discuss how to build bridges of understanding among people from different networks and cultures. These kinds of cross-disciplinary efforts are always fun and interesting, but in my experience they end when the meeting ends.

McWorld is a cynical view of global culture, what I consider to be the geography of nomads. These vagabonds have their own set of values and code of conduct that doesn't spring forth from any particular place. The cosmopolites are not straddling two or more cultures. Instead, they belong to a community that doesn't call any particular place home.

Global nomads are not "connectors" of distinct cultures, but transnationals are. I think Juan and Jon are celebrating transnationalism, not "globalism." This perspective dovetails nicely with the Burgh Diaspora Project. Parochial Pittsburgh is a wonderful example of a strong local culture. The Burgh Diaspora fits Juan's prescription, "[B]eing able to experience your own cultural heritage in the context of a foreign community."

Transnationals make excellent ambassadors for a nation. They also can help their homeland access the tremendous opportunities developing around the world. These "cultural connectors" comprise the engine of the emerging knowledge economy and the numbers of "culture-hoppers" are growing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

CMU South Asia

Carnegie Mellon University is branching out, to India. Given the difficulties in front of Indians who desire an American education, setting up shop in India makes a great deal of sense. However, Indian bureaucracy can deter the development of India-based programs. That seems to be changing, opening up new markets to universities in the United States:

For its part, Carnegie Mellon offers its degree in partnership with a small private institution here, the Shri Shiv Shankar Nadar College of Engineering. Most of the course work is done at relatively inexpensive rates here in India, followed by six months in Pittsburgh, at the end of which students graduate with a Carnegie Mellon degree.

The arrangement circumvents most of the usual Indian government restrictions. The curriculum is devised in partnership with Carnegie Mellon, and students are chosen jointly by faculty from both schools.

There are no affirmative action requirements for student admissions, as there are in accredited colleges. Fees are not regulated by the state. It is expensive by Indian standards, though nearly all of the students are subsidized by scholarships financed by Shiv Nadar, the college’s founder and chief executive of HCL Technologies, one of India’s leading technology companies.

The applicants on the recent evening in Chennai were eager to please the gatekeepers from Pittsburgh. They addressed them politely with a series of “yes, sirs.” Asked what they could contribute to Carnegie Mellon, some of them became flummoxed. One young man said he wanted to develop software designed for the “global citizen,” by which he meant a way to transfer money across continents using a mobile phone.

Mr. Muddana, who had a bachelor’s degree in information technology and had spent the past eight months as a software developer for an Indian firm, said he saw the program as a cost-effective ticket to an American degree and a chance to work for a few years in the United States.

This is a great deal for CMU and Indian citizens, but what's the upside for Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh enterprise could piggyback on CMU's relationship, thereby gaining a toehold in an important emerging market. Pittsburgh must learn how to exploit the transient presence of talent. Trying to keep Indian talent in Pittsburgh is impractical.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Medical Diaspora

Diaspora networks represent new market opportunities. Medical services developed in Pittsburgh can do much more than serve people living in the United States:

Cashing in on the dearth of affordable medical expertise in foreign countries, and with an eye on the sizeable Indian diaspora, a US-based medical firm is all set to set up its base in Gujarat to promote offshore healthcare services. Om Healthcare Providers Network Private Limited, which will launch its operations from Vadodara and Ahmedabad, unveiled its plans in Vadodara on Saturday. The idea is to have a network of Indian doctors and hospitals, whose services will be promoted primarily in the US, UK and East Africa, the areas from where presently the bulk of NRIs and foreign patients arrive for healthcare facilities.

With the basic premise of hard-selling Indian medical expertise, Dr Jignesh Patel, who is an alumni of Baroda Medical College (BMC) based in Pittsburgh, US, and works in the realm of critical care and neonatology, joined hands with Ketul Parikh, who is also based in the US and has a background in offshore IT and BPO industries. The ambitious target is to create a nationwide network of 10,000 members, comprising health care service providers, doctors, hospitals, medical tourism vendors, and also providers of Indian treatments like ayurveda, and yoga.

Pittsburgh's aging population and negative growth bode ill for local businesses hoping to service the region. Pittsburgh innovation must go global, on the heels of the Burgh Diaspora.

H-1B Pittsburgh Retort

The Economist offers a response to those who would refuse to let more of the world's talent into the United States:

America's legal immigration system is falling apart at just the time when talented foreigners have more choice than ever. Many other countries—including Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany and even France—are bending over backwards to attract talented people. European companies can easily draw on the skills of an entire continent, thanks to the free movement of labour there. At the same time the Indian and Chinese economies are booming. Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro have California-style campuses, state-of-the-art equipment and generous pay packets (which, incidentally, allow employees to afford a house full of servants). American multinationals such as Microsoft are establishing research and development facilities across the developing world. Indians and Chinese were once willing to put up with any humiliation for a chance of a career in the United States. Now they have more and more choices back home.

The United States has attracted a large share of global talent despite favoring family re-unification over economic immigration. That worm is turning as higher education in other countries improves and innovation disperses. Concerning Pittsburgh, the pool of skilled and creative foreign nationals is shrinking, outlining a landscape of opportunity. Pittsburgh could thrive where this country is dropping the ball.

Embracing connectivity and globalization will give the region a leg up on the competition.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scholarship Pittsburgh

One idea about how Pittsburgh could foster a relationship with its Diaspora is through higher education. Once again, India shows the way:

The main objective of the scholarship programme is to make available India's highly developed higher education system to children of the Indian diaspora (PIOs, people of Indian origin, and NRIs, non-resident Indians) living in different countries.

Perhaps such a scholarship already exists, but that would mean local universities have done a lousy job of marketing the opportunity. I suspect that there is already a substantial population of returnees among the Pittsburgh student population, but a public overture to the Diaspora would be welcome nonetheless.

Distance-Trust Pioneers

Crops of new college students are making friend before they go to school. An article in the New York Times describes how high school seniors are using Facebook, an online social networking site, to cultivate relationships of trust before they go away to school next fall:

Facebook was originally available only to college students, and expanded to include high school students in September 2005. As soon as the first college acceptances began rolling in that fall, the first future college class groups appeared on Facebook.

Early decision candidates usually create the groups, and others join later as they are accepted. Despite the variety of colleges, the conversational subjects are universal. Typical early postings are laced with excitement about college acceptances “I got in!” and “I’m so excited.” Eventually, practical matters dominate — what dormitories to live in, and finding roommates. Discussions about favorite bands and sports teams also proliferate.

Large universities inspire more groups. Cornell, for instance, has 10 groups for the Class of 2011, including ones for the Hotel School, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Cornell 2011 Athletes. There are also “Cornell 2011 Anti-Freshman 15,” a reference to the common freshman weight gain (“I’m just scared that all my clothes will be too small and completely useless by Christmas”) and the group for those who missed on early decision (“What are you doing to get in?”).

Mostly though, the talk is about personal, if virtual, connection. Ashley Hollier, a senior at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., will attend Tulane University in the fall. She and five other students who met through a Tulane 2011 group arranged to visit New Orleans at the same time. After taking a tour together, they went out to dinner.

“It was six people who had never met each other — two from Massachusetts, two from Louisiana and two New York kids,” Miss Hollier said. “Sitting at the table we felt like old friends.”

She knows a freshman at Tulane, who told her it was good she had made online connections ahead of time.

“When she first got there,” Miss Hollier said, “she didn’t have to worry, ‘Who am I going to sit with at lunch?’ because she already had familiar faces from Facebook.”

When I went to university, one common way of networking at orientation was finding other students from your state or region. The Facebook culture may encourage more geographic mixing, all the while socializing young adults to distance-trust relationships that will serve them well after they graduate.

Mayor of the Squirrel Hill Diaspora

Finishing up my visit with Alan Paul's Expat Life, I picked up the following post from Paul in the Wall Street Journal forums:

Paul: My old friend Icky (half the people I grew up with had nicknames like that) wrote me an interesting response to my column. Hi call him the mayor of the Squirrel Hill (our Pittsburgh neighborhood) exile community. He keeps a huge array of people in touch. I email with guys I went to high school or summer camp with that I haven't seen in 20-25 years.

Icky: I think it's interesting to think about how technology makes our experience in the ex-Pittsburgh diaspora much different than our grandparents' experiences of leaving the old country - and never seeing or hearing from their old friends again - or visiting, etc.

My grandmother's memories of her friends as a 14 yr old in Russia were frozen in time.

That high school buddies keep in touch isn't remarkable. The self-identification as the "exile community" or the "ex-Pittsburgh diaspora" is novel and is a product of the advances in communication technology. I also notices that the scale of identity is shrinking. Diasporas of ethnicity and nationality are giving way to cities of origin and even neighborhoods such as Squirrel Hill.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Third Generation Pittsburgh

The original Burgh Diaspora is captured in a three-part documentary about Murray Ave (Part I, Parts II and III). I found this gem at Alan Paul's expatriate blog. Paul writes for the Wall Street Journal about his life in China. The film touches on many diaspora points, namely the changing face of Parochial Pittsburgh. As one Pittsburgh Jew points out, the third generation of any ethnic group tends to move in a different direction when it comes to occupation. In a sense, the Jewish soul of Murray Ave left Pittsburgh with the third generation.

Paul's blog demonstrates the romantic attachment to Pittsburgh that expatriates harbor. In some sense, Parochial Pittsburgh lives on in the minds of its Diaspora. Even in Beijing, Paul can find a bit of Pittsburgh:

Slingbox allows you to watch a distant TV on your computer. I first learned about it from several readers when I wrote about the difficulties in watching Pittsburgh Steelers games here. My friend and fellow Steelers lunatic, Eric Rosenblum, signed up last fall and watching games at his house has whet my appetite.

Paul's point is that technology allows an expatriate to tune out his current place of residence, immersing himself in the trappings of home. He finds this opportunity dangerously seductive and something he must guard against in order to make his China experience richer.

H-1B Pittsburgh

The Wall Street Journal recently explored the issue of expanding the H-1B visa program at the behest of hi-tech companies such as Microsoft. Why would anyone be against attracting talent from other countries? The argument is that the immigrants will not stay, but instead take their intellectual capital back home:

As Business Week pointed out in an article last month, the employers using the overwhelming number of H-1Bs are offshore outsourcing firms. These firms' whole reason for being is to ship work overseas, not to use the H-1B program as a bridge to immigration. They shuttle foreign workers into the U.S. to get trained so that they can then take that work back home.

We've come a long from worrying about brain drain from developing countries. This alarm indicates, to me at least, that intellectual capital is beginning to seek frontier market opportunities. International brain circulation is a very real phenomenon, but that's no reason to discourage mobility.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Network Youngstown

Alvin Toffler recently spoke in Youngtown, leaving behind a few recommendations (as summarized by I WILL SHOUT YOUNGSTOWN) that might interest Pittsburgh:

1 - Create a regional DARPA-like organization linking the innovative capacity throughout Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania...

8 - Appoint a diplomatic core from Youngstown, with bases in Washington, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland to engage others, promote business and collect information.

I selected the two that suggest possible network linkages with Pittsburgh. I'm still not convinced that an expansive contiguous regional initiative is a good idea (and if it is even possible), but I do appreciate the attempt to enhance connectivity.

Long-Distance Pittsburgh

Richard Florida was kind enough to take notice of my thoughts on his "The Mobile" and "The Stuck" concept. One great benefit of the blogosphere is the new links you can make when you put your ideas out there. The lead comment on Florida's post referenced another blog where the life of the Platinum Gypsy is a topic of discussion:

The trend [of long-distance relationships] starts before college, when young people are tied to technology, communicating with people all over the world, and making friends with people they’ve never met in person.

Then college comes, and the experience includes much more travel than it used to. Junior year abroad used to be the time to travel. Now there’s also a summer internship for most students, and many students travel to another state every summer for a coveted internship of one sort or another. Among college students 78% say they have been in a long-distance relationship.

After that, traveling for a job seems normal. Thirty years ago, people would generally look for a job out of college in a city they wanted to build a life in. Today, the first job is just a first step.

And millenniels are experimenters. They see their twenties as a time to try out a bunch of different jobs, and they also see it as a time to try out a bunch of different cities. It used to be that you could tell where someone was living by the area code on their phone. Now that area code on their cell phone only tells you where they started.

When I talk about nomads, I'm referencing the above migration trend. 20-somethings are forever on the move. The time to capture them is when they are looking to settle and start a family. However, they are also being socialized to a life on-the-move. They possess the skills to maintain a long-distance relationship, the kind that could evolve into Network Pittsburgh.

Penguin Diaspora

Mike Madison outlines the opportunities for tapping into Penguins Nation:

If the arena is an economic development resource, then the team should expand its marketing (and its local fans should coordinate themselves accordingly): We need a Penguins Nation, of a size and scale and intensity that tracks (even if it can't quite approach) Steelers Nation. If you build it, they will waddle, and so on. Dear Mario: Publicly embrace hockey-starved fans in Cleveland, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Erie, and Morgantown and encourage them to catch a game in Pittsburgh. Organize hockey charters for Canadian and European fans. Build business-and-hockey relationships with professional and amateur clubs around the world. Work with the VisitPittsburgh team. (Of course, the Penguins themselves don't need to monopolize this market. Calling all entrepreneurs!) The Penguins may be the best flightless ambassadors in the history of Pittsburgh -- and marketing outreach may be the best way for the taxpaying public to see back-end value from their share of the arena deal.

Hockey doesn't enjoy as large a following as football does, but the Pens are a source of pride even for non-fans. On the whole, the Burgh Diaspora wanted to see the franchise stay in Pittsburgh. Then again, they don't have to foot the bill for the new arena.

Pittsburgh's Platinum Gypsies

I need to touch on a host of tidbits today, so I'll keep the posts brief and to the point...

Korn/Ferry International wants to help The Mobile of Australia, referred to as "Platinum Gypsies" in the article:

With growing economic liberalisation, removal of cross-border restrictions, more affordable international transport and advanced communications technologies, the world’s workforce is becoming increasingly dynamic and mobile, with “free agents” taking advantage of the borderless nature of the workplace to design global careers. Coined “platinum gypsies” by Clotaire Rapaille, cultural anthropologist and author of The Culture Code, a breed of professionals is emerging creating a new paradigm for career development and advancement. These individuals, armed with their platinum credit cards, move from one continent or country to the next, developing themselves personally and professionally along the way while eventually losing any allegiance to one particular “home” or location. Similarly, they do not rely on any one organisation to provide them new career challenges or opportunities.

Australia is framed as a landscape of opportunity for the Platinum Gypsies, who could return home with valuable experience and skills that may not find full expression in the talent-saturated markets abroad. Of course, I think Pittsburgh (and other demographic losers) could benefit in a similar fashion.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mobility Paradox

A recent Richard Florida blog post piqued my interest. Florida describes a demographic dichotomy: The Mobile and The Stuck. The gist is that class mobility and geographic mobility are positively correlated. I've characterized this phenomenon as the "move to improve" or the "mobility imperative." Staying put can doom you to a life of poverty:

Many more people - if things continue as they are - will have to join the ranks of the mobile if they want to prosper or even survive.

As far as I can tell, Florida's solution is an attempt to stem the tide of brain drain. Give talent a reason to stay. Better yet, transform your region into a magnet of creativity. I suggest helping The Stuck become The Mobile. I also recommend serving Mobile interests, instead of catering to The Stuck.

Thus, I have a paradox: If a region encourages mobility, how might it benefit from its investment? What I observe is that places such as "Detroit, Buffalo, or Pittsburgh" suffer from poor demographic churn. Relative to other regions, few people are actually leaving. The deep attachment to place discourages out-migration. The resulting landscape is increasingly parochial, building a barrier to in-migration.

When this happens, the best thing you could do for your citizens is to encourage them to move to improve. Concurrently, the region in question should foster links for these nomads back to home. I figure that these Parochial Argonauts retain an abnormal connection to the place where they grew up.

The city left behind should provide a wealth of frontier opportunities, as well as an excellent reputation for helping people join the ranks of The Mobile. Wherever the jobs are, a Pittsburgher is there willing to lend a hand. That's already the case for many Rust Belt cities. The patterns of out-migration demonstrate this. I can't think of a better way to break into a Cool City and enjoy success.

Monday, March 05, 2007

PUMP Up Pittsburgh

The Brain Drain lament won't die. The problem isn't keeping talent in Pittsburgh, but attracting it from someplace else. Pittsburgh compares well with other regions concerning available college graduates. Local companies have recognized this asset and fill openings with people with degrees from local colleges and universities. The region's shortcoming, notes demographer Chris Briem, is landing skilled professionals from elsewhere around the country:

Lots of local college graduates means that local companies find plenty of job-seeking graduates to fill their recruiting needs and they like that. Its means lower cost for them, both in search and relocation costs, and likely gets you workers who are less likely to move away over the long run. Lots of local employers have gotten out of the habit, not that they were ever in that habit, of recruiting for workers nationally the way their competitiors in lots of other regions need to. What that means however is that we don't attract as many people moving into the region as would be typical elsewhere.

If anything, Pittsburgh is well set up to move skilled workers around the country. A recent musing from AntiRust describes the established pathways for excess labor capacity to follow:

I ended up in Baltimore. Because my older sister lived there. Know why? Because an even older sister had gotten a job there. That's right. A job. With Westinghouse. She was an electrical engineer. I don't remember comfort or any of that being part of her consideration. It was the late 80s. That's where there was a job. So she took it. Period. And my other sister followed a few years later. As did I.

There's the Catch-22: Pittsburgh can't attract the Creative Class until they capture the Creative Class' older sister. That starts with local companies hiring outsiders, which for cost reasons and the presence of abundant skilled labor, they are unlikely to do.

I'd love to move to Pittsburgh. But I'm at a distinct disadvantage when competing against locals for a job opportunity. If there was a brain drain problem, I could easily find employment and relocate.

What does marketing Pittsburgh have to do with it?