Sunday, June 17, 2007

Demographic Opportunity

The problems of Pittsburgh's aging population are well documented. Missing from this policy narrative are the demographic opportunities already evident:

For a variety of industries -- ranging from health care to maid services -- Pittsburgh is pretty much the perfect place to be, said John Tubridy, owner of FranNet, a consulting business that advises franchisers.

"According to some of the franchises I represent, the demographics here are almost twice as good as their normal market," he said. "Seniors generally have expendable income and they sort of change mentally. Seniors will lose their savings to get things that they want."

And as the U.S. population ages, senior buying power increasingly touches nearly every piece of the economy. Even on a relatively youth-oriented industry, such as athletic footwear, seniors spent nearly 13 percent more in the past year than they did two years ago, according to data from the NPD Group, a New York marketing research firm.

Even Pittsburgh seniors on fixed incomes are relatively good for businesses, said Mr. Tubridy, because the cost of living here is lower than many comparable markets.

Regional demographic bets are tough to place. If Pittsburgh oriented infrastructure towards seniors, then a shift towards a younger population could undermine that investment. As always, migration is the wild card. The rest of the United States is busy catching up with Geriatric Burgh and Western Pennsylvania might prove to be an attractive option for senior living.

While every other region is chasing the hipster set, Pittsburgh could feast on demographic leftovers (markets currently under-serviced). The Burgh Diaspora blog is about overlooked migration opportunities. Much is made of Pittsburgh's outmigration and brain drain. Little is made of the upside of such a large diaspora population.

As long as Pittsburgh remains obsessed with the negatives of demographics and migration, the regional economy will continue to limp along.

1 comment:

Donn Nemchick said...

I agree with Mr. Tubridy's comments about spending habits of the boomers. We as a region would be better served to focus our energy on the strengths of this region. A starting point is to get away from the negative mind set. Did you know that CMU is competing in a driverless automobile project? Results in August so let us get behind CMU like we get behind the Steelers. We would be better off being known as the Robotic Capital of the World than the Super Bowl champs. What a dreamer I am ! I would be interested in hosting any interesed boomers who are interested in starting or expanding a small business. Contact: Donn Nemchick