Thursday, December 13, 2007

InsideOut Pittsburgh

Richard Florida continues our dialog about Rust Belt immigration policy. Dr. Florida asks his readers and "economist friends" to comment. I couldn't ask for a better venue to debate this policy idea. I appreciate Dr. Florida providing me with the opportunity to sharpen my thoughts and I look forward to reading the responses he solicits.

I'm going to steer my discussion back to Pittsburgh and the IntoPittsburgh initiative. The region would indeed benefit tremendously from the presence of more international migrants, of all kinds. But if IntoPittsburgh is advocating bad policy, it is in the realm of job creation and not increased immigration. Richard Herman's approach will establish new employment opportunities first, which should in turn attract migrants (both domestic and international).

While seeking an increase in the number of H-1B visas may be folly (I sincerely doubt that it is), I still think that Pittsburgh needs more jobs before it can attract more people. This is the case in almost every shrinking city. In this regard, the entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants often bring with them would be most welcome. But attracting people in the first place is a tall order, namely the lack of existing paths of network (chain) migration.

IntoPittsburgh recognizes that there are Pittsburgh expatriates who would like to return home (brain circulation). These people already think Pittsburgh is a cool place to live. The locational choice is clear, but the means to do so is opaque. As a result, IntoPittsburgh is calling on all people passionate about Pittsburgh to "self-identify" with our group.

I didn't intend for the Rust Belt bloggers convention to catch fire, but how the idea resonated is how I imagine the IntoPittsburgh club will grow. I started ringing blogger doorbells in Buffalo and someone in Syracuse responds. This is what I mean by "self-identifying." If the cause speaks to you, then speak up. As far as I am concerned, NYCO's Blog is a welcome addition to the Rust Belt 2.0 initiative (or whatever folks want to call it).

Mike Madison is gathering the names of people self-identifying with IntoPittsburgh. The fact that the job market in Pittsburgh is a tough nut to crack can actually work to the advantage of people desiring to reside in Pittsburgh. If you have a strong network, then you have a relocation competitive advantage. What we affiliated with IntoPittsburgh are doing is building the infrastructure necessary to facilitate network migration.

However, we realize that we have to do more than help expatriates boomerang back to the Burgh. Our primary goal is job creation, which is the reason I titled this post InsideOut Pittsburgh. I need to start ringing the doorbells of the Burgh Diaspora in order to get them to self-identify with IntoPittsburgh. I thought mention in the Post-Gazette and the Wall Street Journal would accomplish this, but I was wrong.

What I want InsideOut Pittsburgh to be is a resource for Pittsburgh and Pittsburghers (wherever they might live). The list I hope to compile will consist of people who self-identify with IntoPittsburgh who do not reside in the Pittsburgh region. There is talent at CMU that would benefit from your expertise. How about offering a point of contact for these budding entrepreneurs? How about helping a great writer publish his book about Steelers Nation?

Or, perhaps your venture would benefit from Pittsburgh based financial and human capital. That would be a good time to peruse Mike Madison's list and make the requisite connections. This is the network economy I envision for Pittsburgh, but I need to find out if anyone out there in the Burgh Diaspora is interested.

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