Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pittsburgh's Near-Abroad

My e-mail inbox is filling up with stories about the upcoming primary in Pennsylvania, which is supposedly in much better shape than Ohio. Philadelphia is just fine, thank you and Pittsburgh is the economic star in the western part of the state:

Christopher Briem, a regional economist at the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh, said that in Pennsylvania, a presidential candidate needed to know about metropolitan, postindustrial and agricultural economies.

While southeastern Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia as its hub, continues to grow with pharmaceutical and banking jobs, western and northeastern Pennsylvania are still struggling with their postindustrial recovery.

“Pittsburgh continues its gradual maturation from heavy industry to a center for education, medical research, and culture,” Mr. Briem said, “but many small towns are floundering without their factories.”

Youngstown received 15 minutes of infamy as the poster child for economic dislocation in Ohio and now Erie is offered up as the primary example of the uneven development of globalization. Regardless, the national and international impression must be one of the entire Rust Belt as depressed, backwards, and pissed off. While shrinking cities share many of the same problems, there still exists quite a bit economic geographic variation within the region.

The view from Europe sees promise in Youngstown and despair in Cleveland. Richard Longworth included, the consensus seems to be that Cleveland leadership doesn't get it. I gather that Erie is in the same boat as Cleveland. I've taken my shots at dysfunctional politics in Pittsburgh, but the city looks like a global powerhouse in the Postindustrial Heartland and I'm beginning to think that Pittsburgh can afford to go it alone as Chicago did. But Pittsburgh's next renaissance would be stronger if the drivers of the local economy took more of a regional leadership role and reached out to the rest of Cleveburgh.

No comments: