Sunday, March 23, 2008

Regional Globalization and Pittsburgh

The latest Opinion 250 in the Post-Gazette sums up all my Rust Belt 2.0 projects and locates them in Pittsburgh. First, Jim Marczak, president and CEO of SYCOR AMERICAS Inc., tackles the H-1B problem:

This country needs major reform in how it imports professionals. The limits on our ability to bring in international recruits has hampered our opportunities to grow, which means they have hampered the opportunity for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to grow, as well.

Then Marczak articulates his vision for regional cooperation across the international border between Canada and the United States:

Another factor to consider is how we market the Pittsburgh region. I've suggested an "EriO" initiative. It's similar to the Great Lakes Economic Initiative that involves combined economic development efforts by states around the Great Lakes, including Pennsylvania.

The EriO concept draws on that idea, except that it brings together the American states and the Canadian provinces that border Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. We would pool our resources to bring new companies to this expanded region and work on ways to simplify border restrictions so that goods and people could cross seamlessly, without jeopardizing national security. They do it in Europe -- why can't we do it here? Many of us already are working on a plan to make this happen.

I believe this is the first I've heard of this effort or the EriO initiative. I initially encountered SYCOR at Pittsblog. Mike Madison was intrigued with an article in the Post-Gazette that told the story of the deepening connectivity between Pittsburgh and Goettingen, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Marczak. How SYCOR ended up in Pittsburgh is an interesting tale itself:

One such spark in the 2006 tour ignited a major change in direction for one German company, Sycor. Headquartered in Goettingen, Germany, the information technology and business process consulting company was weighing where to locate a North American headquarters. Pittsburgh, which had a small Sycor office, was a candidate but it was running behind some other cities.

"By the time we got the e-mail from Allegheny Conference that the tour was going on, we were already leaning toward Montreal," said Jim Marczak, CEO of Sycor Americas. Then a Sycor representative attended some meetings as well as a PSO concert in Dortmund and was blown away. "[He] instantly called me to say how wonderful it was," says Marczak. "He is a classical music lover and it struck a nice chord with him."

Soon enough, Marczek opted to negotiate with the Pennsylvania governor's action team and Allegheny County for an incentive plan of $440,000. "It was pretty close to the Canadian offer," he said. "Because of the intangibles, we chose Pittsburgh."

Seems to me that Mr. Marczek is committed to making Pittsburgh into the kind of city that will help his company be a global success. I would think that what is good for SYCOR is good for Pittsburgh and the Post-Industrial Heartland surrounding the Great Lakes. I hope to find out more about EriO. Can I get Jim Marczek together with Richard Longworth and Richard Herman?

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