Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pittsburgh Pop

Via PopCity, the unabashed Pittsburgh booster, we learn that the land of Three Rivers is a great place for young professionals:

Strong performing companies like Allegheny Technologies, Ansoft and Consol Energy have helped lift Pittsburgh's post-industrial economy and gave the city a No. 2 ranking in its concentration of top firms from our 400 best big companies and 200 best small companies lists. But Pittsburgh still lags behind when it comes to salaries and attracting graduates, landing at 32 and 22 by those measures.

Not to burst anyone's bubble, but the last sentence is cause for concern. Forbes describes the "attracting graduates" metric:

We started by tracking the graduates from a cadre of elite schools around the country who have the ability to go virtually anywhere to follow their professional interests. By looking at where the class of 1998 from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Rice, Northwestern and Duke settled 10 years later, we get a good sense of where the top-notch jobs for young people exist.

First, I would like Pittsburghers (and other cities fretting about brain drain) to note that retaining graduates is not measured. The best talent is the most geographically mobile. Pittsburgh should be working to attract this demographic, not wasting resources on keeping people from leaving. However, 22nd out of the top 40 US metros isn't bad in the war for talent.

In fact, I would conclude that "top firms" concentrating in Pittsburgh rather enjoy the parochial dividend of the relatively low wages that stem from a glut of local talent. That these "top-notch" jobs still attract a decent number of highly sought after graduates is something worthy of closer study. If not the wages, then why is talent migrating to Pittsburgh?

Update: CEOs for Cities offers a similar line of questioning concerning talent migration.

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