Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Hot on the heels of my consideration of Pittsburgh's particular propensity to solve the proximity problem, Disney announces its intention to horn in on the action:

[Joe Marks, vice president of research and development for Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios,] said Carnegie Mellon stands out with its expertise in computing, robotics, human interaction and entertainment.

"CMU is No. 1 in the world, and that was obvious to Disney," he said, noting that advances in computer technology led to creation of Pixar and its documented success with computer graphics and animation in such films as "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," and "Ratatouille."

Developing a relationship with Carnegie Mellon represents Disney's attempt to create "the perfect collaboration of industry, academics, art and science," Dr. Marks said.

Rising transportation costs are fueling a comeback for industrial Pittsburgh, but the established connection with the Los Angeles knowledge economy is much more indicative of the ongoing Rust Belt rebirth. The branding of Pittsburgh as a unique global creative center probably surprised just about anyone who read about Disney's intention to tap Carnegie Mellon University.

Then there is the story behind the above story. I suspected that a link between Disney and CMU already existed, paving the way for the big announcement. The kind of research that goes on at CMU likely put at least a few of the faculty there in the same idea circle as Dr. Marks. The out-migration of talent from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles is another factor that deserves consideration when piecing the deal together. Brain drain is an excellent economic development strategy.

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