Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Pittsburgh Boosterism

Despite Bill Steigerwald's best efforts, other cities continue to express Pittsburgh-lust:

They don't just beat us in football -- when it comes to who is handling this recession better, Pittsburgh wins at that too.

"We bottomed out 25 years ago when steel left our town," says University of Pittsburgh Urban Affairs professor Sabina Deitrick. "It helped us create a new identity."

200,000 people left in the early eighties, and they've spent much of the time since trying to reconfigure their identity.

That identity is now rooted in the bio-tech, medical research and banking sectors.

"We didn't have that kind of bubble that kept growing and growing, so it didn't burst," Deitrick says. "We've had things up and down, but over time over all--it's been positive."

I've seen the lack of a bubble cast in a positive and, more often, a negative light. Steigerwald raining on Pittsburgh's parade:

Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate and stable housing prices were relatively better than the national figures only because its deindustrialized economy was already so stagnant that it never experienced fast job growth or a recent real estate boom and therefore couldn’t go bust.

I'm not sure why anyone would characterize riding the boom-bust cycle as a good thing. Furthermore, there are plenty of examples of regions that did not have a recent real estate boom but did go bust (e.g. Detroit). What are the naysayers driving at when making this point? This is just another example of Pittsburgh navel-gazing. The shortcomings are not unique to the Steel City. Pittsburgh is out-performing many of the postindustrial cities suffering from the same problems. In this regard, the critiques ring hollow.

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