Thursday, January 01, 2009

R2P: Return to Pittsburgh

I'm ringing in 2009 with a reinvention of this blog. Burgh Diaspora was born on June 1st, 2006. I set out to explore the economic potential of Pittsburgh's diaspora network. Along the way, I learned a great deal about the geographic mobility of talent and the anachronistic means of developing a local labor pool. Also, I discovered how many other Rust Belt cities shared the same set of problems. I morphed the blog into Cleveburgh Diaspora, an attempt to build a larger identity geography. My aim was to grow the Tech Belt between Cleveland and Pittsburgh into a coherent economic region. I'm betting that any kind of successful mega-regional project will depend on Pittsburgh's fate. The biggest drag on the Burgh's most recent renaissance is the lack of people with certain skills. The goal of R2P: Return to Pittsburgh is addressing this shortcoming.

Bill Toland's latest "Diaspora Report" inspired me to undertake this new initiative. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance is looking to "fill the talent pipeline" but adamantly denies designs on facilitating more boomerang migration. Despite the troubled economy, the war for talent still looms on the horizon. Looking at everyone save loyal expatriates for needed talent is foolish. China is calling home its best and brightest. The numbers are small, but few people are really ready to help China maintain a head of steam. Furthermore, the geographically mobile may not be interested in a cloudy climate and a distinct lack of urban chic. Austin or Pittsburgh?

I still contend that the Burgh Diaspora is a unique economic asset. The lack of sunshine or proximity to the ocean will hamper Pittsburgh's ability to fill the talent pipeline. In a labor shortage, that's a huge disadvantage. Boomerang migration won't abate population decline, but it can fill key positions such as a CEO for a green tech startup. Like China, Pittsburgh should be highly selective in the expatriate members it courts.

Since the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance sees fit to ignore Carl Kurlander's call for the Burgh Diaspora to come home, I've decided to pick up the slack. My plan is to leverage what I've learned over 2.5 years of blogging and chronicle my own attempt to return to Pittsburgh. I will teach other expatriates how they can successfully move to Pittsburgh while filling the talent pipeline with the kind of skilled workers the region most needs.


The Urbanophile said...

Good luck.

Are you actually moving back to Pittsburgh, or will you still be in Denver?

Jim Russell said...


I'm still in Denver, but my intent is to bootstrap a move back to Pittsburgh.