Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rust Belt Chic: Buffalo (Lockport)

Okay, I've got another reference that looks to Pittsburgh as a positive urban role model. But there are much better reasons to blog about this article:

Well into adulthood, he made a startling discovery about his hometown, “that Lockport’s landscape contained a mystery,” he notes in his study, subtitled “Lockport, the Erie Canal, and the Shaping of America.” McGreevy was stunned to learn of a 40-foot “waterfall” on the city’s western edge.

“I thought I had explored every square inch of the town’s landscape: How could there be a waterfall I had never seen nor heard any mention of by hundreds of local acquaintances?”

Yes, there’s a hidden waterfall, that he calls a “natural spectacle,” and McGreevy has the pictures to prove it, which helped compel him to “to begin a scholarly investigation.” He tells us, for instance, that for “the largely immigrant common laborers who made up the bulk of the canal construction force, the market revolution was a brutal reality within which they had little leverage or hope.”

Connoisseurs of geography, cartophiles, wanderers, and romantics will appreciate the anecdote. When it comes to such stories, the Rust Belt is king. The parochial landscape doesn't give up its secrets easily. Imagine all the intrigue of Vermont wrapped up in a small Western New York city. Yeah, the entire state and I would know. I still have logs of the best unknown swimming holes and sledding ("sliding" in Vermont) hills.

My fascination with America's Urban Frontier is more than a birthplace in Erie and a childhood in Upstate New York. I love exploring, weekend road trips. I'm intimate with just about every part of the United States and you can't beat the Postindustrial Heartland for adventure. Getting to know Pittsburgh is daunting. That's the attraction. So, I greatly enjoy reading about a regional expert surprised by the existence of a 40-foot waterfall on the outskirts of town.

Great Recession Migration: Iowa

Iowa and the Greater Pittsburgh region seem to have a lot in common. Putting aside the obvious apples-to-oranges comparison, the linkages between economic recession and migration produce a similar pattern. Iowa is wondering how the current downturn will impact its workforce:

"Once the economy starts to recover, people will move to where they think they can get work," said David Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University.

Economists and population experts are split, however, over whether workers will flee Iowa like they did in the 1980s, when about 1.1 million Midwest residents left the region. Southern states gained 524,000 Midwesterners, and Western states added 320,000, according to the Pew Research Center. ...

... Iowa's slow, steady economic growth has meant the state has avoided the tumble that other states' overheated economies have taken, said Mekael Teshome, an associate economist at Moody's

But will sensible job growth also mean the state's unemployed workers will be without jobs longer, and push workers to leave for better employment opportunities?

Two economists offer different scenarios.

There are two important takeaways from this well-researched article. First, we won't know the impact on migration until some states start an economic recovery. Second, the relocation patterns are still unclear. There are reasons for Iowa to be both optimistic and pessimistic. But even the best case scenario won't be enough:

Mary Bontrager, the Greater Des Moines Partnership's vice president of work force development, said the business group is worried about losing experienced workers. The recession hasn't eliminated a projected 60,000-worker shortfall in central Iowa, she said. It has just delayed its arrival.

"Retaining our workers who have been displaced is our top priority," Bontrager said. "But down the road, when things turn around, we will still face a worker shortage."

The reason: Nearly 102,000 baby boomers are due to retire within the next 10 years, population projections show. That trend also will exacerbate business complaints about a skills gap, prompting the need for workers such as engineers, nurses and welders.

For a state so obsessed with brain drain, the looming talent shortage might be good news. There should be plenty of jobs available for those who would want to stay. But how might Iowa enticed the legions of unemployed in Charlotte to move to corn country?

The early recovery states are slated for a turnaround during the 4th quarter of this year. This is when new impressions of opportunity will be forged. Perhaps in the minds of job seekers will be Pittsburgh:

It took a long time, but Pittsburgh finally began to take this advice and in recent years has seen a growth of new ventures and new industries. It has withstood the current economic downturn better than most similar metro regions and has even started gaining a reputation as a green city -- a truly remarkable turnaround for a city where smoke used to blot out the sun.

This is why the Obama administration, at a time when the world economy needs a thorough re-thinking, decided to host the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. And this is why Pittsburghers, as we look to the future, should continue to heed sage advice from the past and remember our own hard-learned lessons.

IF the sunnier economic forecasts hold (and that's a huge "if"), then the G-20 meeting couldn't come at a better time for Pittsburgh. The subject will be the state of the global economy and the road to recovery. Pittsburgh is meant to be the poster child for the latter. And that's the first message that the vanguard of the coming wave of relocation will receive.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

From Toronto to Pittsburgh, with love:

One constant during the pendulum swing of prosperity has been the excellence of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, routinely regarded as being just outside the so-called "Big Five" North American symphonic ensembles: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra.

It is to the considerable credit of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra that when its late music director Karel Ancerl returned from a guest conducting engagement with the Pittsburgh orchestra in the late 1960s, he told me the two ensembles were of comparable quality.

I doubt that claim could be made today. Pittsburgh has invested far more in the development of its orchestra than Toronto, and it shows. Pittsburgh's boasts a $31 million (U.S.) annual budget and an endowment of around $80 million, compared with the $23 million (Canadian) budget and $21 million endowment of its northern cousin.

Like other Rust Belt cities such as Cleveland and Detroit, Pittsburgh has long seen its orchestra as a point of civic pride, and even in the recent years of economic decline all three cities have continued to support their orchestras at financial levels unheard of in Canada. ...

... Curious to learn what all the fuss was about, I travelled to Pittsburgh recently to meet the maestro and hear a program of Mozart, Beethoven and Richard Strauss, and came away from the experience with a three letter response: Wow!

The PSO continues to be fortunate in its home, one of the handsomest concert venues in North America, the elegantly restored 1926 Heinz Hall, a gift from one of the city's richest patrons (and reason enough for Pittsburghers to put extra ketchup on their fries).

While the PSO continues to serve as an international ambassador for the City, these trying financial times are taking a toll. Nonetheless, this urban legacy is a blessing instead of a curse. Such are the two sides of the Rust Belt coin.

World class amenities still dot America's urban frontier. But few folks living on either coast realize this. (blog reference Null Space) Ann Arbor's struggles to attract talent illustrate this point nicely:

And despite Ann Arbor's educated work force, employers here find Michigan's reputation as a failing manufacturing economy can deter potential hires from moving to the state.

At HandyLab, an Ann Arbor firm that makes a DNA-analysis device, Chief Executive Jeffrey Williams says he has had a hard time finding Ph.D.-level workers with highly specialized skills. His company, which has doubled to roughly 60 employees in the past year, has 10 job openings.

"It's definitely gotten much harder with all the stigma around Detroit," he says. "Somebody tries to pigeonhole us as Detroit, we say, 'No, it's Ann Arbor, it's a completely different environment.' "

I think the problem is that shrinking cities haven't figured out how to leverage the well-recognized Rust Belt brand. Instead, we get complete makeovers. The Rust Belt is now the Green Belt. Great Lakes region instead of the Midwest. The next Silicon Valley. I think this is the wrong way to go about generating a buzz, some positive exposure.

"Pittsburgh has invested far more in the development of its orchestra than Toronto, and it shows."

Most of what is left over from industrial era in Pittsburgh are assets to the region, not liabilities. Expansive urban parks. Stunning architecture. Wealthy foundations. And cultural offerings that inspire jealously in bigger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Toronto sporting a much more daunting cost of living.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pittsburgh Energy Update

Both good news and bad news about the nuclear industry and Westinghouse. The good news is the reactor deal with India. The bad news concerns domestic production:

Most of the new construction is underway in countries like China and Russia, where strong central governments have made nuclear energy a national priority. India also has long seen nuclear as part of a national drive for self-sufficiency and now is seeking new nuclear technologies to reduce its reliance on imported uranium.

By comparison, “the state has been all over the place in the United States and Europe on nuclear power,” Mr. Joskow said.

The United States generates about one-fifth of its electricity from a fleet of 104 reactors, most built in the 1960s and 1970s. Coal still provides about half the country’s power.

To streamline construction, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington has worked with the industry to approve a handful of designs. Even so, the schedule to certify the most advanced model from Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba, has slipped during an ongoing review of its ability to withstand the impact of an airliner.

I'm not sure how much the delay in certification matters given the political uncertainties of building any new reactors, not just the Westinghouse model, in the United States. Access to the India energy market should more than make up for the setbacks in America.

More G-20 Pittsburgh

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal curiously explained the site location of the upcoming G-20 summit as an economic boost for a struggling city. At least, that's how I read it. A more formal article (as opposed to the blog post), gets back to the Pittsburgh showcase angle. I suppose the two narratives might overlap in the observation that the federal government is targeting Pittsburgh for further economic development, the engine for a revitalized Rust Belt.

Chris Briem points to a Dennis Roddy authored article that helps to explain why anyone would be bullish on Pittsburgh's future economic prospects:

Steel was the manufacturing base that made possible so many of the other businesses, so when the steel mills closed, the machine shops went out of business. When the machine shops went out of business, the tool suppliers went out of business. When the tool suppliers went out of business, those people lots their jobs, they didn’t shop anymore, they didn’t go out to eat anymore, and school districts suddenly found themselves denuded of pupils. We’ve actually closed high schools in the city of Pittsburgh, because it’s now half the population it once was.

Our depression twenty-five years ago started from here and spread out. Now, it’s nibbling in from the outside on us. It’s still a recession, but it’s not the implosion it was before. We’re not rotting from the center this time.

Roddy offers a powerful geographic abstraction. Cities currently suffering in the core, as opposed to the periphery, are the ones in dire straits. Pittsburgh's economic geography is remarkably dense and its regional drivers (eds and meds) are still creating jobs. The current collapse of manufacturing isn't dragging down Pittsburgh with it.

Contrast that with Charlotte and you get a very different story. Pittsburgh and Charlotte roughly have lost about the same percentage of manufacturing jobs. However, if you look at the total losses of non-farm employment, you'll see how much more Charlotte is suffering.

Charlotte is imploding while Pittsburgh's core is thriving.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pennsylvania Anti-Entrepreneur?

Dear Innovation Works and AlphaLab Stakeholders,

It was great seeing many of you at our AlphaLab Demo Day event earlier this month. At Innovation Works, we are continuing to see strong interest in our investment and business assistance programs from entrepreneurs across the region and AlphaLab's recent application cycle- during which we received almost 100 applications - is another example of this demand for start-up funding.

Innovation Works needs your help in maintaining funding for promising technology companies. A current bill in the state Senate would cut funding 60% for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the body that funds Innovation Works and its counterpart centers across the state (known collectively as the Ben Franklin Technology Partners or BFTP).

So, what can you do? We are asking all our stakeholders to do the following before June 8, 2009:

· Contact your legislators by going to: This link takes you to a page on the Pittsburgh Technology Council's website, where you can automatically send a letter to your legislator.

o You can personalize the letter to refer to your own company, experience, or reason to want to support funding for Innovation Works (the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Southwest PA).

o When you put in your zip code, your legislators will be identified and the email will be sent to the right office. The letter is pre-populated to ask legislators to: maintain the current level of funding for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, especially maintain the existing level of funding for the Ben Franklin program, and communicate with their caucus leaders in the House or Senate about the need to maintain these current levels of funding.

o Send me an email about who you have contacted so we can track these efforts.

· Activate your own network of contacts who care about maintaining funding for start-up entrepreneurs. Send the URL ( ) to others to write a letter, use Facebook or Twitter to create awareness about the need to reach legislators, post blog comments, whatever you can do to reach more people who can subsequently reach out to their legislators.

· Give us your ideas and feedback about how to reach more people to communicate about this critical issue.

This is an extremely challenging year for the state budget and difficult decisions must be made. Here are a few facts about where we stand in the budget framework:

· the BFTP program more than pays for itself in additional capital and tax revenue brought into the state as a result of follow-on funding and business growth, so 'cost savings' from slashing this budget hurts state revenues in the end,

· there is little to no private sector spending for technology companies at this very early stage so there is not an alternative pool of money to draw on,

· other social and arts programs are mobilizing their considerable constituents to fight their own proposed cuts and the technology sector is comprised of a smaller number of stakeholders who can reach out to their legislators.

This isn't about funding Innovation Works. It's about funding entrepreneurs and growing technology companies. Please help us continue to fund and assist our region's promising start-ups and other innovative companies.

Thanks very much for your help and support.

Jim Jen
Director, AlphaLab
Innovation Works

Reactions to G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh obviously has some deep connections inside the Beltway. I don't think the rest of the world understands this. The reaction of the press to the announcement is priceless:

MR. GIBBS: One quick announcement before we get started. The United States will host the next G20 summit, September 24th through the 25th, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Q Where?

Q What?

MR. GIBBS: Did I get a little murmur there? That's -- there's a Terrible Towel back there somewhere, wasn’t there? There you go.

At the Pittsburgh summit, President Obama will meet with leaders representing 85 percent of the world's economy, take stock of the progress made since the Washington and London summits, and discuss further actions to assure a sound and sustainable recovery from the global economic and financial crisis.

Q Why Pittsburgh?

MR. GIBBS: At the conclusion of the meeting in London the group had to make a decision about where the next summit would be. Because a lot of people will be in our country for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, the President offered to host the next meeting; the group agreed with that, and we identified Pittsburgh as a good place to do that.

Q Why?

MR. GIBBS: I think it's an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past but because of foresight and investment is now renewed -- giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future. And I think the President believes it would be a good place to highlight some of that.

I didn't see any video, but the exchange brings the word "dumbfounded" to mind.

As the stories hit the wire, the narrative of Pittsburgh as a comeback city dominates. However, the Wall Street Journal took a different approach:

The White House said Thursday that the G20 leaders will convene in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25. By choosing the western Pennsylvania city (unemployment rate 7.6%, at last tally) the U.S. is turning to an approach often followed by the Group of Eight, the organization of big industrialized countries.

Over the years, G8 summits often have been used as an economic development tool, a way to bring businesses to cities outside the host nation’s capital. Italy, for instance, shifted the location of this summers G8 summit from the island of La Maddalena off the northeast coast of Sardinia to l’Aquila in the Abruzzo region, a town devastated by an earthquake in April.

Wouldn't Detroit make more sense? The power of Pittsburgh geopolitics in full display.

Jobs Moving From Denver To Pittsburgh

It gets even better. Energy jobs are moving from Colorado to Western Pennsylvania:

Natural gas producer Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. said Thursday that it will close its regional offices in Charleston, W.Va., and Denver, Colo., by the end of the summer, and open a new office in Pittsburgh.

In a statement, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Dan Dinges said the company plans to provide transfers to more than half the affected staff, with most asked to move to Pittsburgh.

The reason for the consolidation of operations in Pittsburgh is more drilling going on in the Marcellus Shale.

Bright Spot Pittsburgh

Yesterday, the latest issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly arrived in the mail. John Craig offers up a great analysis of Pittsburgh's future, but you'll have to pick up the magazine to read it. It's along the lines of what he recently penned in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I'd bet he would have something interesting to say about the glowing account just published in the Economist:

The one bright spot in the Pew report, surprisingly, is Pittsburgh. The city and its region, once synonymous with steel, lost 120,000 manufacturing jobs in the 1980s. But over three decades it diversified. Now its main industries, health care and education, are thriving. The waterfront, once lined with factories, has been transformed into parks. Bethlehem Steel’s former home is now the site for a casino resort. Pittsburgh narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2003, and was forced into state receivership. But it actually has a surplus now.

Pittsburgh is in relatively good shape because it largely missed the housing and dotcom booms enjoyed by the rest of the county. Indeed, it is currently building a new sports arena and a new hospital. Because of its 2003 brush with bankruptcy, it cut its city workforce by a quarter, implemented a salary freeze and made many hard decisions, such as closing fire stations. The other cities in Pew’s report could learn a few lessons from Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh held up as an example of sound municipal financial management is more than a bit ironic. Even more bizarre is the Chris Briem sighting in the article. I'm certain Chris would have shifted the discussion from budget deficits to pension funding.

Which brings me back to Craig. He brings new meaning to measured optimism. There's no reason to celebrate a budget surplus when financial disaster is lurking just around the corner. I love the positive press for Pittsburgh ... when it is warranted.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Allegheny Institute Nonsense

Political ideology tends to cloud policy analysis. The unabashedly libertarian Allegheny Institute for Public Policy is case and point:

Pittsburgh’s Mayor is constantly citing reports from various magazines and newspapers about how wonderfully well Pittsburgh shows up in highly dubious livability ratings but somehow manages to miss the reports that are not so flattering. Take the latest example. Forbes is out with its list of the ten large metro areas (over a million people) gaining the most population between 2007 and 2008 along with a companion list of the biggest losers.

No surprise. Sun Belt cities continue to dominate the winners with Raleigh, Austin, Charlotte, Phoenix and Dallas making up the top five. On the losing side, the rust belt continues to generate the greatest outflow of people. Pittsburgh ranked eighth among the biggest losers of population. It fared much better than several Ohio cities and Detroit but still posted a decline, continuing a decades long pattern.

These remarkable results show that despite the recession folks still believe the Right to Work states will lead the way in terms of job opportunities in the future. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan with no Right to Work law and union dominated politics are not viewed nearly as positively by companies or individuals. People and capital prefer freedom, something the unions and liberal politicians refuse to grasp.

This tired narrative is wrong on a number of counts. First and foremost, don't hold the mayor of a city accountable for bad state policy. Casually flipping between geographic units of analysis (i.e. cities and states) is the province of hacks, not think tanks.

Second, migration outflow and population decline are not necessarily synonymous. Typically, you'll find the highest out-migration rates among cities in Right to Work states. On the other hand, out-migration rates in Rust Belt cities tend to be the lowest in the country. Furthermore, there is considerable variation in population growth within states. Something the Allegheny Institute refuses to grasp. Stating unequivocally what you would like the numbers to show doesn't make it true.

Greater Pittsburgh Energy Economy

We know that eds and meds have helped Pittsburgh to ride out the Great Recession. We also know that some more economic diversification will be necessary for prosperity in the near future. The CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Dennis Yablonsky, has identified a good prospect:

"Our energy economy represents one of the best opportunities for growing this economy in the next 10 years," said Yablonsky.

He cited the promise of the Marcellus Shale formation — a natural-gas formation that underlies two-thirds of the state, as well as the region's coal resources. The coal industry, especially for power generation, "isn't going away anytime in the near future," he said.

Yablonsky also touted the energy expertise available at some of the region's 35 colleges, as well as at many local companies. He cited the wind-power business at PPG Industries Inc. and the energy-supply business of Eaton Electrical Group in Moon.

"We have a lot of energy companies here to develop an energy-supply chain," he said.

Perhaps a victim of selective quoting, Yablonsky failed to mention Westinghouse and the nuclear power industry. Regardless, the bet is a good one. As global demand recovers, energy prices will rise (perhaps even soar). Conventional and alternative means of production are Pittsburgh strengths.

Chris Briem's story about "Energy-burgh" in 2005 outlined this future. I also see a few tidbits about Pittsburgh-based energy companies every week. In fact, Southwestern PA companies are serving as a economic revitalization model for other Rust Belt cities:

"There's no reason we can't retrofit to build the components," he said. It's like retooling a car plant to make a new model. Gamesa, a Spanish company that makes large wind turbines, bought a steel mill in Pittsburgh that was closed and reopened it, making the turbines. It employs 1,000 people.

Futurist Jeremy Rifkin calls renewable energy the "third industrial revolution." Everyone is diversifying into it. There's a two-year backlog in wind turbines.

This is something we can do. Green energy companies are already scouting Windsor. The city need jobs and diversification. The world needs clean, renewable energy.

To help you visualize the potential, I'll end with a map:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sports as Economic Development Strategy

What's the best sports city in Canada and the United States? Indianapolis. (via Daniel W. Drezner) Home of Baltimore's Colts, Indy is a region enjoying relative economic prosperity and is one of the few bright spots in the Rust Belt. You will be surprise to learn how it arrived at urban success:

They built this city on sports, says Bill Benner, a former sports columnist at The Indianapolis Star. "Indianapolis, beginning about 30 years ago, used sports ... as an economic development strategy. Using sports as the cornerstone played out beyond anyone's imagination."

Even if Mr. Benner is mistaken, his perception of the modest Indianapolis boom is interesting. Conventional wisdom among economists is that stadium deals are a boondoggle and the benefits stemming from civic pride are marginal at best. But that doesn't stop politicians from banging the drum:

Some experts say the most beloved pro sports teams are the ones that adopt the prevailing identity of the city where they play.

In Indianapolis, that means mirroring the city's Midwestern values, says Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

"In Indiana, it's okay to win, but you have to win the right way. You have to do it with a strong work ethic. You have to do it as a team. You just can't do it any other way here."

Sound familiar? If anything, this strong sports identity is indicative of what is holding back America's urban frontier. Those very Midwestern values are a liability in the face of economic globalization. My guess is that better days in Indianapolis are mostly spillover from the resurrection of Chicago. The Colts horseshoe is about all the influence of sports has had on economic development in this region.

Rust Belt Chic: Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails

By way of a lighthearted example of a diaspora network:

"There's a trend in general toward classics and I've definitely noticed more classics on menus throughout the city," said Alyssa Shepherd, a member of the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails.

"It's worth bringing these drinks back because they're about balance and flavor," she said.

Founded in Pittsburgh in 2007 — now with branches around the country — Shepherd's group describes itself as "a classic cocktail society dedicated to breeding, raising and releasing nearly extinct drinks into the wild."

US cultural trends getting a start in Pittsburgh?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Post-Rust Pittsburgh

Read the bold proclamation in the Wall Street Journal story contrasting Ann Arbor with Warren, Michigan:

While some of America's once-dominant industrial centers, including Pittsburgh and, a generation earlier, New York City, have been able to make the transition away from a manufacturing-dependent economy, others, such as Cleveland and Buffalo, have floundered. Warren, for its part, does have well-trained engineers and designers -- GM's technical center is there -- and Wayne State University is building an advanced technology education center in Warren.

Mission accomplished?

Blog Release: Discovering Drugs to Prevent or Reverse Alzheimer's Disease

From Audrey Russo, President of the Pittsburgh Technology Council:

Please note that this event is open to anyone who is interested in attending, male or female. The PghTech Women’s NetworkTM has agreed to partner with Cognition Therapeutics, Inc. and open this event to the public because of the important content of the presentation and the widespread affects of Alzheimer’s disease. However, pre-registration is required! Please use the registration information below and RSVP by May 27.

Thursday May 28, 2009, Dr. Susan Catalano, Founder and Chief Science Officer, Cognition Therapeutics Inc. presents "Discovering drugs to prevent or reverse Alzheimer's disease"

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5.3 million Americans, and will soar to more than 11 million by 2040: one out of eight baby-boomers will get Alzheimer's. Today, the direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid for care of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias and the indirect costs to business for employees who are caring for Alzheimer's are estimated at more than $148 billion annually. Seventy percent of Alzheimer's patients live at home, and nearly 10 million Americans provide 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $94 billion to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. This month's HBO documentary "The Alzheimer's Project" highlights the basic research being done to uncover the basic features of the disease (

Dr. Catalano will describe the cutting edge science being done by Cognition Therapeutics right here in Pittsburgh to discover drugs to halt or reverse the underlying pathological changes in the brain that cause Alzheimer's disease, and lead a tour of the company's laboratories on the South Side.


5:30 - 6 p.m.

Wine and hors d'ouvres reception

6 - 6:45 p.m.

Lecture and discussion with Dr. Susan Catalano

6:45 - 7 p.m.

Tour of the Lab

Speaker Profile:
Dr. Catalano has extensive experience in the field of Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery. She served as Director of Discovery Biology for South San Francisco-based startup Acumen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where she led a scientific team to the development of novel, first-in-class assay systems responsible for the discovery of the company’s first small molecule lead candidates targeting oligomers. Dr. Catalano has over 14 years of experience as a cell biologist in the fields of neuroscience and oncology, and nine years of experience in the drug discovery industry. Dr. Catalano received her Ph.D. from U.C. Irvine and postdoctoral training at U.C. Berkeley and Caltech in the field of neurobiology. While a scientist at Roche Palo Alto, she held leadership positions in the Neurophysiology and Neuroimaging groups and led exploratory programs against targets involved in anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Following this, Dr. Catalano joined Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as a Senior Scientist and pioneered the use of high content phenotypic screening technology to discover R763, an Aurora kinase inhibitor that recently began its third PhI clinical trial. Dr. Catalano founded Cogntion Therapeutics in 2007, and re-located the company to Pittsburgh from California to take advantage of the world-class neuroscience research, highly educated workforce and synergies with local companies that the city offers.

PghTech Women
NetworkTM is sponsored by Google.


Thursday, May 28


5:30 - 7 p.m.


Cognition Therapeutics Inc., 2403 Sidney Street, Second Floor, 15203


$10 Council Members - $30 Non-Members


E-mail | 412.918.4229

For our event on April 30th, free parking is available after 5 p.m. anywhere in the front lot of River Park Commons, available spaces on both sides of the building, in the lot behind the building and in the lot on the left at the end of 24th Street.

The front lot parking can be accessed two ways:

  • From 25th Street make a left onto Sidney and enter the lot from Sidney
  • From 24th Street, cross over Sidney, continue a short distance and make the first right into the front lot

On-street parking as well as limited metered parking is also available in the area. Please know the City does monitor and ticket expired meters.

After you have parked, walk to the front of River Park Commons and come in through the main entrance. You will be directed to the second floor to Suite 200, across the hall from the laboratories of Cognition Therapeutics Inc.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Expatriate Gazelles: Pittsburghers in Exile

Mike Madison (Pittsblog) has a post about a recent article in the Economist that is of great interest to me. Actually, I intended to refer to it in a long post of my own providing an update on Rust Belt immigration. Since I don't know when I'll have time to write it, I thought I would take Mike's challenge to connect the dots ("[make] a few imaginative leaps") between the story and Pittsburgh.

The gist is that living abroad and creativity are positively correlated. This observation ties in nicely with the links between immigration and entrepreneurship. Part of the magic in Silicon Valley is the vibrant community of foreign-born innovators. (Note: The sidebar of the linked article describes how the H-1B visa program creates a captive labor market.) Mike's point isn't that Pittsburgh needs more immigrants. At issue is the potential economic benefits of boomerang migration of those who tend to be creatively inclined.

A good example is the Israeli startup economy:

Sharon Rechter, an Israeli entrepreneur who founded a successful company in Los Angeles, sees different business strengths in the two countries. “Israeli companies are great at innovation, while American managers understand strategy and scale, the kind of knowledge you need in a big market like this,” Ms. Rechter said.

She is co-founder and executive vice president of BabyFirstTV, a cable and satellite television channel devoted to programs for parents of children 6 months to 3 years old. Ms. Rechter said she came to the United States in 2003 to start a Hebrew language channel, which operates from New York, before coming to Los Angeles to start BabyFirstTV with her partner, Guy Oranim, who headed major advertising agencies in Israel.

For programming, Ms. Rechter relies on child development experts in the United States as well as Hollywood writing talent while animation and postproduction work is done in Israel. Now four years old, BabyFirstTV is in 35 countries, in 13 languages and, Ms. Rechter estimated, “has 120 million viewers worldwide.”

Israel is trying to leverage the successes of its expatriate entrepreneurs to spur innovation and job creation in the homeland. This strategy has worked passively for India and actively for China. Eventually, the export of talent can pay dividends for the regional economy. Australia, home to a prolific diaspora, is dabbling in this approach. Instead of lamenting those who leave, the adventures abroad are increasingly celebrated as a point of pride.

The application of the above international migration narrative to the Great Pittsburgh exodus of the 1980s is the "imaginative leap". Pittsburghers in exile are drivers of innovation who could be put to work for the homeland. Since in-migration is so poor, new ideas must come from somewhere.

No fresh perspective, no renaissance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another Tom Murphy Sighting

This time, Murphy was explaining what Nashville can learn from Pittsburgh:

Tom Murphy, a senior ULI fellow and former Pittsburgh mayor responsible for the city's riverfront development and convention center, was the event's keynote speaker.

Great Recession in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee

Update: Speaking of regional indicators, I recently came across this article about a new initiative that models itself after projects in Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

I'm a big fan of Milwaukee. I was introduced to the city thanks to an academic conference about human rights research held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I had a great time and Milwaukee's transformation reminded me of Pittsburgh's. However, there are also notable differences:

A little background. In the early 1980s, Pittsburgh lost 56,000 of its steel jobs, 61% of the total, and an equal number of other related manufacturing jobs. The 110,000 jobs lost was matched by a concurrent and comparable loss of industrial work throughout the region, a contraction in less than six years that economists have since described as unique in the manner of the exodus of the textile industry from New England to the South at the end of World War II. An out-migration of men and women in their 30s and 40s, young adults able to leave for better economic circumstances and willing to do so, was integral to this social upheaval.

The consequences of that diaspora continue to this day. Pittsburgh is the only major metropolitan region in the nation to consistently experience natural population loss (more residents die each year than are born). The result is that small but steady population declines have been the norm for three decades going on four. (Offsetting in-migrations from other states and abroad have not made up the difference.) Another consequence has been all those Terrible Towels you see on a fall Sunday in San Diego, Nashville and Houston.

So what is it that jumps out at me about Milwaukee? Probably what jumps out at you: Jobs. And not just jobs in these tough times. The data clearly suggest that while Milwaukee has not had the nagging population problems of Pittsburgh in the past decade, its job growth since 2000 has been more sluggish.

Milwaukee never recovered from the Bush (or so-called recession of 2001. Of the 15 regions we track, only five had fewer jobs in 2008 than in 2001: They are, in order (high to low percentage losses), Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, with Detroit's negative experience being unique.

Milwaukee's vulnerabilities are shown off more starkly when the experiences of our benchmark regions are compared for 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. Only Detroit and Charlotte experienced a higher year-over-year job loss than Milwaukee in the 12 months ending March 31. (Two job categories, professional services and manufacturing, accounted for 26,000 of those losses).

Bankruptcies and foreclosures as a percentage of total housing stock also are two indicators we watch in recessionary times. Pittsburgh's and Milwaukee's rates of bankruptcy were in the large middle range last year. Ten regions had more bankruptcies than Pittsburgh, eight had more bankruptcies than Milwaukee.

No region had fewer residential housing foreclosures as a percentage of total housing stock than did Pittsburgh in 2008, while Milwaukee's rate of 1.57% was better than both the U.S. and benchmark region but lower than only Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and St. Louis, in that order. The average price of a house in Pittsburgh in the last quarter of 2008 was $118,400; in Milwaukee, $212,300.

Let me note parenthetically that you will find more about Milwaukee on the excellent Web site than you will find on, but our commitment to several rules may offer different insights. We report information as soon as it is available, which in many cases means monthly updates. Wherever possible, we publish data for the 22 counties that make up the Pittsburgh region. We see the Pittsburgh region as a unique market and economic system engaging the residents and communities in parts of three states. Within this large "city state" are smaller "neighborhoods," with the seven-county Metropolitan Statistical Area being the Pittsburgh choice in most instances because it permits apples-to-apples comparisons with other places. Being able to compare your region to comparable places is a key to putting data in context.

A final word about unemployment, unemployment rate and employment. There is a great deal of confusion about jobs and employment because the statistics track different things. In the first instance, it is the total number of people working in various job categories within the region; in the second it is the total number of residents of the region who are employed in any work anywhere - either in or out of the region. Both numbers are published monthly, as well as annually.

John Craig, writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, provides a sobering view of both cities. I particularly appreciated his overview of the Pittsburgh redevelopment trajectory. There's something about writing for another city audience that brings out a fresh perspective. Perhaps I haven't read enough or done enough research, but the succinct narrative Craig weaves about Pittsburgh really helped me to understand where the region might be heading.

I'll end with Craig's impression of the current Pittsburgh mindset:

Change can come, but so can disappointment. The process is hard and slow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pittsburgh's Missing Keystone

With a revitalized downtown and an economic engine in Oakland (CMU and Pitt), all that seems to be missing is a more functional link between these two parts of the city. For me, thinking of Pittsburgh as a college town was an epiphany:

"Pittsburgh's College Corridor" starts in downtown with Point Park University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. In Uptown is, of course, Duquesne University. Oakland has Pitt, CMU and Carlow University. Lastly, there is Chatham University in Shadyside. Increasing the connectivity between these institutions, along with better transportation to and from the airport, should be priortiy one for economic development.

The biggest obstacle to realizing this vision is the barrier between downtown and Uptown. At the heart of the matter is Mellon Arena, which some residents would like to save. The Civic Arena effectively isolated the Upper Hill District and destroyed the Lower Hill District neighborhood. Reconnect the Hill with downtown and breathe life into the College Corridor.

Such a project is long overdue. The lack of prioritization is somewhat maddening, but that's urban politics for you. As Pittsburgh looks forward, the idea may become reality:

"When the arena was built, the Hill District was thriving. Unfortunately, we now see that in many ways the arena cut off access to this area and hampered its growth. With this new project, we want to fix that mistake," said Tess Mullen, Mr. Altmire's communications director.

"We're hoping that improving pedestrian access will help to revitalize the Hill District. It's important to remember that in many cases, increased foot traffic goes hand in hand with increased business revenues and job creation," she said.

The walkway at the new arena is estimated to cost $1.5 million. Named "Curtain Call," the 300-foot path would have what the designer calls a "quilted curtain skin" -- four curved stainless steel structures that would be the framework for a mosaic of up to 27,000 tiles bearing images and photographs of people and places in the Hill District.

Isolation of the Hill District has been brutal to the economic fortunes of that neighborhood. As gentrification has spread uprivers, it has largely skirted Uptown. Restoring connectivity to these two parts of Pittsburgh would put economic redevelopment into overdrive.

As a footnote, I haven't stopped thinking about ways to further the College Corridor. What if admission to one of the institutions of higher learning meant access to all? The nature of the access could be discussed, but the marketing potential of such an opportunity would be tremendous.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sustained Attractiveness

I lost track of blogger Ryan Avent for a spell. I figured something was up given that he's been a prolific poster. I rediscovered him at his old haunt The Bellows, where he offers another installment of "Migratory Stimulus". Avent points to an article in the Wall Street Journal that describes the continued migration of young talent to cities hard hit by the Great Recession:

The worst recession in a generation is disrupting migration patterns and overturning lives across the country. Yet, cities like Portland, along with Austin, Texas, Seattle and others, continue to be draws for the young, educated workers that communities and employers covet. What these cities share is a hard-to-quantify blend of climate, natural beauty, universities and -- more than anything else -- a reputation as a cool place to live. For now, an excess of young workers is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. But holding on to these people through the downturn will help cities turn around once the economy recovers.

Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these "youth magnet" cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area's critical mass of young professionals means it has a "sustained attractiveness" for other young people looking for a place to settle down.

I'm developing a new theory, at least for my blog, of talent migration. Young adults (i.e. recent college graduates) are remarkably adaptive to their chosen environment. They move to what they think is a desirable place and then set about finding the means to stick. All the talk about figuring out a way to make life easier for twentysomethings in Rust Belt cities is backwards. Talent is willing to fight to gain just a toehold in Chicago or New York City.

Don't incentivize risk averse behavior.

I'm even more curious about the latent migration to talent hot spots. (See "Geography of Recovery") Just because unemployment is high, doesn't mean that there is no reason to move to Charlotte. From Growthology:

Viewing the economy as a dynamic rather than a static system yields paradigm-shifting insights. The most spectacular in my experience has been understanding that the rate of job losses is much less important than the static perspective can understand. So, the fact that that media trumpets "job loss" stories during downturns emphasizes exactly the wrong thing. What causes a net decline in employment is not, in fact, job losses but a collapse in hiring.

While more and more people are actively searching for work, that doesn't mean there isn't any job creation. The numbers we fixate usually indicate net jobs available. In Pittsburgh, the contraction of manufacturing dominates the regional Great Recession story:

Notice the job growth in the above graph. Typically, that doesn't do someone out of work in the manufacturing sector any good. Ah, but it might entice young talent as an opportunity. The overall economic indicators may look dire, but that doesn't mean there aren't any jobs available for college graduates willing to relocate.

Geography of Good Bank Loans

One way to model the financial meltdown and current economic mess is to look at the failures of distance trust technologies. While big banks require massive bailouts, small banks have thrived. In Crain's today, another such story:

Although he has received phone calls from states outside the TriState's purview — it operates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio — Mr. Randall said he won't make loans anywhere that he can't drive to in a day. The reason for avoiding out-of-market growth is to ensure close oversight of its loans and involvement with its clients.

“If it's eight hours away, I'm less likely to get in the car and go for a day visit,” he said.

Every loan application is vetted by the leaders at each of the bank's offices, Mr. Randall said, and they all meet via videoconference twice weekly to discuss which loans to approve.

I'm reminded of parochial and face-to-face driven Silicon Valley. Venture capital has long used the approach that is driving TriState's bank loan business, although over more restrictive terrain:

Sequoia makes its preference for the 20-minute rule almost explicit, telling applicants whose companies are at the “seed stage” (receiving less than $1 million) or “early stage” ($1 million to $10 million) that “it is helpful if the company is close to our offices” because they “require very frequent contact.”

Kleiner Perkins has only one office, the one in Menlo Park. Sequoia has reached out to entrepreneurs more considerately, providing five offices. But only one of the five, the one in Menlo Park, is in the United States. The others are in China (two), India and Israel.

If you have a brilliant idea for the New New Thing and want Sequoia to provide its funds and blessing — using the same golden touch provided not long ago to Google’s founders — you would be much better off in Beijing, where Sequoia has an office, than in Boston, where it does not.

This is what I call the "proximity rule" and big banks are being punished for ignoring it. On the other hand, TriState is limiting business opportunity. Those starved for capital are making cold calls, but to no avail. They are located in the wrong state, beyond the realm of face-to-face trust building. A fortune for the person who can effectively break the proximity rule and increase the reach of financial institutions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Steelers Diaspora: Roma

How Little Pittsburgh in Rome, Italy got started:

Along the way, the haunt developed a loyal clientele, first among U.S.-based flight crews stopping over in Rome and later college students studying abroad. About four to five years ago, Mr. Poggi said groups of Penn State and Duquesne University students spending semesters in Rome -- most of them from Pittsburgh -- adopted La Botticella as their hangout.

The advent of satellite TV made it easy to catch American sports, and homesick students wanted to see their beloved Steelers and Penguins play. A match was made, and La Botticella became a regular Sunday gathering spot to see the Black & Gold. ...

... Having amassed dozens of friends from Pittsburgh over the years, Mr. Poggi came to America in November for a football vacation: a Thursday night Steelers game at Heinz Field, followed by a Penn State football Saturday at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chronicled his journey in an online video that to date is the most watched video ever produced by, with more than twice the page views of the next most-viewed video produced by the Web site.

Since then, Mr. Poggi said it feels at times that every tourist from Pittsburgh has stopped to see him as well.

Thinking about how movable type, books written in local vernacular, and newspapers allowed for the formation of new community identities such as nationalism; I can easily see the relationship between social media and cultivating a diaspora geography. Why bother to make an itinerary of your trip to Rome? Your first stop should be La Botticella. Ask Mr. Poggi where to stay and eat. Connect with the Burgh-centric study abroad crowd and get tips on lesser known attractions.

There's plenty of information available, but knowledge is hard to come by. Can you trust the recommendation? Are you wise to do business with this stranger? In a Flat World, all you have is Steelers Nation.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

P.F. Chang's Diaspora

Apparently, P.F. Chang's is loving the Great Recession market:

P.F. Chang's has dialed back the number of new restaurants it is opening this year, from about 20 to eight, in part because so many ambitious real-estate developments have been scrubbed. But it turns out there are plenty of solvent communities starved for unthreatening, satisfying portions of beef with broccoli. At the new restaurant in Westfarms Mall, outside Hartford, Conn., 45-minute waits on the weekend are common. Other openings are planned in 2009 in Rust Belt cities regarded by coastal food snobs as culinary wastelands: Akron, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Buffalo, N.Y.

I guess food snobs don't appreciate the unique and culturally authentic eats to be found in America's parochial backwater. Rust Belt Chic remains below the radar. When it become nationally hip, then you'll know that places such as Pittsburgh have jumped the shark.

In-migration Pittsburgh

Via CEO for Cities:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Unshrinking Pittsburgh

Update: This post at Politics and Place reminded me of California's political conundrum.

The untold story of Pittsburgh's population decline, at least the more recent version, is the aging of the population. Make no mistake, in-migration to Southwestern PA is still anemic. But the real problem has been how the exodus of young adults in the early 1980s has decimated the natural replacement rate. As I'm fond of writing,
that worm is turning:

University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem said it's difficult to determine whether the increase in young adults in counties outside Allegheny is migration from within the region or other parts of the country.

Population trends in Western Pennsylvania are hard to analyze because the 1980s collapse of the steel industry drove away young adults. When they left, their children did, too. Those children are now adults starting to have their own children, but mostly elsewhere.

Those gaps make the region's population profile "unusually lumpy," Briem said, and make Pittsburgh one of the oldest metro areas in the country.

"That's when we became an old region. It's not that we attracted older people, but that we lost that younger group," he said.

That trend peaked in the 1990s, when the percentage of people 65 and older started declining. The decline has almost leveled out, and the region likely will begin aging more in step with the rest of the country, Briem said.

Forgive me for gilding a turd, but that is great news. Just getting "in step" with US demographics would be a vast improvement. However, there is a catch in the geography of the latest numbers:

The census figures show Allegheny County lost about 24,000 people by 2008 who were in their 20s and 30s in 2003. Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties gained about 8,000.

Younger Pittsburgh looks to be decidedly suburban. I can see the fretting in Mt. Lebanon from all the way out here in Colorado. I'm not so concerned. If you want metro infill, look outside the region. The Pittsburgh Promise may also provide a boost. Urban schools have to find a way to compete with the embarrassment of riches in the outer-ring. If the City of Pittsburgh can ever "pass" the bulge of entitlements currently bloating the budget, then the urban neighborhoods might start to get leaner and meaner.

Anatomy of an Ohio Brain Drain Boondoggle

Over the past year, I've admonished Ohio for its senseless policies to stop the brain drain from the state. Less cynically, I've postulated that politicians are merely pandering to their constituency. I know from experience that locals are genuinely despondent over the exodus of graduates from the region. However, sometimes the motives of politicians aren't so noble, even when claiming to fight brain drain:

I'll have to do some digging to find out how the Louisiana program is progressing and if it is stopping brain drain. Regardless, how does Buehrer know how much of the $2 million would go to people who would reside in Ohio without the funding? I'd bet even those Ohio high school graduates who went to college outside of the state and are eligible for the money would demonstrate the same dynamic of self-selection.

Which Ohio-based corporate realtor thought up this scheme? Try some labor market incentives next time.

I wrote the above passage in reference to an article covering the anti-brain drain policy introduced by Ohio state Steve Buehrer, R-Delta. Buehrer's idea is to offer Ohio college graduates a subsidy for the purchase of a first home (in Ohio, of course). My pot shot at the realtor lobby was meant as a joke. But now I'm thinking that there might be more than a kernel of truth to it.

The revelation comes from the comments about my Cleveland foreclosure post. Turns out that National City lobbied the Ohio state government to squash local ordinances designed to regulate predatory lending. The trail of trecherory includes a list of organizational donations to politicians and parties statewide. Ranked #2 is the Ohio Association of Realtors. If I was an Ohio journalist, then I'd be looking into the connections between the realtor lobby and Steve Buehrer. That would at least explain the ridiculous brain drain policy legislation. Not surprisingly, the bill passed the state Senate unamiously. Essentially, the deal is nothing more than a $2 million economic stimulus for Ohio realtors.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pittsburgh Gives Macy's Some Hope

Gloomy financial indicators are countered with a bright spot:

A "My Macy's" initiative to drive inventory decisions to the store level has already brought the company an uptick in sales in test districts of 2.1 percent, but nationwide results have not been tallied.

And officials say the same store sales decline tempers enthusiasm for My Macy's.

"I can't get too excited about the progress yet," said Terry J. Lundgren, president and chief executive, during a recent conference call. "Look it, I'm not satisfied at all with minus 9 results."

Lundgren then offered a perspective on what he hoped was coming to investors.

"The early pilot district of Pittsburgh performed so well in a tough market," he said. "We are completely taking market share in that marketplace."

Another harbinger of Pittsburgh fortunes?

Hot Jobs Pittsburgh

Update: My wishful thinking got the best of me. Etcetera Edutainment is not located in Lawrenceville. Offices are downtown. So, you could live in Larryville and then bike to work.

I've been tracking the
economic development ideas percolating in New Brunswick. Atlantic Canada has much in common with the Rust Belt as a region that globalization left behind. One suggestion for reinvention is to go after a cluster in entertainment software. A recent announcement of Pixar landing in Vancouver, British Columbia got some blood boiling:

Of course, the national media (and I don’t particularly blame them) would be biased towards Vancouver. It’s a large and beautiful city. Of course Pixar would want to go there. Why would Pixar ever want to go to New Brunswick? For a big fat government grant. And, typically, they will throw in a quote from AIMS saying that when the grant runs out, the company will leave because there was no real reason for them to be here in the first place.

This outright crap - is a key reason why New Brunswick has stagnated for all these years. No one really believes that Pixar could ever want to be in New Brunswick. But no one ever really tried. If New Brunswick had put the same new media tax incentive program in place. If it had attracted a number of smaller players (which sets the ground for the big guys). If it had developed a world class research centre in animation at UNB. If it was turning out the top graduates in Canada in animation development, etc. etec. etc. then it is likely that Pixar would set up here.

I'm not convinced that New Brunswick can compete for a piece of this economic pie. If Pixar was looking for a stronger East Coast presence, Montreal would probably head the list in Canada. In the United States, the equivalent is Pittsburgh. Excuse the pun, but New Brunswick would be entering this game too late.

Thinking in terms of Pittsburgh economic connectivity, the analysis of Canada's entertainment software industry suggests some opportunity. Talent churn between Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Montreal would be advantageous for all four regions. Pittsburgh is particularly attractive as a low-cost alternative for entertainment technology industry site location.

Etcetera Edutainment is one of the great spillovers from Carnegie Mellon University's cutting edge Entertainment Technology Center. Located in the uber-hip Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville (stop laughing), founder and CEO Jessica Trybus tells me that Etcetera is hiring. They need top-notch "software engineers, product manager, office manager, and strong software sales talent ASAP!"

According to TECHburgher (blog of the Pittsburgh Technology Council), Jessica is a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for Upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Burgh Diaspora, this is your chance to work for a great company in the rapidly expanding industry of entertainment technology:

Pittsburgh-based Etcetera Edutainment’s new CrowdPlay® game technology debuts in prime time April 13, on UK television series The Gadget Show. The Gadget Show hosts, who explore fresh and exciting innovations during the popular weekly program, will demonstrate Etcetera’s crowd gaming system and participate in a CrowdPlay-based game.

Etcetera’s CrowdPlay is the world’s first crowd-controlled gaming system. Using CrowdPlay, people become live “joysticks” – controlling onscreen gameplay by moving left and right, and playing with or against one another to complete challenges such as “Keepie Uppie,” “Beach Ball Bonanza,” and “Andys vs. Zombies.”

The CrowdPlay technology is an offshoot of Etcetera’s line of immersive training games and simulations, often called “serious games.” Companies use Etcetera’s serious games to provide engaging, realistic environments where workers can safely and cost-effectively practice important aspects of their jobs. Etcetera’s technology game engine, Crucible, underlies CrowdPlay and the company’s “serious” manufacturing, utilities and healthcare training simulations.

"Everything we develop cross-fertilizes our other efforts. Our CrowdPlay technology augments our Crucible game engine; in turn, Crucible becomes an even richer resource for developing highly motivating and effective safety training products,” said Jess Trybus, Etcetera Edutainment Founder and CEO. “Our goal for all of our games is to create immersive, memorable experiences, whether for safety training, product training or product promotions."

Using a computer equipped with a camera, Etcetera’s highly-engaging CrowdPlay audience games are used as branding opportunities, for corporate events and product launches, or just for fun.

All viewers can see a recording of CrowdPlay games in action from The Gadget Show’s April 13th show, at CrowdPlay will also be featured at one of the UK’s leading consumer electronics events, The Gadget Show Live, held at the NEC in Birmingham April 17 – 19. UK viewers can see a taped broadcast of The Gadget Show Live, featuring CrowdPlay games, later in May, on Channel 5.

I'm often asked, "Who is hiring in Pittsburgh?" Etcetera Edutainment for one. Contact me or Jessica if you are interested in being a part of the economic renaissance.

Great Recession Job Hunting

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Every week, Monitor staffers comb the job listings in search of interesting places to work.

The seven most intriguing jobs we found this week are in Madison, Wis.; Chicago; Sun City Center, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; Grand Forks. N.D.; Pittsburgh; and Columbus, Ohio.

6. Shelf management specialist
Employer: Kraft Foods Inc.
Wages/salary: Not listed
Details: Manages all activities relating to optimizing product assortment and shelf management with retail customers. (For more information click here.)
Location: Pittsburgh (pop. 296,324; median family income $45,708) was built on the shoulders of the steel industry, but in the last decade or two it has transformed its economy to be more reliant on high technology, healthcare, and financial services.

Just saying ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Companion post at Greater Youngstown 2.0. For here, the full press release:

McDonough Museum of Art
RUST FEST digital arts and new media festival
June 13 - July 24, 2009
Opening Reception, Saturday, June 13, 6:00-8:00pm
A selection of digital arts and new media from MFA programs within the United States.

Beginning June 13th the McDonough Museum of Art on the campus of Youngstown State University will open the exhibition Rust Fest, featuring the work of graduate students enrolled in MFA programs in digital arts and new media from eight universities across the United States.

Each institution was asked to submit seven examples of notable work from students currently enrolled in their graduate programs. Rust Fest will feature a presentation of screen based work in all forms - from animation to computer games and novel visualization environments - to works in 2nd life. This exhibition will provide an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to the Museum to encounter compelling new media and digital art works from several progressive MFA programs.

The schools participating in this exhibition include, Rhode Island School of Design, the University of California at Berkley, Alfred University, New York University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Minnesota.

The opening of the festival on Saturday, June 13 will include an exciting performance piece by Leslie Raymond and Jason Jay Stevens, professors in New Media at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Potter-Belmar Labs presents a live mix of music and video projection. Both artists perform from laptop computers augmented by external digital devices used to manipulate their palette of images and sounds. The duo carries the audience through an improvised collage experience in sound and image. They build as they go, weaving field recordings with threads sampled from pop culture and their own rich sound and image compositions. The performance begins at 7:00pm and will take place in the McDonough auditorium.

The McDonough Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am until 4:00pm with extended hours on Wednesday evenings until 8:00pm. The exhibition and all related programming are free and open to the public. For further information please call 330.941.1400