Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pierogy Pocket of America

I enjoy thinking about regions and what might serve as the foundation for trust. Regional identity formation is critical to economic development. (See Lisbon Treaty) Initiatives such as the Tech Belt and Great Lakes Economic struggle to overcome entrenched parochial attitudes and unleash the growth these shrinking cities desperately need. The underlying cultural geography must resonate with most residents:

Yes, we sit squarely in the Pennsylvania company's "Pierogy Pocket of America," a band that sweeps from Illinois east to the Atlantic Ocean, with most of Ohio in the middle.

The Cleveland and Akron market consumes - gulp - 850,000 pounds of the product each year, putting it at seventh place in the company's top-10 list of metropolitan areas. Pittsburgh is first, followed by Harrisburg/Scranton and Philadelphia (all in Pennsylvania). Next are Albany (N.Y.), Buffalo/Rochester (N.Y.) and Hartford/Springfield (Conn.). And then us.

The Pierogy Cradle is somewhat whimsical, but very real. I think it does a very good job of outlining the popular conception of the Rust Belt. I've noticed that Eastern Pierogyland is weathering the recession relatively well:

Unassuming, historically low-growth markets have headed in the other direction. Rochester, New York, which was 89th two years ago, now ranks 21st. Rochester has lost 1.7 percent of its jobs during the past year, leading to an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent. (Both figures seem positively sunny when compared to Riverside-San Bernardino’s 7.5 percent loss and 13.7 percent unemployment.)

Other sharp upswings are 67 places by New Haven, Connecticut (from 92nd in 2007 to 25th now), 64 places by Columbus (from 90th to 26th) and 57 places by Syracuse, New York (from 85th to 28th).

Pittsburgh also made a similar leap in the rankings. The region of my childhood might be better off than it has during my entire lifetime (40 years). Rust Belt Generation X is ready to return to the homeland. We want to be closer to our family, our roots. We also represent the bulk of native entrepreneurial energy. We've built up the Sun Belt with a hand in the blossoming of the Interior West and the Pacific Northwest.

Up next, the Pierogy Pocket of America.

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