Thursday, June 17, 2010

Buzz City Pittsburgh

You might say that I am cyberstalking former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. He's a strange booster for the city. But he is touring the country and other regions are interested in what he has to say. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a few words about Murphy's visit there and his advice to that city. The gist is that St. Louis has the bones to put the likes of Cleveland (don't shoot the messenger) in the rear view mirror and join the ranks of Boston, Seattle and Pittsburgh as the next "buzz city".

While you mop up whatever you just spit all over your keyboard, I'll serve up another perspective from a member of the Burgh Diaspora who heard Murphy's talk:

As someone who grew up outside Pittsburgh, it’s sometimes weird to see the city hailed as a model for urban revitalization. ...

... St. Louis could learn a lot from Pittsburgh (which Forbes named the nation’s most livable city this year) as it works to attract more residents and companies to downtown, Murphy said.

For starters, St. Louis’ $30 million in annual venture capital is dwarfed by Pittsburgh’s $230 million, he said. It’s all about translating the great ideas hatching in universities into start-ups and real investment dollars.

The journalist is from Latrobe and expresses the same disbelief I find to be common among Rust Belt refugees. I'm sure there is an expatriate out there reading this scoffing at Pittsburgh's supposed venture capital success. What those folks think is of little consequence. I'm not holding my breath, waiting for the cynics to have a change of heart. Truth be told, much of what drove them away in the first place continues to thrive in Pittsburgh.

When I read about Lexington, Detroit or St. Louis singing the praises of Pittsburgh, I think of the impact on the mental maps of young talent living in those regions. Murphy's evangelizing is changing the outsider's perception of Pittsburgh. Those who know the city either love or hate it. Appealing to that demographic is a waste of time. If anyone would appreciate Pittsburgh's charms, I would bet he or she is from another part of the Rust Belt.

I look at the annual outmigration from St. Louis and wonder how Pittsburgh could attract more of that flow. Murphy is making such a strategy easier to execute. We already know that the "achievers" and "seekers" will leave. A goal for Pittsburgh is to become one of the primary destinations.

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