Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Struggling Pittsburgh

Economically, all is not well in Pittsburgh. That's the latest word from Brookings:

"Standing still was a good place to be," Mr. Berube said. Standing still now is not something a city should be doing. "That's the problem." While he said it might take a few years to get a complete view of any region in the post-recession economy, the picture is "not too rosy for Pittsburgh at the moment."

Mr. Berube also had some information that could be considered fighting words in Pittsburgh: Cleveland is doing much better. Cleveland, which was ranked 135th for growth before the recession, rose to 131st during the recession and is now ranked 49th of the 150 international metropolitan economies.

Las Vegas, which was 14th in the world before the recession, is now 146th. "Las Vegas built the most consumption dependent economy in the U.S.," Mr. Berube said.

Cleveland, however, still has a manufacturing base that many cities mostly gave up. It's the cities in the United States that still have a good manufacturing base that are growing because the weakened dollar is driving exports.

In terms of exports, Cleveland is looking down on Pittsburgh. I don't see it that way. The TechBelt sports a diversified portfolio. Trying to compete with Cleveland for manufacturing market share would be a mistake. Pittsburgh needs to focus on emerging clusters such as in entertainment technology.

Northeast Ohio has many eggs in the manufacturing basket. That's fine as long as other US cities don't try to horn in on these industries. Pittsburgh doing so is a tragedy of the commons. Both Northeast Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvania would lose.

A sluggish recovery has a powerful pull on the Pittsburgh psyche. I hope the region stays the course. Imagine what the TechBelt can do.

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