Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pittsburgh-LA Disconnect

Today is the official launch of The Pittsburgh Entertainment Technology Project:

Find out how Pittsburgh is leading the way with a new initiative connecting innovative regional entertainment technology with the traditional Hollywood entertainment business – and learn how your company can get involved!

But the Pittsburgh hub idea is also implicit in the Burgh Diaspora theme (Pittsburgh as the center of a huge universe of expats and would-be in-migrants), which edged up another notch in popular credibility the other day, beyond Jim's blog and beyond the occasional column in the Post-Gazette, with the launch of Carl Kurlander's Six Degrees of Pittsburgh blog at the PG. I'm hoping that Carl keeps up blogging and that the comments start to roll in, because the PG's web audience is huge. The Diaspora is more than Steeler Nation. Carl is making the right case: the Diaspora, and the idea of regional, national, and global connectedness, are keys to Pittsburgh's economic future. He's talking about entertainment and Hollywood and Pittsburgh as a storytelling and filmmaking hub. But those are just examples of a broader model that cuts across economic sectors.

Carl has his work cut out for him. Pittsburgh has ignored its links with Los Angeles and Hollywood. Actor Dianna Agron ("Glee") on her recent filming experience in Pittsburgh:

I was [filming both the show and the movie simultaneously] a bit. Towards the end of the movie, I had to go back and finish on I Am Number Four [in Pittsburgh] so I became very familiar with the flight patterns from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. There’s only one direct flight a day at 7:30 and if you can’t make that, then you have to go through Atlanta or Washington or all these places, so you really hoped you’d make that 7:30 flight.

Quite simply, the connectivity between the two cities stinks. Meanwhile, back at the parochial Allegheny Conference on Community Development:

The conference has sent an e-mail to area businesses urging them to book the flight from Pittsburgh International Airport as much as possible over the next three months for trips to Europe, the Middle East and India in a bid to persuade Delta to continue the flight. The carrier has not committed to keeping the flight beyond Aug. 31.

"To keep the service in place, business fliers need to show Delta that they value the flight by using it whenever practical," Peter Kalis, chairman of the conference's transportation and infrastructure committee, wrote in the e-mail. "Delta will launch daily service on June 1 for the summer months. But the flight's performance over the next 90 days will go a long way toward determining what happens next fall."

A direct flight to Paris is a lot like having a major league sports franchise. The issue is status, not economic development. However, I am aware of the flight's usefulness in terms of attracting world class talent. I thought Pittsburgh's superior livability took care of such issues?

The entertainment industry is the new kid on the block in Pittsburgh and isn't a high-priority in terms of pet projects like the Delta connection to Europe. The Allegheny Conference is providing poor leadership. Why do they hate innovation?


Ken Zapinski said...

As a matter of fact, when US Airways announced plans to drop its existing service to LA and SF in 2009, the Allegheny Conference, in partnership with the Allegheny County Airport Authority, was instrumental in persuading United Airlines to launch service to those markets with better schedules for business passengers. We recognize the critical nature of West Coast service, which is why we worked hard -- and successfully -- to preserve it and improve the flight times.

Air service is a function of the market. You may want more departures, but there need to be enough passengers to justify any increased service.

And with the level of international investment in the Pittsburgh region, and the number of multi-national companies located here, transatlantic service is equally necessary.

- Ken Zapinski
Allegheny Conference

Jim Russell said...


Thanks for chiming in on behalf of the Allegheny Conference. Does the Pittsburgh market support the flight to Paris? Is the Allegheny Conference subsidizing the nonstop service to LA?

To be clear, I'm discussing the efforts to engineer demand for strategic connections to justify the service.