Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pittsburgh Real Estate

Un-Creative Class Pittsburgh is on the move. Perhaps the metro is an outlier. I tend to think the region has been a victim of mesofacts. Migration patterns are slow to change. Whatever the reason, Pittsburgh is a bright spot in a dismal national housing market:

Chris Schoonmaker, vice president for sales at S&A Homes in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said he has seen a spike in the number of people looking to buy custom-built homes in Pittsburgh and State College, Pa. But he doesn't expect to hire until the housing industry achieves a full-blown recovery.

Not just a counter-trend, but a "spike". This isn't a city in Sun Belt boom darling Texas. This is Pittsburgh, the Rust Belt. Must be smoke and mirrors, Southwestern PA suckling on the federal government teat. Eventually, people will come to their senses and move to Portland.

I've spent a lot of time touting what Pittsburgh has done with educational attainment. Not for nothing, per capital income has responded in the expected way. I concede that a shrinking population has something to do with those favorable numbers. But one shouldn't ignore increasingly brainy Pittsburgh, either.

Education levels can change far more quickly at the city level than at the nation level because of migration. A city can attract skilled, entrepreneurial people in much less time than it can produce them and, unfortunately, a city can also lose important parts of its human capital base with astonishing rapidity.

I believe that the best local economic development strategy, at whatever time frame, is to work on attracting smart, entrepreneurial people and then, more or less, get out of their way. But attracting smart people is never easy, especially for a troubled city like Detroit.

In Pittsburgh, education levels changed slowly. This has been a steady, half-century march away from manufacturing and towards a more diverse economy. Pittsburgh didn't attract talent. It produced it.

All that hard work is about to payoff. Big time. Pittsburgh is where the jobs are:

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is working to capitalize on the Super Bowl-sized spotlight focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers and their hometown today by taking the campaign on the road.

The Allegheny Conference has special events planning in several markets with high concentrations of former Pittsburgh residents: Tampa, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Boston, New York and Dallas.

The Allegheny Conference has been touting openings for a few years, but within a framework of talent retention. Early last summer, I made the following observation:

Pittsburgh can afford to gaze at its navel while mulling over workforce development. That's exactly the message communicated by LANXESS CEO and chair of the Allegheny Conference Workplace Committee Randy Dearth during a recent interview with OnQ. He's telling talent to stay put and find the opportunities that exist in the region. There is no urgency to attract workers. The main issue is better matching job seekers with available openings. The local demand for labor doesn't look to outstrip the supply any time soon.

The strategy seemed to be to encourage people to stay and keep looking for work. The jobs are there. You just have to find them. Now, the Allegheny Conference is actively recruiting talent in other markets. That's a big paradigm shift. The economic development wonks are signalling a shortage of employees in the Pittsburgh region. The local supply of talent no longer can meet the demand.

I repeat, Pittsburgh is actively recruiting outside of the region. The worm has finally turned.

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