Saturday, March 24, 2012

Exporting Pittsburgh

Community needs redded up? Hire a Pittsburgh native. Baton Rouge did just that:

In his interview on Wednesday, the Pittsburgh native, who had never set foot in Baton Rouge, presented himself as a tough, innovative leader who has shown he can make tough decisions in Kansas City, Mo., and Grand Rapids, places where enrollment and school funding has declined in recent years.

“It’s a challenge, but I think can bring about a positive opportunity for students,” Taylor, 52, said Friday. ...

... Taylor said he thinks Baton Rouge is ripe for improvement.

“I do believe in makeovers, and in the story that the ugly duckling can turn into a beautiful swan,” he said.

Being from Pittsburgh, why wouldn't Taylor express such optimism? Pittsburgh has been through a successful makeover. Ask the Baton Rouge Area Chamber:

The economic renaissance of Pittsburgh is a true success story that many around the country are trying to emulate. This reclamation made it a natural Canvas Workshop destination. Entrepreneurship played a key role in the trip as a group of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-service providers discussed the region’s growth in supplying opportunities and capital. Multiple sessions were held on the improvements in public and career education that Pittsburgh has undergone. One such speaker was the CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, who oversees the “diverse programming [that] combines to create empowering educational environments for adults-in-transition as well as urban and at-risk youth.” The work at Manchester Bidwell was impressive enough that the Greater Baton Rouge Arts Council, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), and the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority have been working to bring a franchise of the organization to the region. Current plans call for it to be located across the street from the soon-to-be-refurbished Lincoln Theater. Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy joined others in detailing exactly how the city’s metamorphosis came about. With two land-grant universities and Pennington Biomedical Research Center located within the Baton Rouge area’s borders, an important aspect in the region’s economic future is a strengthening of public/private partnerships. The importance of this issue was reinforced by representatives from Carnegie Mellon University and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development as they discussed the importance of innovation on boosting regional growth. Finally, the redevelopment of Pittsburgh’s riverfront and downtown were highlighted to show real-world examples of the assets that these areas can become.

I'd say Baton Rouge took those lessons to heart when it hired Bernard Taylor to be the new school superintendent. When Minneapolis wanted to do the Pittsburgh, the city hired Paul Farmer to be its urban planning director. Better yet, send your young adults to live in Pittsburgh. More than a few will come back home and bring with them an economic transformation.

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