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June 13, 2009

Good news for Pittsburgh, jobs well done

I am not a positive person (IANAPP) but and yet, even to me, there's just a lot of good Burgh news this last week or so.

Influential Visitors

This is more than tourism, schmourism. National and international visitors, influential visitors, national media coverage. Talking heads and blogs with Pittsburgh in the background.

One part of this is we're a Democratic machine city and the Democrats are back in power. The larger part of this is that Somebody Somewhere is doing a good job. This didn't happen spontaneously. (ps: Nullspace attributes both to former Mayor Tom Murphy.)

Good news at the Airport

We end up with the same coverage, from a more diverse group of airlines, and reduced reliance on the used-to-be USAirways. Somebody out at the airport is doing a good job, too.

Pittsburgh's Newspaper Gets It

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup. The PostGazette website deploys a box where people can sign up for SMS text messages. This is a great thing, it shows they're getting beyond the internet as a thing-in-itself and moving to sell their key competency (breaking local news) to their audience (Pittsburghers and the Diaspora) through new media. If they survive, it's going to be because they have a value-add relationship with the audience. They saw a potential opportunity, prepared for it, and executed well. Somebody at the Post Gazette is doing a good job, and somebody on the management team is letting them do it. This is a welcome indication that the P-G gets it.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup

Readers will know that I'm not an avid, knee-jerk sports fan.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup. I am not a hockey fan (IANAHF), but to me it looked like the Penguins won with skill and strategy, and beat a thug team. (I am open to correction.) (Click here for photos of the 2009 Stanley Cup Pool Party)
  • It's a good thing when the world hears The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl, and this week they got rings designed to emphasize their six Super Bowl victories. What's that? Nobody else has six Super Bowl victories?

Corporate Headquarters

  • Westinghouse opened their new corporate headquarters in Cranberry. Although it has a Cranberry zip code, this is a great thing for (Greater) Pittsburgh. It's also going to be a great thing for the Zelionople Airport, recently renamed the Pittsburgh Jet Center (once 8G7, now PJC). Zelie has been improving that airport for a decade. It's going to be a good thing for LaRoche, Pitt, and CMU. (The move is zero-sum in that Westinghouse is leaving its Monroeville digs - but it was going to go somewhere, and it stayed in the Burgh.)
  • Dick's Sporting Goods is mid-phase on their new corporate headquarters on the periphery of the Pittsburgh Airport (PIT). They're going to have a taxiway from the runway to the hangar, so executives can fly in, land and taxi to the hangar, and walk into the corporate campus without ever going outside. Dick's people will be getting their Master's at RMU.
  • Dick's location is driven by all the same good factors that have put Bayer's headquarters where it is. Sometime, drive through the parking lots at Robert Morris University, and observe all the Bayer vehicle stickers. Then, get yourself some Burgh cuisine at Egg's N'At, right down the street.
These are all demonstrations for the model of how other corporate campuses are going to exist - they're going to be outside of the city proper, close to upscale housing (that's reasonably priced by national standards), close to an airport, and close enough to Downtown that their people can get into the Purple Belt and the Cultural District. Somebody is going a good job of delivering regional results in spite of our parochial, Balkanized area.

Takeaway lesson: Corporate headquarters don't move to cities - they move to Regions with the right co-location of Transportation, Housing, Education, and Culture. We do well on T,H,E, and C; Pittsburgh is not good at the Regional perspective. If we want to thrive in the real economy, and not in Grandpa's used-to-be world, we need to do better at Regional.

Takeaway Factoid: In 2009, 8 of the Fortune 500 Companies have corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh. From Wikipedia: Pittsburgh is also home to Bayer USA and the operations center of Alcoa. Other major employers include BoNY Mellon, GlaxoSmithKline and Lanxess. The Pittsburgh region serve as the Northeast U.S. regional headquarters for Nova Chemicals, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, FedEx Ground, Ariba, Rand, and National City. Major non=-public companies headquartered in Pittsburgh include, 84 Lumber, Giant Eagle, Highmark, Rue 21, and GENCO Supply Chain Solutions. Other major companies headquartered in Pittsburgh include General Nutrition Center (GNC) and CNX Gas (CXG), a subsidiary of Consol Energy.

Here's something I resisted believing for a long time, and finally realized it was true: you're either growing or you're dying; there is no status quo. I think that's true in life, in business, in economics, and for regions. It's good to see good news

The puzzle is going to be, how to maintain the core city that is essential to the Region, when all the investment happens outside the city?

The city's undescribed asset is its "spikiness", it's tendency to create vigorous cross-domain pockets of creativity that generate high-value innovation (per Richard Florida).

What are the other options? Do we just give the city to Pitt and UPMC? Do we bulldoze lost neighborhoods and return them to nature?

I think we need to generate a regional financial structure in order to make the decision to relocate to Pittsburgh a no-brainer for more companies.

All these good news items are the results of long efforts, well done. These are the sorts of results that have high time latency; that is, there's a long time delay between the effort and the results - there's no immediate feedback. These are all welcome news items; my compliments to the people behind the scenes that helped bring them about. Nicely done.

This is a follow-up of sorts to my previous post, The Best City In the World.


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