Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mapping Senate 45

For those interested in the news that there will be an upcoming special election for state senate district 45 on the news that Senator Logan is resigning. 


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Friday, July 30, 2010

Diaspora notes and of course Marcellus

Could I relate all topics to Marcellus issues?  I wonder.  Could be hard to relate casino revenues to Marcellus issues... or maybe not.   Those Marcellus workers need R&R somewhere. Why not at a local casino?  Or those new royalites someone is getting?  I wonder if the casino folks have any targeted marketing.  There's a future post.

Anyway.....

Just one of the stranger diaspora stories in some time via news from a place called Zzyzx, California.  Kind of fasincating what ex-Pittsburghers wind up doing.

but on (potentially) future Pittsburghers.  Even on vacation Jim R. points out a really curious Press Release which as best as I can tell is from a firm in Central PA that is trying to take advantage of the Marcellus hype developing some B2B work for the firms and people coming into the state from elsewhere. Could be a worthwhile business model, but also as Jim alludes to in passing, the numbers cited are a bit odd, or at the very least don't add up just on the surface. The quote of note is:
Laura Fisher, Senior Vice President of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development stated recently that 70% of the drilling workforce is not local to Pennsylvania. According to DEP, there was an average of 112 wells drilled per month in 2010. Penn State's State Cooperative Extension Division says that it takes approximately 400 individuals to drill a well. Based on these statistics, one can easily estimate that there are easily over 10,000 gas workers in Pennsylvania from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming.
Which is not news in itself.  We know pretty well that the Marcellus workforce is mostly from out of state, but I am more convinced than before that the temporary workers flowing through the airport here is the only reason the airport traffic number saw a small increase of late.  That was really the story behind those numbers I bet if anyone wanted to poke at it.  .It says a very different thing about whether it was really a good thing or not for the region in a long term sense.

And I think most people know that when it comes to measuring economic impact, construction jobs, or jobs associated with an initial investment, are very different than jobs that represent permanent job creation. The "400 individuals to drill a well" are not 400 net new jobs for the economy since that isn't even 400 person-years of employment. A lot of those 400 workers will only devote a short period of time to a particular well and move on to another.

On the bigger picture though. WashPo has a look at the oveall recession migration pattern across the nation.

Finally on 'Burgh migration: NPR makes famous someone's mother back in India

and for the now obligatory daily Marcellus Musing:  Forbes has some important musing of its own on the future of Range Resources.   Something a bit obscure, but what may be more telling than the headlines that get repeated ad nauseum is what is happening in the pipeline industry as a result of Marcellus Shale. Read carefully this news from Canada today: Gas foundation crumbling

and I showed up to hear what was to be said at a meeting on Marcellus issues in Lawrenceville. A representative from one of the large driller confirmed what I think was obvious that most players have backed off active drilling in the city, something they were actively pursing at one point.. It's pretty clear they are just too busy elsewhere in the state to really deal with the hassle.  But the big equivocation was they were backing off "for now" and made clear the future was not off the table.  So the question then becomes how actively they are continuing to pursue leasing to prepare for that future.  That and they tried to make a claim that Pittsburgh (as in the city and environs) is on the borderline of a pressure gradient that makes gas development here potentially not worthwhile.  Begs the question of why anyone is drilling in the city and there clearly are some permits issues.  Certainly is leasing activity in different parts of Allegheny County.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Political Pivot Pennsylvania

I hate people who have better maps than I do. :-)

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Then and now

I have no comment on the story about State Senator Logan departing state government for a role at UPMC... but it did get me thinking about UPMC a bit. So just a historical footnote.  We all know that today UPMC is the region's single biggest employer with 37K employees give or take.   In 1985 the then Presbyterian-University Hospital was the regions 36th largest employer with 2,380 employees, behind St. Francis(2,600), Allegheny General(3,600) and West Penn. UPMC today would even have dwarfed what had been the biggest employer in 1985 which was Westinghouse as we knew it which had 26K employees.

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I've solved the Mellon Arena imbroglio

It just dawned on me what the optimal solution is for the past and future Civic Arena.   Rename the whole place the Syria Mosque Memorial Amphitheater.  Take the old Zeiss projector from Buhl Planetarium, set it up to show old star shows inside the dome while recordings of Bob Prince announcing Pirates games play instead of Musak. Any concessionaires at the site will have to prove they were in operation within the city limits of Pittsburgh in 1970.  So I'm thinking Winkys and Isalys and the only beer that can be sold has to be Olde Frothingslosh. Free admission for those with mullets.

Nirvana!

The picture you may ask.  It is an otherwise unnamed still from the 1959 animated movie, yes movie, Rhapsody of Steel which did in fact play commercially.   Sort of US Steel meets Carl Kurlander.  Both similarly kitschy in their own ways.

Come on... it's funny.  Not as funny as the ADB, but I try. 

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gourmet Cheese R Us

I'm not quite sure they liked it.  I think their summary is "lively and annoying", but check out the Boston Globe's review of Carl Kurlander's movie: My Tale of Two Cities.  The subtitle is: Pitt bull aplenty in hometown boy’s film.

I'll stop there, but I have a longer post in me on how the whole Pittsburgh story can be seen in how the city has been portrayed in movies and TV.  25 years ago we were incognito in Hill Street Blues.  Now we are the briefly run CBS series Three Rivers. No, I'm not ignoring the past-is-present Lighting Over Braddock, but allow me a moment of non-nabobism. 

Honestly I can't comment on the movie or the Boston Globe's review with any objectivity though I think they took it a bit too seriously.  I just can't imagine how a non-Pittsburgher sees that movie compared to those of us who live it ourselves.  I knew too many people in the movie, and lived too much of it myself to really watch it for fun.  The whole movie was like the Pittsburgh two degree rule on videotape.  Without the secret decoder ring it must have come across as a bit quirky.

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Marcellus markets

It really is true that when I wrote Energy-Burgh some years ago some folks downtown literally laughed.  I think the quote from one was just that it was too much "old Pittsburgh".  Just not something anyone wanted to pay much attention to beyond a bit of interest in the coal side and in particular the persistent hope for 'clean coal' in some form. In one conversation it was explained to me that the piece was actually distracting from the region's economic development efforts. 

What a difference just a few years make.

Anyway, the Marcellus bandwagon has reached some form of critical mass for sure.  I see the PBT now has an energy blog and the most recent post has the catchy title: Marcellus Freakonomics, that is commenting on the recent earnings announcement of Range Resources, the discoverer I take and leader of the pack developing the vast Marcellus Shale.  I wonder if Levitt gets a royalty on the title alone? 

The post has two interesting things really worthing cogitating on.  One is that the the company seems to be making the point that there is some vast and unnatural profitability in their natural gas development.. way beyond any other potential investment out there from the numbers transcribed there.   I'll skip the tax issues as political as they are, but it sure seems there is a big mispricing there somewhere.  Would not such vast profitability be capitalized into land values in most such markets? Makes you wonder about the efficiency of the land markets across Pennsylvania.

But a bigger issue.  There is a quote there from the CEO I take is from the earnings call on the future of natural gas trying to address the lower price of natural gas these days compared to the past:

"Most electric generation in the future will be with natural gas. We’ll get through this period of low gas prices. Demand will pick up at some point. It’s going to happen.”
If most electricity in the future is natural gas then what does that say for nuclear?  I'm not quite disputing the prognostication actually.  There is a big issue not talked about that there has not been a lot of movement toward the new domestic nuclear power plants in the US.   W is fine I am sure, but part of their growth has been based on that market developing and it's a bit unclear where the domestic nuclear industry is going right now. We may need to get past the recession to really find out.

Time will tell what that says for the growth trajectory at the big W, which is in itself one of the region's largest single largest employers. Something I would love to do actually if I had anywhere near the time would be to compute and compare the jobs impact locally of nuclear and mining, which includes all the new NatGas development.  Could be interesting.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What a difference a half century makes

I'm slow to this one, but our new BFF Forbes.com now has us ranked as one of the top places for working mothers.  Which harks back to one of the more amazing quotes in the economic history of Pittsburgh:
(Pittsburgh) will, however, slowly decline unless new industries employing women and those engaged in the production of consumer goods are attracted to the area.
This is from a report written by a place called the Econometric Institute based in New York City and titled: "Long Range Outlook for the Pittsburgh Industrial Area", stamped February 12, 1947. It was also stamped not for public release.   There was not a big desire back then to let anything other than positive info be put out for the public to read.

The more things change.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Drilling

I personally do wonder a bit whether all the news attention to natural gas issues is driving more attention than is normal for some things.  Take for instance this news item yesterday about a guy in Butler County burned when he opened a water pump on his property.  I guess that is actually almost lost in all the other related news out there, but is it a normal occurance? The news item says there were no permitted gas wells near the scene. Quite a coincidence that it happened, or maybe that it was noticed by the media, just after the Gasland movie came out or all the related natural gas news going around. 

We do live with a lot of natural gas around and there have been some big blasts in the past caused by leaks and seepage of various causes.  Just got me wondering what the biggest blast ever was in the region.  I don't know if this was the biggest, but disturblingly close to where I spend my days was this blast on the campus at Pitt 35 years ago that leveled a building and killed 2 people.  No fault of Pitt by the way. Looks like the university building was impacted by a leaking main line that just happened to be nearby.  From reading the story, it appears to be luck that classes had recently let out or else it sounds like it could have made this Wikipedia list.

Can we make a local version of that list though?  Any bigger blasts?

Speaking of natural gas though, just an interesting link.  Some interesting stuff beyond what is generally being repeated on all sides is some of the discussion in this site which I just came across:  Natural Gas Forum for Landowners. Certainly a lot of posts and some interesting stuff popping from the discussions I see there.  I didn't quite realize there is a competition of sorts between shale gas and liquified natural gas (LNG) .  Also something I have wondered about is the future distribution of this tsunami of natural gas we are going to be producing here.  See some related news from Louisiana on that. Also, whatever your view of frak'ing is consider what had been considered in the past toward the same end.  Leaves you a bit speechless.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

export-less Burgh

Brookings has a new report out on the role of international exports in regional economies for Great Lakes communities.  From their report we look to be trailing most other regions of late, which I suspect is a reflection of manufacturing's continued decline withing the region.  We certainly are not on the list of regions within the US for being a top exporter.  Cincinatti beats us by far even, which I suspect is a reflection of GE.  What we sell to the world currently is much as we have for the last century: mining and metals although the mix of where we are exporting to is changing a bit.

update:  Reading some of the news coverage on the report, I didn't originally pay too much attention to some data on patents in the report and that we are reported to be lagging there as well.   While there are some longstanding arugments over whether patent data in itself is much of an indicator on 'innovation' it's one of those things that its not so great, but it's better than any other metric we have. Meaningfully measuring innovation remains one of those holy grails that eludes us for the most part.  I could update a breakdown of local patent 'production' that I did quite some years ago on page 2 of this file. Would be interesting to see how it has changed I suppose.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

All the government data you can parse

From the Guardian's Data Store: World Government Data, which now includes links to the sites of some local governments in the US.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Misc Marcellus

AP has a brief item on the impact of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania Politics: Group: Gas money pours into Pa. races, lobbying.  I feel an info-graphic coming on.

Everyone knows of the explosion in Indiana Township I suspect.  My take is that we will know when all the hype is true when we build an indigenous capacity in Pennsylvania to fight blowouts like this instead of bringing in the Red Adair types from Texas.  Could be an economic cluster unto itself eventually.

And a curious side note.  I don't quite get the point, but the Marcellus Shale Coalition has a PR to make sure people know that the incident in Indiana Township was at a "shallow, non-Marcellus Shale natural gas well".   I mean.... it's non-Ordovician shale gas as well.

Which leads to something from last week that just again gets me wondering about the demand for all of this natural gas.  From SeekingAlpha: Why Poland Is the Most Compelling Shale Gas Opportunity Right Now.  Makes you wonder where there isn't some new shale gas about to be discovered and developed. As I said before, my winter heating bill better go down is all I know.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Passing Parking Pontifications

Even though there was a bit of news yesterday about the planned parking asset monetization, I think the real thing to note is just how little interest the public has in all of this.  So what the city is about to sell off ~$300 million in parking assets and raise parking rates throughout the city. No big deal I guess.  If this does not pique people's interest then it's not a big surprise dozens of other issues don't get on anyone's radar at all.

There are more meetings set to discuss the proposed parking lease if you want to participate.

On public reaction, I am also surprised there has been no palpable reaction among the public or media to the jump in parking fines that has already been implemented.  You would think a doubling of many parking fines would at least spark some notice.  I am just surprised that it really has started up without much notice at all.  As to what is coming down the road, I am more surprised all the small businesses in town are not reacting to the proposal being floated as part of all this to extend meter hours from 6pm to 10pm.

But for those asking my current thoughts on the plans to monetize parking assets in the city of Pittsburgh, I have nothing new to say really. Here is a compilation of what I have said in the past for the most part:

Parking garages and parking meters are different issues.. have different policy implications and really don't have much to do with each other in an economic sense.  Maybe they both should be 'sold', maybe neither, or one and not the other. At the very least they should be debated separately and the decisions on what should happen to them should be made at least somewhat independently. Right now this is all being pitched that they are locked together as a package.

Sell vs. lease.  I have to admit I am leaning this way myself, but some very top economists in town have said for the parking garages that they should be sold outright and not leased. Was that advice even considered I wonder?  You can make the argument that leasing gives the city greater control over arguably public assets, but I think it's the other way around actually.  Control over the economic development impact of parking assets can be secured through effective and focused zoning laws and enforcement.  I suspect that a lease agreement between the city and leasor will wind up having a lot more restrictive covenants on what the city can do development-wise in Downtown and environs.  The leasors will want restrictions to prevent their investments, retrictions that probably won't result if you sell some of the large assets outright.  Either way, they are not going away and the parking supply will be there from those garages for some time.  The question is what other developments may or may not happen under either scenario and I bet a leasor will want promises the city does not develop any other garages near Downtown... possibly including other restrictions that prevent others from building large new parking supply as well.  (what is up with the big empty lot across from the city county building anyway....  prime space?)

Speaking of sell vs. lease..  Sell the garages and they will start generating property tax eh?  Lease them and presumably they will not.   Hmm.....  At the end of the day, that is a big part of what is going on here. It's not really privatization as much as a leasing is just monetizing the next couple decades of potential property tax payments into cash.  Somehow Henry George is tied up in all of this..  Hold that thought.

At the end of the day there is the elephant in the room and the city's pension miasma. The city's pension fund is well below the Mendoza line of pension funding and has been for some time. As disclosure I guess I pointed out the inevitability of the parking garage sale in the past.  Like the idea of monetizing the parking assets or not, there are few other things left to alleviate the problem. Will it solve the problem?  Of course not.  I am surprised the debate is still talking about the pension system needing $200 million just to get it to 50%.  That number is already outdated, and will be further underwater by the time current data on the pension fund is released.. let alone where we will be by late fall.

That's not to say there are not other options per se.  Some have been proposed already.  The inevitability is on the monetization of the parking assets, but what form that takes is open.  From a pure economic standpoint, is any sale or lease that much different from floating a revenue bond of similar value?  Not really. Parking is a unique story unlike other proposed 'privatizations' if you want to call it that..  There is very little a private operator will be able to do with the assets that a public manager is not doing already.

50% by the way still counts as one of the worst funding ratios for a pension system anywhere in the nation. Public or private. So our big goal here is still to be the distant outlier when it comes to pension underfunding.  I estimate that right now netting $200 million will put the city's funding ratio at about 45% which is where it was at in 2005 which was not long ago.  So no reason to think the issue is being solved as much as pushed ahead a few years. 

Which leads to one of the funny angles to all of this.   The whole effort being described as an effort to pay more into the pension system is really just an effort to pay less into the system.  The result of not trying to use parking assets to get to a 50% funding level is the spectre of the state "taking over" the pension system.  Legally the state can't lower obligated pension payouts any more than the city can now.  The threat is that the state would require the city to make larger annual payments than it is currently.  Yet the state has no distinct criteria for funding pensions.  If the state will require larger payments it is mostly because their, presumably independent, actuaries are anticipated to calculate a larger minimum payment to get the Pittsburgh pension funds on a path to solvency.  The goal here is all to keep that from happening, thus to keep the city in control of the pension system, and thus have the city actuaries' lower calculation of annual pension funding be used for year into the future. 

So my only prediction is that given the nature of the assets and the state of financial markets these days the bids will come in relatively high for whatever is put up for sale or lease.  Low interest rates these days that the $$ needed for this can be borrowed at very minimal cost so any company with the capacity to borrow at that scale is going to do this with virtually free money in a sense. These are large public assets with future revenues virtually assured by statute and regulation and for the foreseeable future a captive market. It should all end up resulting in being a really good deal for someone and you hope that translates into larger bids.  Possibly a naive thought.  But if I am right, the big $$ being put on the table will blind all other sensibilities and this will all pass without as much consternation as some may be anticipating.  Time will tell. 

Getting near the end here  All this effort to 'monetize' Pittsburgh Parking Authority assets is curious.  No thought of trying to monetize even other public parking assets?  I think the Stadium-less Stadium Authority has some parking assets, as does the URA.  It will be even more curious if the bids don't quite get the pension funds to 50% and just a little more is needed. 

On the "more may be needed angle".   What is up with the $$ of city surplus socked away in the pseudo 'lockbox' because nobody wanted to literally defease debt last year?   I just bring that up because again, if this all gets us to say 45% funding, I bet that comes into play.

Finally...  my 'prediction'.  I suspect the lease will happen...  the 50% funding won't be achievable from the proceeds and the state of the pension fund as of December.  The state still takes over the pension system as it were. The city holds the money with the argument that it needs to hold cash to make the higher annual payments and basically everything is the same except the city now has a big pot of cash to burn through.

Is the ICA still around?  That is only a semi-rhetorical question. A more substantive question may be how much longer it will be around in the future. 

So with all that...  a summer Friday and all..  this and all other related discourse will be lost in the ether.  If you have read this far I will send you a merit badge.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wonk-fight economist edition

So sometimes people tell me this whole blog is a bit too 'out there' for them.   Assuming they are not reacting to my bad writing and more commenting on the content, here is something at another level altogether.  This is way above my paygrade, but here is a sanitized version of how economists fight.  In a seminar I think they would be swearing at each other at this point.

Paul Krugman in the NYT yesterday: Notes On Rogoff (Wonkish)

When a Nobel Prize winner labels something as wonkish you probably need to start running.  But what I do understand is that Paul Krugman is trying to argue with Ken Rogoff what his own model means. ####s.

I think I will stick to counting widgets (and the occasional unfunded pension liability I suppose).

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marcellus News and News and News

There is a flood of Marcellus news this hour:

AP has a headline: Report: Marcellus reserves worth $2 trillion.  The report out today that it is referencing is here: The Economic Impacts of the Marcellus Shale: Implications for New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. This is interesting because it is from a consultant who was one of the authors of the Penn State Reports on this, but he has clearly gone and done this one on his own. Even though at least one news article is already calling this newest report one a "Penn State Report".  I've mentioned already that I have read that Penn State economist David Passmore is doing an economic impact study of Marcellus Shale that is due to be completed in thefall.  I will read that closely when it comes out and will be interested to see how different it is from any of these reports.

Christian Science Monitor follows up on this with: Could shale deposits bring mid-Atlantic states $2 trillion?

Just for reference.  The total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire state of Pennsylvania, including all its included workers, industries, firms and incidentals, is $533 billion/year per the BEA.  So they are saying that the value of Marcellus Shale is worth the equivalent of all the economic activity of everything in the state for 4 straight years.   Everything!  From everything manufactured in the state to the value generated by services such as the entertainment value of the Pirates.  Gives some perspective on the mania if nothing else.  I can't quite imagine what would be happening if natural gas prices were as high as they were a  couple years ago and not the lows they are at today. 
Forbes has: Range Resources Is King Of The Marcellus Shale

and the Charleston Gazette has: Marcellus shale: Jobs for local workers?

The Marcellus Shale folks have fired back at city council: MSC Statement on Pittsburgh City Council’s Misguided Resolution on Shale Gas Development.

The EPA is poking around: EPA takes new look at gas drilling, water issues

I wonder if any journalist jobs are included in those economic impact reports?

and not about Marcellus at all... but just funny.

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Daily Ranking: Lucky Number

No, not a reference to Nick Perry.

Bloomberg nee BusinessWeek has us tagged as the 7th best place for college graduates.   An interesting perspective given that we are retaining so many college graduates as it is right now. I won't say it, but have we put a stake into QQQQQQ QQQQQ QQQ. 

But here is another perspective on what I put up yesterday on job growth.   Just the month over month perspective on job growth across Pennsylvania metro areas between May and June.  Take it for what it's worth.  Yes, its not normalized by regional size and monthly data can be noisy. These are also non-seasonally adjusted data points.  Still, Pittsburgh is pretty much holding up the state this month.  State College is reflecting the higher education impact there is all.  May to June most colleges drop in employment count, but lower schools are usually still in session.  So June is a big month for job growth since you ususally keep most education employment but see summer seasonal work pick up.  So it's usually up in a raw jobs count.  Likewise July is down as education jobs drop off for the summer.  Still....  curious:

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Thud

Below is the latest on slots revenues at the 2 local casinos... still no info I see on the revenues coming in from table games.  But table games or not, slots revenues at Meadows are over that at Rivers $68,444,225 to $63,868,101 respectively in the latest week.



But at Rivers, the opening of table games intersected with the July 4th weekend so it was unclear what data from the previous week, June 22-July 4, said about the future.  Now we have a full week of data and the total slots wagers the week of July 12-18 of  $63,868,101 is nearly identical to the total slots wagers of $63,642,038 week of June 28-July 4, which was the last full week without slots. Time will tell if that means anything.


Something interesting to watch as well.  Here is the time series of total slots wagers for the two casinos combined.  I think the description to go with it can be summarized as a plateau. Pretty amazingly so if you look at the narrow band the combined wagers have been stuck in since the end of winter.  But table games will change everything right?

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Down Down Down Down..... Up?

Here is some good news from some employment data just out for June.   I'll update my graph of year over year change in total nonfarm jobs in the Pittsburgh region.  What do you see with the June data?


So the first increase by this measure in 20 months... Largest increase since May 2008.  Boom times? No.  But you gotta start somewhere.

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market fundamentals

Platts has this of interest to those following Marcellus developments (or who have natural gas heating):  US natural gas prices to hover below $5 through 2015: Bentek.  The money quote is that prices in natural gas markets will remain low "as the result of a long-term shift in market fundamentals".  The fundamental shift being mostly the new shale gas developments here and elsewhere. I'm pretty sure that $4/MMBtu is below the low end of projections (page 20 for example) the major players have been planning on.  Which all counterintuitively may or may not hurt local production.  Low prices will most hit the relatively high cost producers.  Not inconceivable that the low cost producers wind up with bigger market share in shifts like this. 


*****

On a completely different topic... most know that the Pirates are flirting with Baltimore for the worst record in baseball these days.  The Christian Science Monitor's Sports Economist has someone to blame: An economist’s tribute to George Steinbrenner.   How much worse could the Pirates be this year?  In 1952 they were 42-112 and 54.5 GAMES OUT OF FIRST PLACE.

But hey... 8 years later it was the World Series.  So we are looking forward to 2018?  or a metaphysical question: will there ever be a World Series victory at PNC park?

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Misc. Monday Morning Stuff

Ink for my colleague Bob and a story today on our Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System. You can use most of the system yourself starting here. Zoom in as far as you can go to see the neat stuff.  They got his name mispelled in another piece from just yesterday as well.

AVRR again in the news... Trib had something last week as well. Neither really mentioned the hearing I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago.  I guess the plan now is to cross at grade over onto existing rail past 26th st.  Speaking of new urban rail, a story from Seattle on one of the few new light rail lines to start up recently.

Interesting Marcellus news article from NE PA on land owners banding together to negotiate with drillers.  Similar story of folks in WV banding together today from WV.  The Financial Times no less has this from yesterday on Marcellus shale:  The Shale Gas Fairytale Continues.  Even I think that version is pessimistic, but it is hard to deny what the markets themselves are saying about the future.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Art of Bureaucracy

Just worth the read: Bureaucracy Meets Art, Delighting Christo

I still wonder what Christo could do with Mt. Washington?  He (or they, before his wife passed away) could not be hired apparently.  How to whisper in his ear??  Anyone with connections?

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Policy matters

Maybe subsidizing bad food is part of why Americans are getting more obese? Who would've thunk that?

If you have not read it, make sure to read the oped in the New York Times the other day by CMU professor George Loewenstein : Economics Behaving Badly.  The point I think is that policy matters. The design of policy that is. That you can't hide behind the idea that people behave irrationally for when things go wrong.  Government can and does design things that lead to bad results.   or good results if you do it right.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Creeping Metropolitanism - A Pittsburgh Neologism

My friends over with the CONNECT project had a bunch of ink yesterday. The PG version: 'Also-urbs': Pittsburgh and 35 towns create catalyst for cooperation
 
Some noteworthy quotes in there, but I caught yet another reference to fears of "creeping metropolitanism". I actually did a search on the historical use of the term "creeping metropolitanism" and it is almost exclusively generated from Pittsburgh-related stories.  Think about that.  I like this article:  Creeping Metropolitanism Giving Suburbs Jitters...  That is from 1960.   It was not just Pittsburgh that was of concern apparently, they (not quite sure the 'they') also worried about McKeesport.  The specific objection of one suburban denizen was that he:
"..also objects to having White Oak, Versailles, Liberty Port Vue, Elizabeth, Glassport and other neighboring communities classified as "boudoirs" of Mckeesport"
Boudoirs? And just the semantics of "creeping"...  nothing good ever 'creeps' does it?  What is the antonym of 'incrementalism' I wonder?
 
They didn't have much to worry about in 1960.  28 years later the spectre of "Creeping Metropolitanism" would barely be humorous  fodder for columnists when in 1988 Tom Hritz wrote: City Limits Wafting South.  Today the Pittsburgh region remains the most fragmented local government structure in the entire nation and quite possibly the world and there is not much on the horizon that is going to change that anytime soon.  What is it about Pittsburgh that makes it so much more opposed to even talking about these things than just about anywhere else on the planet?
 
As regards to the City of Pittsburgh.  Territorial growth the city has been virtually stagnant since the Depression.  Really not all that much since Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny City in 1906/7. For history buffs if nothing else, below is my transcription of the history of territorial growth of the City of Pittsburgh. 

Also there is another related story today of a new effort to survey public opinions on government services.   Will be interesting to see the results of that and compare it to the survey my friend Jim D. completed 20 years ago just about. (also note the longer paper version).  

Territorial Growth of the City of Pittsburgh
Territory Annexed          Entry Date Area  Annexed   Total Area
                                          (both in Square Miles) 



Borough of Pittsburgh          March 5, 1804  0.50 0.5
City of Pittsburgh            March 18, 1816  0.5
Northern Liberties Borough     March 1, 1837  0.17 0.7
City's District 8/17            July 7, 1845  0.17 0.8
Part of Pitt Township       November 4, 1846  0.8
Part of Pitt Township       December 4, 1846  0.93 1.8
Part of Pitt Township      December 12, 1846  1.8
Remainder of Pitt Township     June 30, 1868  1.8
Peebles Township               June 30, 1868  1.8
Liberty Township               June 30, 1868  1.8
Collins Township               June 30, 1868 21.34 23.1
Oakland Township               April 2, 1872       23.1
Lawrenceville Boro             April 2, 1872       23.1
Union Township                 April 2, 1872       23.1
Temperanceville Boro           April 2, 1872       23.1
Mount Washington Boro          April 2, 1872       23.1
West Pittsburgh Boro           April 2, 1872       23.1
Monongahela Boro               April 2, 1872       23.1
South Pittsburgh Boro          April 2, 1872  4.19 27.3
Allentown Boro              December 1, 1894       27.3
Birmingham Boro             December 1, 1894       27.3
East Birmingham Borough     December 1, 1894       27.3
St. Clair Borough           December 1, 1894       27.3
Brushton Boro               December 1, 1894  0.45 27.8
Beltzhoover Boro               March 1, 1898  0.30 28.1
Elliott Boro                 January 2, 1905  0.32 28.4
Esplen Boro                  January 8, 1906  0.28 28.6
Sterett Township             January 8, 1906  0.48 29.1
Montooth Boro                January 7, 1907  0.11 29.2
Sheraden Boro              November 21, 1907  0.97 30.2
City of Allegheny           December 6, 1907  8.07 38.3
West Liberty Boro            January 6, 1908  2.74 41.0
O'Hata Township             October 30, 1908  0.32 41.3
Beechview Boro               January 4, 1909  0.33 41.7
Part of Union Township       January 4, 1909  0.09 41.8
Part of Baldwin Township     January 1, 1912  0.24 42.0
Part of Ross Township      December 19, 1916  0.02 42.0
Spring Garden Boro           January 5, 1920  0.19 42.2
Part of Penn Township          June 28, 1920  0.00 42.2
Part of Chartiers Township   October 4, 1920  0.02 42.2
Rem. of Chartiers Township   January 1, 1921  3.42 45.7
Part of Reserve Township    October 31, 1922  0.25 45.9
St. Clair Boro               January 1, 1923  0.97 46.9
Prts of Lower St. Clair Twp February 7, 1924  0.08 47.0
Part of Swissvale Boro     November 27, 1925  0.03 47.0
Carrick Boro                 January 3, 1927  1.59 48.6
Knoxville Boro               January 3, 1927  0.30 48.9
Westwood Boro                January 3, 1927  0.30 49.2
Union Township               January 2, 1928  0.94 50.1
Part of Ross Township          June 29, 1928  0.06 50.2
Hays                         January 7, 1929  0.74 50.9
Part of Mifflin Township   February 15, 1929  0.92 51.8
Part of Ross Township         April 22, 1929  0.03 51.9
Part of Ross Township         April 25, 1929  0.13 52.0
Part of Ross Township           June 3, 1929  0.01 52.0
Part of Ross Township           July 1, 1929  0.00 52.0
Part of Mifflin Township       July 22, 1929  0.00 52.0
Part of Penn Township        January 2, 1930  0.03 52.1
Part of Penn Township       January 22, 1930  0.02 52.1
Overbrook Boro               January 6, 1930  1.23 53.3
Part of Baldwin Township     January 5, 1931  0.08 53.4
Part of Mifflin Township   February 27, 1931  0.76 54.1
Part of Reserve Township      March 20, 1931  0.15 54.3
Part of Baldwin Township    December 1, 1947  0.06 54.4
Part of Ross Township         April 28, 1948  0.02 54.4
Part of Baldwin Township    February 5, 1951  1.08 55.5
Part of Baldwin Township      March 13, 1951  0.04 55.5
Part of Robinson Township    August 19, 1955  0.03 55.5
Source: Office of the Pittsburgh City Controller


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Existential retail and the meaning of plain old coffee custard

South of the border... I mean river...  there is a tempest in a coffee mug brewing over this blog post by the proprietors of Aldo Coffee in home rule municipality generally known as Mt. Lebanon.  It has sparked the interest of many including Lebo denizen Madison. Their exposition covers the gamut of issues facing retail operations large and small along with a few instances of Yinzer exceptionalism.  Even a bit of labor economics wrapped up in there when they point out that "It's ridiculously difficult to attract good baristas in the 'burbs."  Until reading that I had believed that in the current state of academic economics, which has so many published journals that there are journals about journals, that every conceivable topic has been written on by someone.   Yet I doubt anyone has taken on the spatial econometrics of the labor supply of baristas.  Will add that to my todo list.

In a follow up post they emphasize that the questions they raised may have been blown out of proportion, or at least overinterpreted. They do point out a 'problem' their business model has:
Yet every day, along with taking orders for specific coffees or taste profiles from our regulars, we inevitably get the guy (or gal) who wants, "Just plain old coffee."
Reminds me of a question about flavored custard.... and that I owe Pittsblog a post or two.

Anyway... I suspect Aldo will continue in some form.  Mt. Lebanon will as well.  I have to admit that one of things I don't quite get in the world is the economics of the retail biz.  Those posts reinforce my own notion that there are emotional aspects to the equation that are hard to quantify... by that I mean for most retail entrepreneurs it is about more than the bottom line.  Not a bad thing at all, but it may explain why getting a retail business off the ground is statistically fraught with peril.  That is a true statement universally, but an observation of late reinforces it ..  Anyone else think the number of retail storefronts empty or underutilized at the South Side Works is surprising?

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daily Ranking: Most Improved State for Business

Nabobs will have some gnashing over this I am sure.   From CNBC: New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania Most Improved In CNBC’s Top States For Business Rankings

In state related biz news...  as much as the buzz is all about Marcellus Shale, in terms of sheer employment and income I bet coal is still an order of magnitude larger within Pennsylvania.  I kind of wonder if coal folks feel left behind these days.  Nonetheless, this news is pretty important:  Heat Wave in U.S. Driving Coal to 18-Month High: Energy Markets.  Think coal isn't being used beyond power generation?  Even in this lingering "Great Recession" there is such demand for coke that you see the results in things like the explosion today at Clairton.

A pretty good report done earlier this year on regional coal trends is: The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the Need for Economic Diversification. The 'decline' is for the regional coal outlook in general. In the report you will see that Northern Appalachian (that would be under us for the most part) coal output is actually projected to increase output in coming years.  Coal is even bigger in West Virginia. I can't find it now, but I saw some article on the potential conversion of coal electricity generation to natural gas and what it will mean to our neighbors to the south.  Even bigger for them, some regulatory issues being decided may impact the whole future of coal mining down there.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Table games off and running... we think

So table games got off to a (reportedly) big start here last week.

How big?  Well, we just don't know.  The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has been pretty good about disclosing the performance of slots at each of the casinos open in Pennsylvania.  You can check out the current and historical data online here.  Would be nice if they made that data available in a more convenient way to parse, but I won't quibble.

Data for the latest week (July 5-11) is out and you would think we would have our first look at how table games impacted the gross revenues at the casinos here and elsewhere.  The data being disclosed looks to be the same slots-only data at this point. So for now we just don't quite know what the first few days of table games revenues look like. Am I missing something or is it one of those things that make you go hmm.

Hmm some more.  Just looking at slots then and the side impacts of this reported big opening.  Below is the updated graph I have for how the local casinos are doing.   One is that they continue to split nearly evenly their revenues.   So in the last week Rivers brought in $70.2 million while the Meadows brought in $70.5 million.  For each there was a bump up from the previous weeks total wagers of $63.6 and $65.5 million respectively.   A big jump of 7-10% could be a sign that table games will have a positive impact on slots revenues..... or maybe not.  There is this issue that July 5-11 includes the holiday Monday of the July 4th weekend which has to have been much more lucrative than a typical slow Monday.  So we will see where this all goes.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Marcellus

A theme this week. We'll shove off this rock (pun intended I suppose) soon enough.  Too much other stuff going on.

But big Marcellus news just out from the WSJ: Natural-Gas Driller to Disclose Chemical Use.  Which honestly surprises me since I thought they had to disclose all that anyway.

Via The Street and from the folks who gave you Nabisco: Shale Gas the Flavor of the Season

Down in WV local governments are not benefiting as much as they planned on from all this new drilling activity. See: Low prices offset oil and gas boom.  Not a knock on the industry actually.  Maybe local governments were a bit optimistic in their projections?  Anyone else being similarly optimistic in their projections?

Something more academic. A paper recently out: Do Americans Consume Too Little Natural Gas? An Empirical Test of Marginal Cost Pricing. by Lucas W. Davis Erich Muehlegger.  From a few weeks ago, but more and more talk of a recent omnibus MIT report: The Future of Natural Gas: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study

From Wall Street (sort of).  Everyone knows Cramer is kind of a nut.  But a nut to listen to sometimes.  I myself keep wondering why nobody really talks about what the implications are if indeed Marcellus production is half as successful as the industry makes it sound.  A big supply increase has to push down prices .  Anyway, from Cramer: A NatGas Glut Is a Good Thing?  The answer depends who you are to a degree. It ends with the money quote and really underappreciated question that will shape the future:
"if natural gas didn't burn off its excess and spike in price off supply shortages in the last few weeks of heat, I don't know if it ever will again.”
To back that up, all energy prices jumped up today except natural gas which bucked the trend. If we could only get this stuff on a boat, there is a big natgas shortage in Argentina.

yes yes I know full well there are 'boats'.  One of the things you just stay away from at all costs are LNG carriers underway.

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Marcellus Shale, Dutch Disease, the War for Talent and parachute workers

Leaving aside any controversy, take as a given that Marcellus shale is going to have a big employment impact across Pennsylvania.  Even so, is that an unambiguiously good thing? 

Economics can be awfully counterintuitive sometimes. 

There is a concept in economics called “Dutch Disease”, otherwise known as “resource curse” or more stylistically as the “paradox of plenty”. All the talk of how big the Marcellus boom is sure raises the spectre of a Dutch Disease impact across some areas of Pennsylvania. It’s already been raised as a concern for parts of Canada which have similarly been impacted by high energy prices in recent years.  Natural Gas booms are not new within the US and from a few years ago at least one Wyoming paper once asked: When is Boom a Bust?  All variations on a theme.

The overall veracity of Dutch Disease can be debated. It is usually, though not always, talked about in the context of developing economies. What really got me thinking about this was remembeing some papers by former CMU economist Seth Sanders and colleagues looking at the legacy impact of past energy booms on Appalachian regions. It’s hard not to think there might be analogies today. Read:

The Opportunity Cost of a High School Education: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust, by Dan A. Black, Terra G. McKinnish and Seth G. Sanders. April 2004

The conclusion is pretty clear that energy booms in mining communities had the impact of pulling down educational attainment rates and pulling down lifetime earnings potential.  Potentially it is the human capital extension to Dutch Disease.  The question is whether anything similar is part of what is happening now?

Yes, I know a lot of these jobs are highly skilled.  Which brings up something I was thinking about over the weekend.  Where are the mostly highly skilled workers coming from? This is more counterintuition. Think about this news story from the weekend:  Airport traffic rises a 2nd straight month.  I have a strong suspicion that a large part, if not all, of the 1.5% increase in number of passengers at the airport this May versus last May is being generated by Marcellus shale-related workers. As many know, most of the Marcellus shale workers are not local hires, but folks coming in on short assignments... often as short as a week at a time, from traditional oil and gas regions of the country.  A lot of those folks are flying in and out of Pennsylvania through Pittsburgh and are showing up in the numbers.  Flying in and out like that generates a lot of passenger-trips.

Let's add up some numbers.   The story says the May 2010 passengers at the airport came to 709 thousand.  The 1.5% increase eqates to 10,600 more trips over the course of a month.  On average about 350 a day.  Could there be 350 Marcellus workers flying in or out of Pittsburgh each day?  If for sake of parsing you assume they are here on week long stints, it works out to 2,500 itinerant workers at any given time.  Given all the news headlines is that an unreasonable number? Headines have us thinking that number is several times higher.  Bottom line, I'd love to see detailed data on where passenger originations arriving in Pittsburgh have increased over the last year to be generating this newsworthy 1.5% increase in local traffic at the airport.  If that all works out, is the interpretation of the airport passenger trends the same as it may appear?  It's a question worth asking.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Pittsburgh coming to Detroit's rescue

Here is a pair of stories to read together.  PG pokes a bit at the local life cycle of high tech firms and this idea firms start here, but don't stay: Pittsburgh gives birth to tech firms, but can't keep them.   I don't disagree with the article, but it is a lot more complicated story than can be fit into a piece like that.... That and at this point the history is long enough that there are many stories over time.  I was mostly fascinated in that as I was reading it I thought it was not going to focus on the story of Lycos.  I thought that was good in a sense that the Lycos uber-angst here was not productive for a long time... and mostly misinterpreted.. but it does get to it in the end just a little bit.  Who remembers the big high tech "I'm leaving" story before Lycos?  Anyone recall Industry.net?  Don't recall even what that is??  A Model for commerce on the World Wide Web (1995). Remember when B2B was going to save us?  This whole "Pittsburgh Transformation" story has not been a straight line.

While that history may seem a bit esoteric, I would not minimize the emphasis the local business and policy folks keyed on Industry.net at the time. It was for a moment the high tech buzz in town. The story does not mention some more recent high tech firms that have grown here and then 'evolved' in some form or another.  How about Fore Systems or Freemarkets (which had the largest capitalization of any firms in town the day it IPO'd)...  or in a meta investment way does anyone remember the buzz when Launchcyte set up shop in town?  Wait, Launchcyte is still in town.  I can't find a reference quickly, but does anyone remember all the media buzz when 3 guys who had literally just graduated as undergrads from CMU set up up shop as a high tech incubator of their own. Back in the days when the dot.com boom eventually made it to Pittsburgh just a bit.


Anyway... interesting to contrast that story with a bit of business news from Crain's Detroit:
A Pittsburgh-based investment firm, iNetworks Advisors Inc., has launched what it hopes will be at least a $20 million fund to invest in startup and early-stage health and life science companies in Southeast Michigan and Windsor."

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

LeBron shakes the rust off

First Mike connects the dots between my buddy Border Guard Bob and the LeBron decision.  I was literally driving through the Bronx at the moment the announcement was made... I half exected the mania to result in some mass traffic conflagration in the minutes afterwards, but all was calm enough. 

But the WSJ now has the gratuitous Pittsburgh mention in a much longer version blog post of much the same theme: LeBron James: Just Another Ohioan Moving for a Better Job. Worth a read if for the perspective of how migration has impacted (is impacting?) the rust belt and its successors.

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Mickey Mouse saves West Penn Hospital

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Airbender

I really kept expecting Jon Stewart to pop up from behind a tree or something?

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Friday, July 09, 2010

local governments stuff

From outside Philly is a bit of news on local government stuff: Boroughs to Share Police Chief.

Not new, but I had not caught this.  Rumblings in New Jersey of a reform movement to consolidate their 566 municipalities into 100 or so.  New Jersey being a state with just under 9 million people and some think 566 municipalities is too much? Pennsylvania being a state with 12.6 million people give or take has over 2,500 fairly immutable municipalities. Change does happen in Pennsylvania. I think the last Pennsylvania municipality to dissolve was South Philipsburg in Centre County in 2007.

Lest anyone think we are even close to the scale of change that is being discussed in New Jersey, here is the real view from the T on any such idea:  Reformers are threatening a township way of life

I do need to get around to making a Pennsylvania version of this graphic of the local governments in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

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Famous Pittsburgh Real Estate

Did the AP use this picture because Point Breeze is the only place in America they could find a house that was actually purchased on the open market?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/08/AR2010070802308.html

Too bad the sale is pending...  such free advertising might have gotten it a few more offers.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Let the (table) games begin

And we're off.   Table games have come to Pittsburgh. Will they save the day for local casino revenues? Revenues which have remained far below projections and as at least some of us think: well below a sustainable level for the current business model. 

Time will tell what the initial and steady state business is for table games locally. Remember the tax on table games is less than on slots so what will be interesting to watch as well is whether table games bring in more slots business, or displace some of it.  The former would be good for tax revenues, the latter, bad.

I should start an over/under on when we get our first noticable card counting media mention.   Just kidding. Are they going to use those card shuffling machines? 

I missed this, but did anyone notice that they changed the law recently to allow Pennsylvania casinos to make loans via "almost instant" credit based on no more than a personal check?  I am a little curious what the 'almost' part is all about. 

I was tracking average daily revenues per machine, but the machine counts have been fluctuating.  The Rivers Casino a couple weeks ago was operating 2,600 slots machines, well below the 3,000 they were licensed for. So the average per machine is not really giving a meaningful benchmark. 

So a better metric is just tracking total wagers per week.  Below is what that looks like for the two local casinos.  The question will be what the trend is going forward with table games up and running. 

There was a time a few months ago the Rivers Casino folks were talking the talk that they were going to become the top casino in the region. It's worth noting just how locked the performance of the two casinos has become. Competition for sure, but it seems like they are splitting the market no matter.I wonder if they need to be marketing at all. Maybe they will split the pie no matter?  I've noticed less commercials than a few months ago, but that is a very unscientific observation. 

Splitting the market so evenly does not bode well for when a new casino opens in either Lawrence county, or Ohio. The thing is that if the two casinos split revenue evenly, Rivers is the loser in a sense. Not only did Rivers cost something like $800 million in mostly leveraged investment, but the Meadows' investment was reportedly under $500 million. So their capital costs are probably widely different.  That and Meadows is not encumbered by some of the same fixed costs Rivers is obligated for including payments for the SEA arena bonds, a guaranteed minimum $10mil annually to the City and I am pretty sure higher property tax bills. What was that movie? Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. Sort of like that.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

On the steel beat

Just to fill in for our low profile steel beat folks.  From the WSJ: Industry Cuts Back as Steel Prices Fall

There may be other issues.  There was once a time when the local steel industry was buoyed by the demand for steel pipe in the oil industry 30 years ago.  There is similar talk about the pipe demand that could be generated by the great Marcellus Mania.  Like the Great Recession I think that deserves being named a proper noun at this point. Someone please send a memo to the AP editors. but there is news from Texas that they need to replace all their steel pipes for natural gas with plastic. Again from the WSJ:  Texas Railroad Commission considers replacing steel gas lines.

Speaking of Marcellus, there is news that local production is indeed increasing. For the severance tax, can't we just have some of this local gas delivered right to our gas companies as payment in lieu of taxes and have our gas bills lowered.  All I know that if there is this big tsunami of natural gas underneath us then my gas bills in the winter better be lower in the future.

More steel: Some may have noticed the little bit of news of brewing trade war with China over steel. Things like that used to be front page stuff here. What I didn't get was that part of this was over the technology embedded in making steel rebar?  I honestly can't quite tell if this item on Forbes is being completely facetious or not... it says rebar had technology developed by DARPA?   Rebar? A fun read nonetheless.  See: The Curious Case Of Anshan Steel And The Space-Age Rebar Technology.

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Random afternoon catch

Open government updates from over the pond. Read the Guardian on: Local government data: how to make it really open.  Basically local governments in the UK are about to be forced to release "release every spending item over £500" or about $750.  Can you imagine?

It's a flat world yunz......    Really random diaspora note of the day that comes from the author of an online entry posted on Salon about South African cuisine of all things: Koeksisters: South Africa's twisted and delicious dessert
I was born in Pittsburgh and raised on a steady diet of "Brady Bunch" reruns, Barbies and TV dinners, with the occasional 10-course Chinese banquet thrown in.

Finally. Why does this make news here any longer? 

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Pennsylvania, Meet Your Budget

So the powers that be in Harrisburg have agreed enough to get a budget signed.  Let's be honest, few think much about what goes into the Commonwealth's budget.  So if you are wondering, I have put the expenditures from the budget just signed into a bubble chart.  That image is below, but the full interactive version via Manyeyes (which you need to figure out what all the microscopic items are) is online here.

Pennsylvania 2010-2011 Budgeted Expenditures by Category (not including ARRA)

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cleveburgh watch: Youngstown over the pond

Ah.. I forgot about this but JimR reminds us.  Watch BBC's showing of 'Rust Belt chique' in Youngstown, Ohio.

Not really related, but maybe.  A site called the Metropolitan Corporate Council has an interview with the managing director of a local law firm: Go West, Young Man, To Pittsburgh!   I'd poke fun a bit at the "young man", but the managing partner interviewed is a woman.  Still, more women than men in law school these days I thought so maybe the title could have been modified a bit to make more sense these days. 

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Time Capsules

I just have nothing.......  

So I am sure everyone is excited to learn I spent a lot of the weekend cleaning.  In a box once squirrelled away because I thought it was valuable.....  a complete set of 3.5" Microsoft MS-DOS 6.22 disks.

Then there was the Novell Guide to Netware 4.0 book.

Any takers? Both in pristine condition.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Pensions Straight Up

I missed this last week, but this is clearly the best pension fund news of late.

In related news: no relation, unfortunately.

For real: Any local versions of this story from Ohio?! (BW corrected the Pennsylvania reference in this story...  but I mean in any local municipal pension funds.... of course who really knows what the 3 thousand local pension funds in Pennsylvania even have in their portfolios??)

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Dayton on Downtown and more

Contrasting views of Pittsburgh and Toledo as seen from Dayton:  Pittsburgh, Toledo take two paths to boosting downtowns.  With a complementary look just at us: Pittsburgh’s revival shows way for Dayton.

and CBS does Braddock: Restoring a Rust Belt Town.

Time looks at our real estate: Price-to-Rent Ratio: Where Houses Are the Best Buy

Inky on some Marcellus developments in NE PA: Marcellus Shale dispute bubbling up in Northeast Pennsylvania.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

The (Cultural) Clash

Independence Day in the 'Burgh circa 1983.  Yunz listen to the Plasmatics?


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Saturday, July 03, 2010

speaking of Maglev

I didn't catch this story from a couple weeks ago about one of the few Maglev systems anyone has tried to build in the US.  I actually drove underneath that track last month and didn't realize just how unused it really was.

So is our future this:



or this:

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Marcellus Misfires

For everyone interested in anything related to Marcellus Shale issues, here is a headline: Penn State Admits Gas Study Flaws

There had already been some public rumblings on this to go along with what was being said more quietly.  As academic things go this one is in the 'wow' category. 

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Factoid of the day - New Permanent Residents

I think this is recently released.  Not quite the same as international immigration, but new permanent residents in the 'burgh via data from the USCIS.

One interesting thing before looking at the detailed data, but of this count of 'new permanent residents', for Pittsburgh less than 29% represent new arrivals.   I looked at New York City's data as well and their count was just over 50% new arrivals.  My quick benchmarking of a few other places all have a much higher percentages of 'new arrivals' than we do.  Not sure the reason, but suspect it is because we have a lot of students converting from temporary student visas to permanent resident visas. Could be folks converting from other forms of temporary visas whcih include H1B's.  Just something to think about.

Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status During Fiscal Year 2009
Pittsburgh MSA  Ranked by Country of Birth

Country      Number % of Total

India           257  10.9%
China           222   9.4%
Burma            91   3.9%
United Kingdom   78   3.3%
Pakistan         74   3.1%
Canada           68   2.9%
Korea, South     66   2.8%
Russia           64   2.7%
Uzbekistan       60   2.5%
Philippines      56   2.4%
Thailand         52   2.2%
Kenya            46   2.0%
Turkey           45   1.9%
Brazil           43   1.8%
Germany          43   1.8%
Ukraine          38   1.6%
Iraq             37   1.6%
Vietnam          36   1.5%
Nigeria          35   1.5%
Japan            32   1.4%
All other       911  38.7%


Total         2,354

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