Monday, July 17, 2006

Marketing Burgh

Maybe I just have been oblivious to this in the past, but I just noticed the Pittsburgh marketing video that is being played on two large LCDs screens at the airside of the people-mover at the airport. Seems like I have seen the content before, but honestly I can't remember seeing these screens in the past. Have I been that out of it or is this something installed for the all star game? The video has a lot of flyovers of the region interspersed with some text quotes from who you would expect to be commenting.. Although the quotee's would imply to me this was put together at least a little while ago.

Marketing Pittsburgh has such a curious history. We do seem to market ourselves a lot. Nothing wrong with that, but often it is marketing the region to ourselves which is have found odd in the past. Is the Pittsburgh video still playing at the beginning of IMAX shows at the science center? In the past there have been some truly strange ideas on how to market Pittsburghers to the rest of the country. I will not even get into Border Guard Bob...

I think I mentioned in comments, but my one suggestion over the years has been to have a bunch of billboards along I70 between PA and MD, with some comparative info about Pittsburgh and DC. Maybe like a Burma Shave series, one with some job info, another with what some comparative housing prices are in the two regions... who knows what else. But Washington DC is probably the metro region with the most ex-Pittsburghers living there and a whole bunch must make that drive here and back every year. So you can target those ex-Pittsburghers pretty well at what may not be a big cost.


Blogger Jim Russell said...

I found an article of yours that helped me catch up on the Border Guard Bob fiasco and the overall marketing debate:

Pittsburgh would be better off forgetting about those who left or those who might leave. Labor mobility increases with educational attainment, often making the economic pull factors of migration more significant, the push factors less so. In other words, if your region does a good job of educating its children, they will leave.

Pittsburgh's obsession with its native sons and daughters is part of the problem. The barrier of entry for newcomers continues to be high. In places like Austin, the barrier of entry for a newcomer is relatively low.

I bring up Austin because in-migration is not all about the gravity of employment. Generation X slackers flocked to Austin, but not because there were plenty of jobs. The word was that Austin was easy to move to (cheap real estate, college town, etc...) and full of cool people from all around the country.

I don't mean to rehash Richard Florida's argument. Even the coolest of cities experience out-migration. The game is attracting fresh ideas and new perspectives.

What has Pittsburgh done to make itself attractive to outsiders?

Those ex-Pittsburghers are the best ambassadors the region has. Pittsburgh should provide them with the tools to go forth and spread the gospel.

Monday, July 17, 2006 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

In particular, signs along I-70 between PA and MD would probably be the worst choice. Forget people making that drive once a year. Try multiple times a year, if not on a bi-weekly, or weekly basis. People (maybe unless they have teen age kids) within a eight hour drive tend to be around for almost any long weekend holiday. Heck, I know people that have commuted to the metro DC area for 20 years+. These are not the people that are unaware of the current situation in PIT. Just the opposite. They are the most aware, and have chosen to stay employed in a growing area, with opportunity, an entrepeneurial atmosphere, and rising house equity.

Want PIT to grow? Increase the number of jobs. Period. People overwhelmingly follow the jobs. I have yet to meet someone, other than the independently wealthly, that can move first, and then hope to find a job later.

Speaking of advertizing regions. Heard the ads for Michigan on talk radio? Lower taxes, a environment that at least superficially welcomes business. What would PA advertize in MI? Our punative business taxes? Why would any company want to relocate here? Clearly, they wouldn't.

Monday, July 17, 2006 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

well, I am the last person to disagree with the conclusion that people follow jobs in general. Too much economic research support that. but that is a separate issue to a degree from the benefits of promoting the region to a potential workforce. Realize also that Washington, DC is not only the home of the most ex-Pittsburghers, it is also generally the source of the largest number of people moving into Pittsburgh each year. So it should be a fertile source of recruiting workers in general. Do they all have full info about conditions in Pittsburgh? I suppose they could, but that logic leads one to discount all advertising. I still say you would get far more bang for your buck advertising to these people than say, advertising in Atlanta where few people move into Pittsburgh from each year.

Monday, July 17, 2006 6:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

As I think you know, I'm a huge fan of fostering the Pittsburgh-DC connection. What do we know about the demographic leaving the DC area? Where else do they go besides Pittsburgh? What brings the DC workers to Pittsburgh, as opposed to somewhere else? Are we interviewing these non-native DC transplants?

I worry about what ex-Pittsburghers are telling their co-workers and neighbors about their hometown. I would explore ways of exploiting that word-of-mouth marketing engine.

Monday, July 17, 2006 7:20:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ok, now I am confused. Ya, I am sure you are quick to agree with that, but in your original entry:

But Washington DC is probably the metro region with the most ex-Pittsburghers living there and a whole bunch must make that drive here and back every year.

Now in your latest comment:

Realize also that Washington, DC is not only the home of the most ex-Pittsburghers, it is also generally the source of the largest number of people moving into Pittsburgh each year.

Hmm, ok, so it is both a floor cleaner, and a desert topping?

Well, if there are alot of people both moving to DC, and moving back from DC, then it seems like some sort of temporary stepping stone for political types. Guess I will dig through old issues of PEQ to find the net difference.

Monday, July 17, 2006 8:09:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

not quite sure the question. But yes, DC is the region on top of both lists. Here, see pages 4 and 5 (data and maps) of

Note that there is no reason to believe that the people moving from DC to Pittsburgh are inordinately boomerangs... With migration, the oldest models are still some of the best. A gravity model explains a lot of migration flows within the US to this day. Not to imply this level of research is necessary, but here is my starting point for migration research... I have not actually updated this in some years but here is my bib of migration research as it applies to migration within the US:

but let me be clearer. DC is likely the region with the most ex-Pittsburghers who are in the workforce.. There are retirement communities in FL that are probably the places with the largest numbers of former Pittsburghers of all ages.

Monday, July 17, 2006 8:33:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Hmm, in PEQ 12, there is migration info for July 2002 to July 2003. Your Migration doc was 1999-2000.

Metropolitan Region                          To PIT     From PIT     Net-Migrants
1) Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL  273           635              -362
2) Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ             271           631              -360
3) Washington-Arl-Alex, DC-VA-MD-WV   1,008        1,364              -356
4) Youngstown-Warren, OH-PA              687           994              -307
5) Philadelphia-Cam-Wilm, PA-NJ-DE-MD   957         1,256              -299

New York is also a big source of people but it is nearly equal to the out flow.

Why not put signs on I-76 too? I mean if we can not convince people from Youngstown, of all places, to stay in PIT, then who can we convince?

I would like to see an accumulative migration form the 70's or the 80's forward 20 or 30 years to get a better idea of where the PIT diaspora has landed. These are only one year samples, and in years where the migration from PIT was not that great. I would be surprized if Wash-Arl-Alex was in the top 5 for a 20 year total. Same with Youngstown.

Monday, July 17, 2006 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

these are not samples in any way, they are enumerations. Note that Tampa and Phoenix are heavily impacted by retiree migration flows, especially when it comes to the net numbers. I would say Washington is still tops for economic migration in most years.. And in terms of targeting marketing, is net the right number to look at. The gross flows are what is giving you a potential market in a sense. Also, and again, the net numbers are not relevant to where the most ex-Pittsburghers live becasue there is no reason to assume that in-migrants are inordinately ex-Pittsburghers themselves. So you can have a large inflow from a region while still have a large number of Pittsburgh expatriates still in place in some other region.

Monday, July 17, 2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Arn't these numbers which are not samples exactly the same data tpye and source of data as in your migration document except for a more recent time period?

I never made refer to the FL, and AZ number. As you said obviously retirement movement. Yet, I thought it would provide more context for the relative size of migration to other areas.

So, then what we need is some multi year maybe county to county migration data preferable during the height of the exodus to accumulate 20 or 30 years of people leaving the area to see where the diaspora has accumulated, at least originally. They have probably moved again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 2:05:00 AM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Since we both agree that jobs drive migration, I wonder about the content of the billboards.

... Maybe like a Burma Shave series, one with some job info, another with what some comparative housing prices are in the two regions...

What job info would that be? How pay and salaries are lower in PIT?

How the housing stock in PIT is older than the nation on average?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 5:47:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am sure I have some of the same data for various decades.. but seriously, large metro areas near Pittsburgh are always near top of both flows. Since you seem to discount that it is probably DC.. what region do you think has the most ex-burgher, I am curious.

what would be on the ads? I take you are quite negative on the region but I am not here to argue that. Whatever the horde of marketers are using to 'sell' the region every day is fodder enough. I trust they will find some sliver of hope for us who are here becasue we have voted with our feet.

as for age of housing stock. You are correct on the age of our housing stock. Although you know which region has older housing stock: Boston. So I guess we could say we were like Boston on one of those billboards. Maybe we will get into the economics of the wage differential as well, but that is a huge topic.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 6:02:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ah, that is why I was asking. I don't know what the 20 to 30 year sum of migration would show. I can find county to county data for '95 to '00. Not sure how much information is available online for '75-'80-'85-'90. I would expect DC-MD-VA to be in the top 10. I would be surprised if it was top 5.

Surely, historic housing stock is different than aging. What there a vacancy rate of something like 10% for properties in PIT?

Ya, I voted with my feet too in the early 80's. Then, just prior to the millenium, voted with my heart, or at least a sense of family obligation to move back. Or at least move my wife, the nurse, back so she could assist her stubborn elderly parents that refuse to move. She toke a 30% cut to work in the area, and nurses are pretty much in universal demand. Me? I might be happy with any job in the area that required less than a 50% cut. I have quoted numerous prospective employers in the area a fictional low ball current salary 10's of K's less than I am currently getting, only to hear them gag. It wears thin. Most high tech recruiters are pretty up front about it. Then again, they have had to deal with it for decades now.

The economic reasons do not interest me as much as acknowledging the reality of it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 9:24:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I really don't feel it appropriate to comment on your personal circumstances... but what you describe is an important point in local labor economics. I believe that local employers are so used to being able to find qualified workers in the region that they have long since gotten out of the habit of needing to recruit nationally.. which would require to pay nationally competitive wages. A lot of what you hear about labor shortages is really a shortage of workers willing to work at prevailing Pittsburgh wages.

The issue ironically is not that so many young people leave as a result of low wages, but that the low wages are the result of the fact that we produce so many graudates who do indeed stay and work here. I believe that your experience applies across a wide range of professions, especially those in fields that require higher education. I actually wonder whether local employers (broadly speaking of course) have ever really needed to pay nationally competitive wages.

Well.. since I wrote the housing report I think I know the numbers. but I would suggest looking at the maps of where those vacancies are. Lots of the things like vacancy rates in the region are very concentrated in specific parts of the area most impacted by our economic history. So it's a real problem, but its not fair to say the region-wide vacancy rate means the entire local housing market is slumping. There is little substitutability between the vacant properties in Braddock (highest vacancy rate in the state outside of Centralia) and the housing almost anywhere else in the region.

ok.. ok.. I'll find the past decade migration patterns and see if I can make them available.. the stuff before 1990 that I have is all paper.. big wide reams of computer paper full of irs migration stats.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 9:57:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

here is a story that relates to this. Many years ago I did some consulting for a firm downtown. basic IT/networking stuff that was easy money on the side. When I decided to leave I tried to hire a replacement before I left. I remember interviewing a fellow who had 20 years or so as a senior IT manager at a local utility that was going through some 'restructuring'. He really new his stuff cold. I remember telling him that he was eminently overqualified for the job at hand.. but I also told him that I could easily have gotten him a job in NYC for $200K minimum given his skills and experience. I knew enough technical headhunters, and had just moved from NYC myself to know I was being conservative if anything. The funny thing was that this guy just didn't believe me. He had never thought of leaving town and had never tried to market himself in any other region. I got the impression he was not really about to consider moving anywhere despite the potential of making 100-200% more than he was making at the time.. a Pittsburgh thing for sure.

I am not quite sure how this all got this far on this tangent. I really just wanted to know how long the LCD screens at the airside of the people mover have been there?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

Anything like the following for Pittsburgh?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 2:49:00 AM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

"I believe that local employers are so used to being able to find qualified workers in the region that they have long since gotten out of the habit of needing to recruit nationally.." - Man, than is cynical enought for me to have said it ... ;-) and I have.

I agree, having young grad accept prevailing PIT wages only reenforces the situation. Jobs, any jobs, even jobs paying less than the national average, are enough to slow the exodus.

You ask, rethorically, "I ... wonder whether local employers ... have ever really needed to pay nationally competitive wages.". From my limited experience, when I left in '85, I made 50% more working in Denver. (i.e. Going the other direction would have been a 30% cut.) They were paying even more in CA.

'85 was the big AI boom/bust. I knew a number of people offered jobs at Carnegie Group (CGI) when it was initially starting up, with salary offers that were, frankly, insulting. Now, I am positive that the CMU professors that founded CGI knew exactly what the national market was for software/math/ee grads with an BS, MS or PhD. Needless to say, there were alot of these people that turned CGI down and headed west. In fact, when they informed CGI that they were turning down the offer, and why, the reaction they got was very rude, and terse. Needless to say, I did not even bother to go through the motions of talking to CGI back then.

Yes, I know you wrote that report. That is why I referenced it, rather than the gov source for vacancy data. Yes, it is concentrated in specific areas, but that is true of most cities. We still have a very large average vacancy rate, and this effects the average house price. I suspect that the differential in price for a new construction professional/management type McMansion is much less than the gneric average house differential.

I remember looking at state level migration data published in newspapers or magazines in the late 80's, and I do not remember DC-VA-MD being at the very top bunch of the list of where people from PA went. Nor do I remember the DC-VA-MD area as a well known booming jobs market in the late 70'and early 80's. Of course, it has been a while. Looking at DC MSA numbers, by decade, the 70's had the least population growth of the 4 decades listed.

I enjoyed your IT story, but I am not sure how much of a PIT thing it is. I think it is hard for anyone, in any city, to pack up and leave. Of course, once you are settled, it is hard to return. Money may help tip the choice, but I think it rarely is the first reason. Of course, I do not think making LESS money in a new job, assuming you are not unemployed, rarely if every helps. I can just heard the conversion around the watercooler in DC, "Yup, I moving to PIT, and I going to be making less.". Hardly the thing of co-worker envy.

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