Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the quote

So... other than Mark, I didn't spur much interest in my question about the source of this quote:
...the Pittsburgh region's future depends to such a major extent upon retaining and attracting highly qualified and professional and technical people and business enterprisers, who are in demand everywhere and who command a high standard of residential amenity and cultural and professional opportunities.
Maybe it was because everyone assumed the obvious. But the obvious is not quite right by a couple decades. This all comes from Region With a Future. Volume 3 of the Economic Study of the Pittsburgh Region. Produced by the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association. Edgar Hoover, Study Director. Published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. 1964.

This was a big study that took several years to complete. It was funded by the Ford Foundation and issued in 4 volumes. The greater message in that study was that Pittsburgh's competitivenessss in steel manufacturing was clearly draining away for reasons that local forces would not be able to mitigate. The report's long range forecast for local steel output and employment was pretty much dead on. I suspect most didn't believe that forecast when it came out. Even knowing the future, it would have been difficult to deal with. At the time, steel, other heavy manufacturingng industries along with firms directly dependent on these industries pretty much dominated the local economy. Thus there was little to fall back on or shift into. But still, anyone who thinks there were no warning signs on where Pittsburgh's future was heading was pretty much putting their head in the sand. I would encourage everyone interested in Pittsburgh's future to at least scan Pittsburgh's past. Our path since then was laid out in excruciating detail over 40 years ago.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all seriousness, your ongoing efforts to keep those past studies in our collective consciousness is very much appreciated.

With slightly less seriousness, your post leads me to two conclusions: Shame on Dicky for claiming original ideas, and shame on the rest of us for buying into the great hope of his "new" ideas for so long.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 8:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people in 1964 had any sense of how many public, philanthropic, and civic resources would be necessary to compete for the creative class, now that they are acknowledged as the key to economic relevance? After all, didn't the region have plenty of clever people around in 1964, and at that time they didn't seem to need an environment of constant sensual stimulation and ready avenues for idea commercialization? My suspicion is that when developing civic strategies most would have thought providing decent housing to the poor would have been a higher priority than subsidizing artists housing, and that addressing inequity was more important than making sure the economic gliteri had access to bargains at Trader Vic's. But that was a different time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am sure Trader Vic’s had yet to be thought of as an economic development engine in 1964 though he was expanding overseas back then. .. but one of Hoover’s main points was that human capital would be the key to future regional growth as other forms of captial, and competitiveness, became ever more mobile and less geographically fixed. I suppose we could discuss artists per se but Hoover spent a lot more time than anyone before looking at the spatial distribution of things like research labs and educational attainment as things that are regionally significant (nationally significant yes but for regions it was something new) and his connecting that to the need to make places more livable (which he included cultural amenities as being a factor) is something that was not mainstream at the time. Hoover and his colleague here at Pitt, Ben Chinitz would also look at the role of big vs. small business in the role of entreprenureship which is also part and parcel of that dicussion and again something that was not part of the conversation much until they brought these issues up. But there is no doubt they laid down that marker back then and it is pretty much the same questions being dealt with today.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 3:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, you have uncovered the true tragedy of the Pittsburgh region. Dating back to the late 50s, there has been some of the best analysis of regional economies done right here. And time and time again, the conclusion is the same -- diversify away from low value added activities toward more entrepreneurship, more tech, higher education, and value added services.
And, at each turn, the Pittsburgh "elite" or civic leadership has not only ignored the advice, but actively pooh-poohed it, citing the great job their traditional industries were doing at sustaining the region. Even though they don't account for the same share today, they nonetheless continue to pour money into inflatable animals for Pittsburgh Roars, a moderately well done but fruitless movie on the French and Indian War, a birthday party for Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh 250), re-doing Point State Park and 100 miles of riverfront trails.
While none of these (save the movie) are bad projects, they do nothing to impact wealth creation in the region, and our competition pulls farther ahead.
The real tragedy of Tricky Dick Florida is that he serves the equivalent of Kool Aid for Kids -- sugary water that they want, with no nutritional or policy value. Feel good about being creative while your economy sinks further.

Monday, November 20, 2006 12:03:00 AM  

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