Finding the "Pittsburgh moment"
Pittsburgh alumnus Richard Florida has some new quantification on all things creative. In the Atlantic Cities is a summary of some recent work from his shop that is now showing Pittsburgh as #5 in a particular ranking of 'creative' contributions to the national economy. So near the top? What a difference from just a few years earlier.
A decade ago the Creative Class meme emerged to a broader public with this piece in the Washington Monthly in May of 2002: The Rise of the Creative Class; Why cities without gays and rock bands are losing the economic development race.
Not a lot of positive Pittsburgh vibe at the time coming from the latter reference there.
So I dunno what it all means. Has Pittsburgh really changed so much over the decade between the two references? I am a mesofact kind of guy and really believe that the trends emerging later in the decade are culminations of things that were well in process long before. I will entertain the possibility that I am wrong and there was some eureka moment for the region. The question then becomes when was this singular moment diverting Pittsburgh from its dystopian path?
Since most economic measures, or to be specific the population migration measures, turned positive for Pittsburgh at least as far back as 2007 we can narrow down the.time period 'new' Pittsburgh emerged. Not much in the 2002 article indicated any change had yet even hinted at emerging here so it has to be after that. Yes he hedges a bit on Pittsburgh's prognosisis near the end of the article for those who read that far, but you really sense that was just to mitigate how it would he taken among his still-colleagues and neighbors. One quote early on is this:
" Yet Pittsburgh's economy continues to putter along in a middling flat-line pattern. Both the core city and the surrounding metropolitan area lost population in the 2000 census. And those bright young university people keep leaving. "All the young people were leaving? Beathe Briem... breathe. (note date on that btw)
OK.. back from breathing into the paper bag. Again, when is the 'Pittsburgh moment'? So somewhere between 2003 and 2006. Let's parse a bit further. Total net migration for the Pittsburgh region turned positive by 2007 onward, I would estimate that the net migration of those under age 60 (which is the defintion of 'young' in Pittsburgh right?) likely turned positive a year earlier (and was pretty minimal for years before that). So the big turnaround version means that somewhere between 2003 and 2005 something happened. Something big. We obviously didn't notice at the time, but it must be so important to the region that we must try to distill it and resell it. Any ideas?
It all reminds me of this video which is painful to watch, but I get a bit more erudite-sounding near the end: