Florida on Glaeser on Chinitz on Pittsburgh
The work of Ben Chinitz has been a topic here from before Post Zero. More recently read this post from July for some of the better contemporaneous quotes from the late economist Ben Chinitz on the state of the region's economy here long before anyone really wanted to listen. In particular compare the recent paper by Glaeser on the impact of Pittsburgh's coal economy bating back more than a century with what Chinitz saw in the region well into the 1960s. Old news? Is there a debate on resource based economic development going on anywhere, especially when it comes to workforce issues? Naw, not here!
If you are still reading than you will want to read my friend Mike Madison's version of much of these themes in this working paper: Contrasts in Innovation: Pittsburgh Then and Now
The Chinitz message goes way beyond the impacts of the coal economy here. Though not directly attributed to him alone, Chinitz was also a director the 4 volume Economic Study of the Pittsburgh Region that had a more direct message for the region. In particular this quote I re-use a lot.
...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.That quote is from 1964 and specifically from: Region With a Future. Volume 3 of the Economic Study of the Pittsburgh Region. Produced by the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association.
The message there, that human capital was as vital, if the the most vital, factor in future regional competitiveness, may sound de riguer today it was as revolutionary as it was ignored at the time. Pittsburgh would be as unprepared for the the future for decades to come and make the pain of the transition that had to come all that more painful.
So it was a message before its time, not just for Pittsburgh, but for regions most everywhere. 50 years later people still may argue with it, but it is not such a cry in the dark.