Thursday, September 12, 2013

October 1992

Everyone has been on the 20 years since The Slide meme so I guess it's my turn.  In a lot of ways October 1992 is seminal point in time for Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh had just endured what may be the worst economic decade any region has experienced in the peacetime history of the nation. Yet by October 1992 things appeared to reach a certain normality again. A few weeks earlier, September's total employment  in the 7 county region reached over 1.1 million for the first time in 11 and a half years. 1992 was probably one of the earlier years where you saw Pittsburgh mentioned in terms of a rustbelt revival.  It was a long revival in coming.

So what brought about the revival? Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series was on October 14, 1992. Just two weeks earlier the new Midfield Terminal at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport had just opened.  For much of the previous decade the prime focus of regional economic development efforts was getting the new terminal built.  You may think we were doing all sorts of other things. However, if you break down the cash the public invested, the airport funding dwarfed all that we might today call Technology Based Economic Development (TBED) efforts, no matter how the history is being written.

So here we are two decades later. Ironically in the news just the other day, the passenger traffic is now sliding even faster and faster of late. We had a lot more passengers 20 years ago.  In fact, it's unlikely the airport will ever again even come close to the number of flights, passengers or economic impact it had in 1992.

What else is not really mentioned much elsewhere?  There was this little event that continues to have repurcussions today.  Most know that the local ink media was shut down in October 1992 because of an ongoing strike that kept both the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from operating.  Not only one of the biggest media strikes in history, but one that saw the Pittsburgh Press go out of business before it was over.  Folks today may not appreciate how traumatic it all was. At the time, there were few alternatives for much of the news that came by ink. No WWW to feed news to you via innumerable modalities. What news did Pittsburghers find hardest to replace?  I suggest it was the obituaries. So desperate was the public to keep up with daily obituaries that local TV news dedicated a portion of their newscasts to run a stream of the lastest notices. October 1992 was probably the point of no return for a strike that had already been going on for 6 months. Opened up the market for some upstart competition from a smaller suburban newspaper once known as the Greensburg Tribune Review. One other repurcusion... the 1992 strike was also the death of the paperboy across Pittsburgh.  (was there any gender equality in paper delivery? The job always appears to be referred to in the masculine.) I'd say someone ought to write an in depth series looking back on the impacts of the strike, but I think most of the potential authors in town are conflicted by the history.

Things were looking up for manufacturing in the region, sort of.  Just a year before, in October 1991, the Sony Corporation began making TV's at their New Stanton site which had again been redeveloped for a 3rd time, after Chrysler and Volkswagen had invested there.  By October 1992 the site had recently expanded to produce the latest in rear projection TV's. Yes, rear projection TV's.The wave of the future and the building block of the region's new electronics cluster. Remember the Sony chip design group set up in the Rubicon Building a few years later in the environs of that which would become Eastside? It's all connected.

More technology?   1992 was indeed the year that Pittsburgh's Urban Maglev Group was founded. That was the slow speed maglev mind you, but still.  Too much history to talk about in that ... a lot of it is relevent today. For another post on another day. 1992 was a big year for Pittsburgh's high speed Maglev Inc. as well. Yes, the same Maglev Inc. that went bankrupt last year. Don't let anyone say we Yunzers are not patient when it comes to pursing economic development policies... Maybe that is our secret sauce?

and no, Border Guard Bob was not yet a glint in the eye of the powers that be anywhere in town. It was actually an odd year when it comes to keeping young people in the region.  1992 was the only year in a span stretching decades before, and decades after that there was positive net migration into the Pittsburgh region. Not a lot mind you, but with a national recession ongoing and Pittsburgh not showing a comparable dip, it was a small analogy to recent times when more folks found Pittsburgh a better economy than elsewhere.  They were voting with their feet and moving into (or not leaving) Pittsburgh.  But it was very fleeting, lasting only the year at most.


Anonymous DBR96A said...

I was a paperboy for the Pittsburgh Press in 1992, and I remember suddenly not having to deliver papers anymore. My next job was at Burger King three years later, after I turned 16.

Friday, September 13, 2013 2:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started a zine (Radio Transcript Newspaper) with a circ of 5000 which coincided with the strike. The strike def helped our little "paper." Much of the country was in a recession when i graduated college in 1991 and Pittsburgh was an inexpensive place to stay put for awhile

Friday, September 13, 2013 4:26:00 PM  

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