What I'd love to see, but doubt I will: A consultant on urban redevelopment who comes in and says: Look, you can't avoid the pain. This city [and you can pick your city; this isn't only about Pittsburgh] won't get off its back unless politicians and business and other community leaders start talking about and making some hard choices. Some people in town are going to lose out, and they're going to be very unhappy, and their unhappiness will simply be a cost of longer term progress. Leaders can avoid making those choices consciously and deliberately and they can avoid doing what they can to miitigate the damage. People will still be unhappy and people will still suffer, but the unhappiness and anger and suffering will seem random and unjust and eventual recovery will be delayed even further. So choose now, or choices will be forced on you later. And here are the options . . . .
An anonymous commenter yesterday wrote:
Pittsburgh needs a new institutional infrastructure to help the region become economically relevant. The weak performance of the ACCD was highlighted very clearly in the RERI report, and since that time there is even less competition in economic development ideas.
I couldn't agree more.
This will take many more than one post, but I'll take a shot: Who are the players of the New Pittsburgh? Who should stay, and who gets cut? Think of this as draft day, and we're going to identify our strengths and our needs, both short-term and long-term.
Who stays (and may get a bigger role):
One -- As I wrote yesterday, UPMC, Pitt, and Carnegie Mellon. These are franchise players for the region, and not just because they're big and they're already here. Duquesne is knocking on this door, but it doesn't have the resources or the international reputation as a research university to play consistently at CMU's and Pitt's level.
Two -- Pittsburgh's corporate R&D economy. This is not particularly visible, and it's not even particularly large as a percentage of the overall regional economy (though Chris Briem and Harold Miller will keep me on the straight path here). But corporate R&D can be an important complement to university research, and it can provide an important connection to money and people outside the region (see Google, Seagate) and outside the U.S. (see Siemens).
Three -- Arts and culture. The Cultural Trust isn't just about the traditional institutions of the Cultural District (which, by the way, is looking pretty nice these days). And the Cultural Trust doesn't exhaust the arts in Pittsburgh. For example, when I travel outside of Pittsburgh, one of the first names I often hear (in the context of "what a great place Pittsburgh must be!) is Bill Strickland.
Four -- the Airport (PIT, not the County). Development out there may finally be getting under way, and it desperately needs to accelerate. I know nothing about the Allegheny County Airport Authority (I can read the website, of course, but that doesn't tell me much). My ignorance itself tells me something. Would it make sense for the Airport Authority to play a bigger public role in regional development? And while we're at it, is there a compelling reason (political, perhaps) for the authority to operate both PIT and the Allegheny County airport? Is this the rare case where consolidation is a bad thing?
Five -- Innovation Works, the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association (and its members), Blue Tree, and (maybe) the Life Sciences Greenhouse. Right now, and outside the university and KIZ environments, these seem to be the key players in tech-oriented, start-up oriented economic development in Pittsburgh. Some of these are short-term players. Ideally, the more successful IW becomes in boosting new companies, the less necessary IW is. But I don't see IW disappearing any time soon.
The football metaphor isn't perfect. In economic terms, Pittsburgh doesn't need a quarterback [not that it has one; rather, economies don't need quarterbacks]; and it doesn't need a playbook [same reason], and most important, there is no TV contract, no licensing revenues, and no revenue sharing among the big clubs. But there is a core of important institutional players, and there are players who can come in off the bench, and there are players whose best years are behind them and who should retire to a life of playing golf on the Senior Tour.
There are more of each of these than I've sketched above. This is just a start. What about local and regional government? The media? Manufacturing? Jobs in general?
Yet to come: Who goes, or becomes a role player.