Urban Aspirations

For Pittsburghers who dream of making Pittsburgh as dynamic and diverse as more worldly cities, be careful what you wish for. Catching up on my reading yesterday, I came across two sobering articles:

Toronto: Nice but broke / Canada's aspiring city state

It is lauded for its cosmopolitan feel and quality of life. But it also suffers from budget problems and creaking infrastructure just when—for the first time in a century—its status as Canada's pre-eminent city is being challenged. The contender is Calgary, in Alberta, the western base of the country's booming energy industry. Though its population is only 1m, it is growing fast. Calgary is building new schools, hospitals and roads and luring corporate head offices.

In contrast, Toronto's economy is under pressure. Its manufacturing industry shed 100,000 jobs in the past five years, because of a strong currency and competition from China. Not all the news is grim. The Toronto area still attracts two of every five immigrants to Canada. Private wealth is pouring into new museums, theatres and art galleries. And Toronto is still Canada's financial centre. Yet few would now describe it as “New York run by the Swiss”, as did Peter Ustinov, a British actor and writer, in a double-edged quip in 1987.

Toronto's prospects turn in part on sorting out its finances. It faces a deficit of about C$575m ($550m) this year on current spending of C$7.8 billion. The problems date from the 1990s, when the federal government eliminated its own deficit partly by cutting funding to provinces. Ontario responded by passing responsibility for social housing, welfare and other social programmes to the cities, which struggled to pay for them out of property taxes.

San Francisco: City in a bottle / The strange half-recovery of California's prettiest city

The city's finance and insurance industry has moved or made redundant 15% of its workers, and now employs fewer people than during the recession of the early 1990s. Outside a few niches, manufacturing seems to be in terminal decline.

The face of San Francisco is changing, too. Like other big cities, it is being abandoned by blacks; more unusually, Hispanics are also leaving. Long a childless place, it is becoming ever older. During the boom years of the late 1990s, the city sucked in young people. Since the bust, some of them have aged and others have left, not to be replaced. The Association of Bay Area Governments reckons the population of twenty-somethings in San Francisco fell by 38% between 2000 and 2005.


47 Responses to "Urban Aspirations"

Anonymous said... 8/01/2007 12:03 PM

What this really says to me is that every city has problems. Pittsburgh's problems, while we should certainly aspire to fix them, are not so unique as some folks seem to think. Which I've been saying for years, but these articles are an excellent example.

Schultz said... 8/01/2007 1:39 PM

Pittsburgh's problems are unique if you compare it to cities outside of the rust belt.

No job growth (good paying jobs Sid!), lack of immigrants, young people fleeing to other cities. Besides Buffalo, where else is this happening? Did you know Pittsburgh population does not even put it in the top 50? We are 57th at roughly 313,000. Cleveland, friggin Cleveland, is #40 at 444,000, and although they are in trouble as well it still hurts to see that.

You are right in that every city has its problems. High growth and lack of management of that growth can really deteriorate a region. Atlanta comes to mind. How do places like Atlanta, with its pitiful air quality, shortage of water, and congested highways, continue to attract young people and both early stage and mature businesses? Here is what I have seen down in Hotlanta - cultural harmony and openness to diversity. Atlanta, unlike Pittsburgh, is open to gays, and unlike here all races seem to get along. Someone asked "what is the big deal about diversity", well, here in Pittsburgh we can continue to close our minds and close our doors to those that are different, and we will continue to see young people and creative individuals opting to move to cities other than Pittsburgh.

I am sure that is fine for a lot of Pittsburghers as, like the Atlanta case, there are problems that come with growth. But if growth is managed and the city builds for it, like Austin Texas has, then we can have a very livable city that keeps people here rather than seeing them flee to other "non-livable" places for jobs. Why can't we have the best of both worlds?

Sorry Madisonian but this is where I agree with Dick Florida argument for the creative class cities.

C. Briem said... 8/01/2007 3:25 PM

Huh? The City of Pittsburgh retains the best jobs in the region, at least by income. Job growth in suburbs is more driven by service and retail jobs supporting population movement. Is this some version of the myth that jobs are leaving the city? Not only that but Pgh retains those high paying jobs better than most other rust belt cities.. or most other cities where edge cities have long since pulled a lot of those jobs out of the center city.. something that has not really happened here to the same degree. So I am at a loss to figure out what you are referencing unless you just mean the big picture about loss of well paying manufacturing jobs... but that is certainly not a city specific issue??

but I think the article was really talking regionally about Toronto anyway...

Trying to push every single issue into this city population framework reminds me of some old billboards there used to be town... I think it was BO's first campaign for mayor where the billboard said "Bob will keep your babies from leaving" or something pretty close to that.

Anonymous said... 8/01/2007 4:48 PM

In response to schultz:

"No job growth" - Slow yes, but not non-existent. You might want to read this if you have a chance: http://www.popcitymedia.com/features/best%20performing%20cities.aspx

"Lack of immigrants" - It's true we don't get enough, but 'lack' implies 'none' and that is untrue.

"Young people fleeing to other cities" - A popular myth but completely untrue.

I don't want this to turn into a big debate, but I think your post contains a few exaggerations and half truths.

AZMike said... 8/01/2007 5:00 PM


Did you live in Atlanta long, or have you just visited? I was there once and didn't get the feeling that it was a diverse, cosmopolitan city. What I've read is that business and civic leaders have made great efforts to overcome the legacy of southern segregation and the attitudes that went with segregation. Of course, one would actually have to live in area to know how much affect those efforts have had on people's hearts and minds.

Also, I've read that much of the growth in Atlanta region is taking place in the suburbs. That, in turn, results in long commutes and air pollution, as you mentioned. Many of the drivers stuck in the traffic commutes are driving long distances from downtown jobs to get back to their all white suburbs. These folks are typically not particularly fond of diversity. This is typical of many of the fast-growing hot and warm areas around the country, such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, etc.

It would be great to some kind of analysis of job growth and population in places like Atlanta. I get the feeling that most of the job growth is caused by the population growth. So you get lots of jobs in construction, retail, etc. Most of those jobs don't pay well, but they're better than nothing for the people moving down from declining rust belt areas. That sort of economy is really not something that Pittsburghers should envy. Like I said, that's the felling that I get about those hot and warm places, not necessarily anything based on statistics.

Dennis Roddy said... 8/01/2007 10:08 PM

A few notes of caution about drawing too many conclusions about the future of Toronto versus Calgary. First off, this would not be the first time Toronto was threatened with backwater status. The city's reputation for vibrancy is really a rather new thing. Not 50 years ago it was viewed as a stodgy, uninspired provincial city. The action and money were in Montreal, which had been the center of banking, commerce, international trade and, of course, affordable, quality red wine. Montreal shot itself in the foot -- actually it missed, and landed a slug in its head -- with the language laws that were calculated to make its large Anglophone population feel unwelcome. That led to the departure of a monied English speaking upper class -- a flight that did not break the hearts of Francophone Canadians who had long been treated badly by their bosses. It did, however, break an important portion of their economy and left Montreal stranded economically.
The conclusion I'm inviting you to draw here -- and debate and correct if I'm wrong (I'm no economist, but I know a few things about Canada) -- is this: Canada might offer the true paradigm of the New Economy and its effects on population centers. That is to say that money and economic vibrancy moves in waves, from place-to-place, and to the extent that people need to be there to participate. Calgary is drawing people because keyboards can't drill wells or crush the oil out of shale beds. But this labor-intensive form of growth will make Calgary much less like Toronto than like Houston. And if my surmise about Houston is correct, Calgary will alternate between occasional cash-pit and a sprawling camp where a passerby can read the economy by the number of boarded windows and broken screen doors.
Pittsburgh is 47th in population among cities. Cleveland is welcome to 40th. The population living here is not a measure of the population living around here. Our metropolitan area is still large and it is large with what can -- if deployed with imaginative and creative leadership -- become the locus of the next economic boom. I'm not much familiar with Richard Florida's "creative class" theory. I imagine that, denuded of its academic mumbo jumbo, he means people who went to college and learned enough to be useful. We have that here and we have, too, a core population of that group that very much desires to stay here. The measure of this town's future is that it is, in addition to being a hard city to recruit to, it's equally hard to recruit from. Toronto has little to worry about. Once the paychecks thin slightly, Calgary will empty like an eighth period Latin class.

Some great posts on this thread. Fire away.

EdHeath said... 8/01/2007 10:28 PM

My brother lives in the Greater Atlanta area, having moved from here. To be specific, his town is near the Atlanta airport, and kind of about the same distance from the Atlanta downtown as Washington, Pa is from the Pittsburgh downtown. As for cultural harmony and openness to diversity, I think the situation is much the same as in New Orleans before Katrina, without the good food or music. Which is to say, a lot of the diverse population (i.e. African-American) is stuck in the inner city, without good jobs or housing. The Atlanta downtown used to and I believe still empties out when it gets dark, quiet except for occasional gunfire. If there were a flood in inner city Atlanta, which is to say an event similar to Katrina, I believe several of the white suburbs would react the way some white suburbs of New Orleans did, by turning back refugees.

Of the “good” jobs in the South, I’m sure many are quite good. But some of the high profile plants were set up as particularly non-union shops, and may only pay well relative to be unemployed. And there are other “manufacturing” jobs in agricultural processing that tend to employ illegal’s, and chain the emergency exits. I’m sure that azmike is at least partly correct about the job growth in the Atlanta area, as maybe the biggest city in the Southeast, I believe it has a large service sector.

From what I have seen, the South is still struggling to deal with its particular history of slavery, segregation and racism. That the last few years have seen hard economic times for most of us below the top ten percent has made that harder there as well as here.

Schultz said... 8/01/2007 11:41 PM

Sid - I just finished up at Tepper last fall. Almost the entire class left - the jobs here do not pay well! The big companies here are not innovative and do not offer much advancement. It is as if the big companies here collude to keep salaries low. Maybe 15% of the class stuck around, those who took jobs with PNC, Heinz, Alcoa, and a few who stayed went consulting, startup, or started a business.

Schultz said... 8/01/2007 11:47 PM


I wouldn't want to get into a big debate either since you have nothing to add besides nonsense. Lack does not mean "none", it means we are lacking immigrants, meaning we could use more.

Check this out:

Lack of Immigrants fueling population decline

If we want things to change we need to face reality. I know we all love Pittsburgh and want to think these problems do not exist, but come on. We're going nowhere fast!

Schultz said... 8/01/2007 11:57 PM


I've been to Atlanta many times over the years, came close to moving down there a few times. A lot to like but also a few things I didn't like, like the congestion and air quality, which is a result of most of metro region's growth taking place in the northern suburbs. That doesn't mean the city is not growing - many young people live in midtown Atlanta, a very diverse neighborhood, and also nearby neighborhoods such as Virginia Highlands and Buckhead. Most of the suburban growth is from families leaving the city or relocating to the area.

As for job growth, I am afraid you are wrong there. Most of the job growth is coming from the diverse industries in Atlanta - companies both big and small from industrial and high tech. Atlanta has 3rd highest number of Fortune 500 firms at 14


and has a decent ranking for high tech job growth.


Schultz said... 8/02/2007 12:05 AM


No offense to your brother, but Southeast Atlanta is the worst part of the city, just go listen to an album from the hip hop duo Outkast and you'll hear stories about College Park and East Point, which are both close to the airport and on the MARTA line which runs through downtown Atlanta. It is funny how you think the south would have a tougher time with racial harmony than the north due to the slavery issue - but from my experiences living in the north most of my life and visiting the south often, I have to say that is complete backward.

Just look at the situation here in Pittsburgh - it is not good!

As for downtown Atlanta, yes, it is primarily a business district, but it is not the ghost town that downtown Pittsburgh is. Most of the city life is north of downtown - midtown, buckhead, highlands. I've experienced it first hand.

I've also done my homework - you're assumptions about Atlanta's economy are erroneous. UPS, Coke, Georgia Pacific, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, AFLAC, Cox - lots of big companies that are growing down there, not to mention the high tech sector which provides a nice diverse job mix. See post from above.


Schultz said... 8/02/2007 11:33 AM

Ed - forgot about one really nice area southeast of the city of Atlanta and the airport. Peachtree City is kind of far out there like you said but it is one of the few desirable suburbs that isn't north of the city, I think it was voted one of the best places to live.

Also, for the 2006 Best places poll Atlanta scored over 600 on the diversity index. My argument for diversity is that it attracts the younger creative types who come from different backgrounds and careers and embrace diversity as they see it as a sign of the region's tolerance and openness to change.

Schultz said... 8/02/2007 11:35 AM

Sid - I heard something the other day about Equitable Resources moving from the city to Butler County. Seems like more and more businesses these days are choosing to not locate in Pittsburgh or even Allegheny County.

What is up with that?

Anonymous said... 8/02/2007 12:59 PM

Let's put the semantics aside, schultz. That doesn't really have anything to do with my real point, which is simply this: There is a difference between "facing reality" and exaggerating. Yes, the city does have some problems, and *as I said in my first post* I do think they should be worked on. But I was saying that every city has problems, and I think some people blow Pgh's problems out of proportion sometimes. (This isn't a comment about you, I mean in general).

Pittsburgh retains young people (and people in general) much better than most people think.
50% of college graduates stay here (up from 40% in the mid 90's), which is in keeping with that national average. Of course some people leave, that is true of any city. But we don't actually lose more than average. (This is a FACT - look at this chart: http://www.pittsburghfuture.com/economy/regionalmigration20002004.gif
Obviously some cities did quite well, but some did much worse, and Pgh is in neither extreme).

Should we work on our problems? Yes. But I am kind of tired of people acting like the world is ending for Pgh. And I think big exaggerations such as "young people are fleeing" do not help.

I'm done with this now. We could be here for days talking back and forth about it. This is a heated subject with a lot of people on both sides who I doubt will ever see eye to eye.

EdHeath said... 8/02/2007 5:28 PM

Well, Peachtree City would be where my brother lives. It is a very pretty city, populated by Delta pilots who may celebrate diversity, but only at a high level of income. It has nice walking paths that are over-run with golf carts. My view of Atlanta is filtered through his perceptions; he had mentioned that he thought Buckhead was now a predominately African American area at night.

Obviously parts of Atlanta and the metro area are university communities, which about guarantees a sizeable creative group. I’m sure that there are very desirable areas in the Atlanta area to live in, and its economy seems to be moving right along. When I was talking about jobs in the south, I was thinking about places like Alabama and North Carolina, because I was thinking about the manufacturing jobs that Pittsburgh has lost, and that seem to have been picked up in the South.

My family is southern, and I have talked to relatives about racial issues in the south and the north. Remember that the civil rights movement started in the south, and was fairly violent. But I will agree that Boston and other northern cities (including Pittsburgh) put their own spin on racism during the busing of the seventies. My personal view is that the racism of the south is a bit more folksy and relaxed, but no less prevalent than in the nervous and embarrassed north. They are still arguing about the Confederate battle flag in various southern states, but up here we are looking at a report about two Pittsburghs, one white and one African-American.

Oh, your links are too long for the setup of this blog.

C. Briem said... 8/02/2007 5:31 PM

Tepper grads are modal City of Pittsburgh residents?

and why is Equitable possibly moving out.. they can't fit their space.. Why is Westinghouse planning on move from county to Butler: same, space and access to airport.

correlation and causality......

Adam said... 8/02/2007 5:34 PM

Mr. Schultz,
Two questions for you:
1) Tepper is a highly ranked MBA program in a small metro area, right? Now, I know little to nothing about how MBA programs and post-MBA recruitment works. Can you give us comparable statistics for other areas and the highly
ranked MBA programs in those areas?
In the absence of comparable statistics, 15% sounds a little low but not an outrageous failure on the part of the Pittsburgh metro area economy.

2) Also, could you clarify when you think central city population/economic statistics are important measures and when you think metro area population/economic statistics are the important ones. You seem concerned with the problems of the "city" of Pittsburgh compared to the metro area of Atlanta. I don't get it.

Schultz said... 8/02/2007 6:57 PM

Sid - the city should try to retain as many Tepper grads as it can. I admit I am biased, but why should we allow those grads that will become business leaders build companies elsewhere?

There is plenty of space in the city, but dollar for dollar companies can get a better value outside the county without much disruption of their day to day business.

Anonymous said... 8/02/2007 7:22 PM

I think what Schultz is saying is that talented people are continuing to leave the region (city, county, metro, whatever). And I bet most of the Tepper and general CMU grads that stay have ties to the region other than CMU. The types of people that are likely to generate good jobs, are the ones that either aren't moving here or are moving away.

C. Briem said... 8/02/2007 10:23 PM

I know what he is saying and the premise is baseless. The City of Pittsburgh is one of the most educated cities in the country.. especially when you look specifically at the cocentration of those with advanced degrees. So somebody is staying? If more graduates stayed we would soon resemble that in Player Piano.

and I obviously am too subtle for my own good. Respond to Adam's comment if you can.

This is really what I hate about politics more than anything else and why so little gets done by politicians. Once you get involved in this political racket you have to become the most negative person in the world to justify a particular cause. This is ridiculous. Chris, your candidate has plenty of issues to run on that you don't need to go making up things that are baseless.

Schultz said... 8/02/2007 11:34 PM

"...you don't need to go making up things that are baseless."

Hold on now CHRIS, I've been on Pittsblog since the early days, back in late 2004, discussing these sames issues. DO NOT try to bring my politics into this because that, CHRIS, is baseless.

Yes, the city is very well educated, but....it is not growing. Smart people, good people here that love Pittsburgh have to leave the area to find work. If there were enough jobs and the business climate was fair, do you think all of those Steeler fans you see at road games would be living in those cities all over the US?? Have you not been reading all of Madison's, and others, posts on the Pittsburgh Diaspora? A lot of those people would move back here in a second if they could.

I hear from people all the time who want me to help them find work so that they can relocate from places as different as Southern California (few months back) and Cincinnati(last week).

So, I do not have the time to dig up the numbers. All I can do is tell you what I have seen with my two eyes and heard with my two ears, from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.

After I graduated from Duquesne U. back in 2000 I lived down in Northern VA. Cool place when you are young, but not cool if you are piled under debt and can't afford to pay it down because of ridiculous rent. And the congestion and sprawl......don't get me started on that. So I moved back after one year.....I was lucky....and I obviously care about this region and city otherwise I wouldn't be doing what I am doing.

Chris - does that satisfy you or do you need more? Oh, and do not appreciate your call out...." if you can...." Please. Some of us choose to crunch numbers and spin the results so that everything seems peachy and there are no red flags. Others of us are doers, we try to make things happen.

I guess I most of struck a nerve but believe me, I am positive about the region. I do see more young people staying here to start businesses and see a network of entrepreneurs that seems to be growing stronger and stronger. We do have the assets - the universities, the young entrepreneurs, now all we need is leadership with some guts to make the tough decisions that will take us to the next level.

So, are we there yet? No. So why should we settle on having an average economy with stagnant population growth and a "lack" of immigrants?

Schultz said... 8/02/2007 11:55 PM


1). Sometime last year I posted a table that showed where Tepper graduates from either '06 or '05 had accepted jobs. Anon was correct in that most of the part timers who work in Pittsburgh end up staying here after graduation, usually with the same employers, although some cannot get the bump up in pay and responsibility after they get the MBA so they move on to other companies in and outside the Pittsburgh region.

Here is a stat about where the MBA from 2006 accepted jobs.

Funny how that correlates to Florida's list of top creative cities from over 5 years ago.

I know a lot of people look down upon Florida's work, (or the work of his assistant?) but I think he was on to something there.

2. I'm not sure how I lost you but I guess I was talking about the city of Atlanta's growth, which has been above average, and then the metro region's growth, which has been huge. In the city of Atlanta, the neighborhoods I was referring to, are predominantly younger people. Great night life, great restaurants, big companies, small companies, arts, it has a lot to with it. I think the openness to diversity is the catch though, people seem to like that they can be who they are and not worry about people looking. The reason I think the suburbs to the north are booming well, I think the schools are better, McMansions on golf courses, and to be frank, I do think some of the people that are "old south" conservatives aren't really on board with the openly gay friendly city government, I wasn't trying to say that the entire Atlanta metro area was open to diversity.

Presentation on Creative Class in Atlanta

Mike Madison said... 8/03/2007 12:05 AM

I'll referee here just for a moment:

As Chris (B) and regular Pittsblog readers know, I'm a Richard Florida skeptic. There is certainly something to the idea that a growing city and numbers of entrepreneurial "creatives" are associated, but there isn't a lot of data to back up the idea that "creatives" lead growth, rather than the reverse.

In Pittsburgh's case, I've argued pretty consistently since I started blogging that Pittsburgh (both city and region) needs job growth more than it needs "creative class" growth. There is a fair amount of creative talent here, and while Pittsburgh can always use more, a talent shortage is not at the top of Pittsburgh's problems. What Pittsburgh needs more of, in my view, is population coming into the region -- city and region -- at the lower levels of the economic pyramid. Given the right settings, those folks will work hard and move on up, creating space for more to follow.

Three thoughts: First, some would say that there are plenty of people already in the city and the region who would like the opportunity to work hard and move on up. Chris (B) has the data to show that in the aggregate, this number is relatively small. In particular places and among particular communities, however, it is a serious problem. Second, it is not at all clear where the jobs are going to come from to draw in new populations of people. High tech entrepreneurs (and recent MBA grads, and gallery owners and restauranteurs, etc.) are never going to create enough jobs quickly enough to make a real dent -- though energy from high tech entrepreneurs can create a kind of weather that makes Pittsburgh feel like a more vibrant place. The Creative Class is a little like the Pittsburgh Steelers: The income distribution is so concentrated and the number of jobs so small that they'll never have more than a minor economic impact on the city or region as a whole. But both institutions generate lots and lots of psychic income for the region.

And third, the organization and direction of Pittsburgh's existing creative talent is surely less than optimal. Legacy institutions and social structures are enormous obstacles for the region. That, more than engaging the Creative Class, is a main concern of the Manifesto and the Pittsburgh Diaspora.

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 12:07 AM


To be fair, I did go back and read my first post. The "young people fleeing" is probably what got you up at arms. I do admit that was an exaggeration Chris. They aren't fleeing like they did back in the 80's, but, I still think we can do better and have a ways to go.

I agree and disagree with what you said in your PG article from several years back

"Yes, our population is declining, and the demographic factors making it so will likely continue for several years. But overall it is not an issue of local jobs or local amenities that is forcing people to move out. Can we improve even more and become such a destination that masses of people will start to arrive here? Maybe that can be our goal."

I still think we have a jobs issues, the amenities have come a long way since I came here back in 1996, and yes, we still need to strive to make Pittsburgh a destination city that people come here for college and then stay because they can find a great job to go along with the great quality of life.

With that being said, let's not forget that there still are some serious issues here - the political landscape is and has been a mess for some time now. Decisions have been made and are being made without the best intentions of the city and region in mind. As my wife and I were driving around the South Hills the other day I was asking myself "why does the T line extend all the down to the southern tip of Allegheny County in Library PA yet we cannot get a link from downtown to Oakland??"

The other night I read the Skybus report that Chris had linked to on his web page. Good lord, no wonder there is unrepairable damage to the psyche of a lot of folks around here. I feel like the North Shore Connector is heading down that path. And they thought Maglev as a boondoggle!


Schultz said... 8/03/2007 12:12 AM


Here are those links - not sure why they did not show in my last post to you.



Schultz said... 8/03/2007 12:16 AM


I agree with you about the Chicken and Egg problem with some of Florida's studies, but I do think that there are some cities that are more progressive where his work seems to make sense. San Fran, Seattle, and Austin come to mind. Were the hippies in San Fran before Apple Computer? I think the hippies started Apple, no? Chicken and Egg came at the same time maybe? Speaking of hippies and starting tech companies - what about Microsoft and Seattle? Were those hippies responsible for the tech boom in Seattle? or was it Hendrix?

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 12:19 AM


By the way, my answer to Pittsburgh's woes is not solely more creative types, it is that and a combination of things - taxes, public policy (sports stadiums #1 priority, etc), transit, and so on. But again, I think it all comes back to Skybus.


Jim Russell said... 8/03/2007 12:29 AM

Tepper graduates leaving the region shouldn't be our concern. No region can be all things to all graduates. Strong out-migration is healthy. It indicates that local education is valued in the global marketplace.

To look at local institutions of higher education as a ready supply of talent is bad policy. Pittsburgh should be shy about looking outside of the region for innovation.

Jefferson Provost said... 8/03/2007 10:00 AM

A lot of [diasporans] would move back here in a second if they could.

This statement is taken as an axiom by almost everyone who talks about the diaspora, but I'm not sure if it really stands up under close scrutiny. This is a difficult thing to collect data on, obviously. Most of the evidence is anecdotal, but that's unreliable. People only notice the positive examples. I ran into a fair number of Pittsburghers in Austin, and it's not as if we sat around talking about how much Austin sucked and how we wished we were back in Pittsburgh. I don't recall anyone saying "boy, if only I could get a job in Pittsburgh, I'd go back in a second." (More likely, we were doing exaggerated Pittsburghese impressions for our non-Burgh friends, or sharing war stories about how hard it is to navigate around here in a car.) My general impression is that Pittsburghers in Austin are prospering and happy to be there.

My wife and I came back, but it was only at the very end of my eight years in Austin that we decided that coming back was something we wanted to do -- because of family issues that are unique to us, or at least unusual. Before that, we were open to going almost anywhere in the country, with a bias toward warm-weather places. This is not to say that I don't like it here, but as for places to live, I rank it somewhere in the middle: Above Houston or really anwhere on the Gulf Coast, below Austin or say, Seattle.

My feeling is that the people who really want to move back here are families with kids, but this is a phenomenon that was already occuring 20 years ago. I remember when I was in college I was already hearing about how college students left town after graduation, and then moved back as thirtysomethings with kids. This is a pretty good place to raise a family.

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 11:28 AM

JP - I heard Austin and Seattle were both pretty kick ass places to live so I see your point. What is not to like about either of those cities?

The cost of living in Seattle if very high, but besides that downfall I did consider Seattle after I finished business school.

Mike Madison said... 8/03/2007 11:29 AM


There were hippies before there was Apple, and Steve Jobs himself was a pretty groovy cat (read John Markoff's "What the Doormouse Said" for more), but that misses the point, and it also misses the real texture of life in the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Jobs and Apple and other PC pioneers were part of a very small and very passioniate suburban subculture in Menlo Park, the same subculture that produced the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Joan Baez and Ken Kesey and that nurtured Thorsten Veblen decades before. That little subculture was surrounded, however, by a vast and bland and conformist suburban domain. (I wrote about this here.) The counterculture of the Mid-Peninsula was like a zoological preserve, productive and creative precisely because it was separate and distinct from the broader and larger culture that lived next door. I won't bore you with more details here, except to note that I grew up in that town and in that era, and everyone knew who and where those people lived and worked -- and where the one head shop was -- and most of us went about their daily lives happily ignorant of what they were doing. The women kissed their husbands goodbye; the husbands got on the train; the train took them to San Francisco. The Menlo Park police wore green blazers and drove green sedans, with no red cherries on top. It was that dull.

The point is not that you want "Creatives" to dominate the culture; they certainly didn't in that era in San Francisco, or even today. Steve Jobs etc. were outsiders, not mainstream. What you want is an economic and cultural infrastructure that supports the interests of people who want to grow new enterprises -- whether those are cultural or economic or some combination of the two. It shouldn't and doesn't matter whether they are hippies or hipsters or young college grads or MFAs or MBAs. San Francisco and its environs have had that for decades, going back to the mid-19th century. (Leland Stanford was the Andrew Carnegie of the West Coast, more or less.) *That's* what gave you Apple - and Intel - and HP - and Levi Strauss - and the Bank of America. Pittsburgh had it once. Pittsburgh needs to get that back.

Adam said... 8/03/2007 11:39 AM


Thanks for the links. I've read Richard Florida. Suffice it to say I'm not convinced. But even if I were convinced that he is 100% right, then he doesn't really support your case that "Pittsburgh's problems are unique." On the Richard Florida charts, Pittsburgh usually ends up somewhere in the middle for major metro areas (top 50). Given that we're the 22nd largest metro area, where do you expect us to rank? Sure, it's nice to exceed expectations but it's hard to get too pessimistic about a mid-size provincial city with a mid-size provincial economy with some potential for growth in some of the expected growth areas of the economy in the next decades.

As for MBA placement, thanks for the link. But I think you misunderstood my question. What's behind the question is this: the higher ranked a graduate/professional program is, the more the job market for its graduates is national and not local. (In the case of MBA's, I would guess that the market is increasingly international at the very top.) In other words, I would expect New York (and London) to take the lion's share of MBA's from Wharton, Harvard, Kellog, etc. If Tepper is really up there in that tier or close to it, then 15% staying in Pittsburgh doesn't sound that bad.

Here's what I just found in about 10 minutes with Google:

2.6% of class of 2006 took jobs in Philadelphia (http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba/careers/statistics/fulltime.cfm).

11% of class of 2006 took jobs in Boston

So looks like Pittsburgh is doing rather well compared to our hi-tech/bio-tech Northeastern neighbors in terms of retaining our top MBA products.

Northwestern (Kellog)
27% of class of 2006 took jobs in Chicago

doesn’t break down by metro area but by region
best I could find was 51% stay in the “West” (let’s say half stay in the Bay Area so 25% of the class)

Now you might object that all this demonstrates is the dominance of management consulting jobs or finance jobs in taking most MBA students from the top schools. When I glanced at the websites, it did look like McKinsey is the top employer at most of these places. And yes, then we're taking NY, Chicago, London, San Francisco.

Now, if Tepper's MBA class has a fundamentally different profile in terms of job type than these other schools, ok. But if the profile is much the same and if you think that retention of top MBA students is somehow important, then it looks like Pittsburgh is doing pretty well here.

Adam said... 8/03/2007 11:44 AM

PS The "100 Top MBA Employers" is a misleading headline. It's not a survey of where people took jobs.

The fine print on the chart:

"% of MBA candidates who say they'd most like to work there."

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 11:58 AM


Thank you for dropping the knowledge! Seriously, that is some interesting stuff on the bay area/valley I was not aware of. I was just thinking - one part of town I really like that has that neat vibe to it is that strip of Craig Street in Oakland, between Pitt and CMU. We do have other pockets like that - I'm a big fan of Squirrel Hill's business district - so it is encouraging to see places like that around town.

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 1:55 PM


The percentages you listed are misleading. 11% of Harvard's MBA class is like 80 students. Tepper's fulltime enrollment is only 150. My point was that there are a lot of graduates that want to stay but cannot find good paying jobs here in Pittsburgh.

In places like Boston, Chicago, NY, those students could stay if they wanted to because there is strong demand for MBA graduates in those markets.

Mike Madison said... 8/03/2007 2:11 PM

The debate over a given local market's capacity to absorb new MBAs -- whether or not they want to stay -- misses the point. Top-tier business schools (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc.) are not designed as training grounds for their local economies. The schools aren't indifferent to where their graduates take jobs, but the fact that Harvard, UPenn, and Stanford alums take jobs outside of Boston, New York, Philly, and Palo Alto is a *good* thing in the context of the schools' international standing and identity.

If CMU and Tepper are anxious that "only" 15% of its grads can find jobs in Pittsburgh -- and I'm not sure that this is a real anxiety at Tepper itself -- then that's a sign that Tepper *isn't* operating in that high-level market. Does Tepper fancy itself a national or international school, or merely a regional feeder? If the former, then a hypothetical 15% retention rate is better than the norm; if the latter, then a 15% retention rate is cause for concern.

I know, from a variety of sources at CMU (both faculty and administration) that CMU aspires to be seen in more cosmopolitan terms. Personally, I would be much more interested in the number of Harvard or Stanford MBAs that do end up in Pittsburgh than the number of Tepper MBAs that don't.

Schultz said... 8/03/2007 2:42 PM


My point has nothing to do with Tepper wanting to supply the Pittsburgh region. It is Tepper students - those coming from Pittsburgh and even outside the region, wanting to stay here but finding that they have to leave after they finish their studies.

I don't think those at the Tepper school care where their graduates go to find work - as long as they are successful and can give back to the school - ala David Tepper - I don't think it matters to them.

Mike Madison said... 8/03/2007 3:06 PM


If this is a cause for concern, the concern is that Pittsburgh's economic infrastructure isn't sufficiently open to organizational novelty -- the region doesn't actively embrace new business the way that some communities do -- not that Tepper grads can't find jobs. The question is: If top of class Tepper grads are likely to find jobs where they want, what do mid-class and bottom-of-class Tepper grads do? If they want to stay in Pittsburgh and work for an established company, they may have a tough time, because they're competing against MBAs from all over. is there room and support here for those that simply want to start businesses?

Our law school has a corresponding "problem": we have students who would like to stay in Pittsburgh and practice law here, but there aren't enough law firm jobs for new lawyers to accommodate all of them. Many of them leave the area. A problem? Not really: First, Pittsburgh already has far more lawyers -- at least far more private lawyers -- than it needs. Second, Pitt JD grads are competing for local jobs with JDs from lots of schools, not just with Duquesne and Dickinson/Penn State alums. Pitt has no monopoly on graduating smart people.

The first of these problems is specific to law; it doesn't translate to the MBA market. (Pittsburgh doesn't have an existing surplus of MBAs.) But the second problem does map onto the Tepper situation: Not all excess capacity for new managers in Pittsburgh is going to go to Tepper grads. Some will go to other local MBAs, much will go to MBAs from other schools. If you're a new mid-class JD and can't find a law firm job, then hanging out your shingle is a very difficult thing to do, especially in a saturated market like this one, but in truth it's difficult anywhere.

If you're a new MBA, in many markets heading out on your own is risky but perfectly acceptable, even encouraged. My sense is that Pittsburgh isn't one of them.

jet said... 8/03/2007 4:34 PM

Oh, to have the problems that San Francisco has.

Last time I was out there a friend of mine was telling me about the new studio apt available next door in Potrero Hill, it's *ONLY* $1700/mo rent.

Or talk to another friend of mine who just spent $550K on a townhouse in a neighborhood where people get shot on the street in broad daylight.

Or any of my friends who complain about all the calls they get from headhunters wanting them to quit their current job and come work for the competition.

Yeah, San Francisco sure has fallen on hard times.

Jim Russell said... 8/04/2007 10:36 AM

The percentage of college graduates staying in the region is irrelevant. I can’t think of an important reason as to why I would track the % of Tepper graduates staying in Pittsburgh. I would worry about the number of college graduates moving to Pittsburgh. The sooner the region moves beyond the brain drain obsession, the better.

Schultz said... 8/04/2007 9:48 PM


I read one of your recent posts over at your blog - your point about going after graduates from the regions our graduates are relocating to is a good one. Having individuals with degrees besides RMU, DUQ, CMU, PITT, etc wouldn't hurt.

I guess my point was that it is too bad people have to leave Pittsburgh for places like Minneapolis or Philadelphia after they finished their MBAs when they would stay if they could find jobs. What is wrong with that? Well, I guess it is not as big of a deal as long as we are bringing in more grads than we are losing. Is that happening?


Jim Russell said... 8/05/2007 2:15 AM

I guess my point was that it is too bad people have to leave Pittsburgh for places like Minneapolis or Philadelphia after they finished their MBAs when they would stay if they could find jobs. What is wrong with that?

The best approach for local graduates is to make their own jobs, if they really want to stay. Or, students could choose fields that fill local labor needs.

If you want to use your MBA, you better get used to moving. Those MBAs who chase jobs in Minneapolis or Philly won't retire there. I'm not even sure if the term "terminal degree" has any meaning in this dynamic economic landscape.

The lack of labor churn in the region is unsustainable.

Schultz said... 8/05/2007 7:52 PM

Not that it matters at this point, but here is the table of the regions where Tepper grads accepted jobs:

Carnegie Mellon University - Tepper School of Business
Class of 2006 Full-time MBA graduates

Northeast 25.38%
New York City 15.38%
Mid-Atlantic 23.85%
Pittsburgh 13.08%
Southeast 5.36%
Southwest 6.15%
Midwest 15.38%
West 13.08%
International 10.77%

C. Briem said... 8/05/2007 9:35 PM

Well, I guess it is not as big of a deal as long as we are bringing in more grads than we are losing. Is that happening?

Since you are focused on city stats above I will give the city answer to that. Since the city of Pittsburgh has become one of the most educated populations in the country when you look at the young working popoulation, the simple answer to that question is clearly yes. Althought is more the case that we are producing more grads than we are losing. The attraction part of that is happening when they matriculate, not after they graduate.

The problem of course is that we produce so many graduates locally that they displace the need for local employers to look beyond Pittsburgh in search of talent. Thus the source of our low in-migration flows. (and low relative wages in certain sectors of the workforce btw.) and thus the conundrum that if we really did retain more graduates as some want us to do, there would be even more displacement and even fewer people being brought into the region.

Thus why this Border Guard Bob mentality of obsessing on keeping young graduates here is at best counterproductive.

C. Briem said... 8/05/2007 9:39 PM

"why does the T line extend all the down to the southern tip of Allegheny County in Library PA yet we cannot get a link from downtown to Oakland??"

This deserves a response since it is phrased in a political context.

In the early 1990's there was serious progress toward a spine line. The progress toward that was halted almost instantly when the 1994 switchover happened in congress which reset almost all DoT funding priorities.. coupled with the election of Dunn and Cranmer to county council, the Spine Line between Downtown and Oakland became a dead issue almost overnight. I think I have put some of the spine line references online if you want to read how far along that got.

So yes... that does bear on political factors in town. but who is at fault for ending spine line is pretty clear.

Schultz said... 8/06/2007 11:16 AM

Chris - in response to your last post - I've read the reports on the spine line, my question was more rhetorical.

Thanks for posting all of those reports, they give an outsider like myself a perspective on the history behind some of the big issues we face today.

Schultz said... 8/06/2007 11:22 AM


In response to your post #44, I hear what you and others are saying about the counter productivity of keeping more of the Pittsburgh college graduates here in town, but when I mentioned Tepper graduates I guess what I should have said was the need to keep those gradudates, regradless of degree, who will eventually start businesses here.

Harold Miller had a great post on how we should try to keep more CMU CS graduates here in Pittsburgh. These are the guys who will start the next Vivisimo, Fore Systems, etc.

Lenore Blum, Director of Project Olympus, estimated that only 20 (5%) of Carnegie Mellon's 2007 Computer Science graduates were staying in Pittsburgh. That means another 400 could potentially stay here. If Project Olympus merely doubles the current percentage of CMU's CS graduates who stay each year through entrepreneurship, it could significantly expand the number of startup companies in Pittsburgh.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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