To Detroit, From Pittsburgh

Former PG editor and Pittsburgh Regional Indicators chief John Craig posted an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post on ... what Pittsburgh can teach Detroit about surviving an economic collapse. John isn't quite as optimistic about Pittsburgh as I am, but many of his themes overlap with my own.

A taste from the piece:

So when I think about the lessons the Steel City's 30-year economic transformation may hold for Detroit, another town built on an industry beaten by competition and confronting bankruptcy, I have to say that the first and hardest lesson for the Motor City is this: Fundamental change will be much longer in coming than you can imagine. You'll survive. The automakers, bailed out or not, will shrink and adapt to a new future and a new reality. The city will remake itself in whatever ways it can. But there'll be no "getting over" your past, only moving beyond it.

Organizing and managing contraction is not an activity we Americans know much about. But you're stuck with the job, Detroit, and it will go better for you if you're clear-eyed about who you are and where you've come from.

When an industry evolves in the way that metals manufacturing did in northern Appalachia starting in the 1830s, it becomes a way of life that touches every aspect of public and private activity. Its influence can be undone only after decades, if ever. This is something that the residents of the Pittsburgh area have not adequately understood. We overlook obvious evidence of decline and abandonment that still lingers from our troubled time. We ignore disturbing data on poverty, health problems and environmental risk, much of it out of sight in small towns and more rural counties.

Read the whole thing (free registration required).


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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] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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