Pittsburgh Misses the Cut

Kiplinger's Personal Finance compiled a list earlier this summer of the "10 Best Cities for the Next Decade." And Pittsburgh isn't on it.

These "best of" or "most underrated" or "most livable" lists don't mean too much, or at least they don't mean nearly as much as some folks think they mean (especially when Pittsburgh makes the list). They do provide little insights into what different media and their consumers think is important. So, here are Kiplinger's criteria, which have a Floridian air:
In Kiplinger's latest search for top cities, we focused on places that specialize in out-of-the-box thinking. "New ideas generate new businesses," says Kevin Stolarick, our numbers guru, who this year evaluated U.S. cities for growth and growth potential. Stolarick is research director at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank that studies economic prosperity. "In the places where innovation works, it really works," he says.

After researching and visiting our 2010 Best Cities, it became clear that the innovation factor has three elements. Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington in Seattle, put his finger on two of them: smart people and great ideas. But we'd argue that it's the third element -- collaboration -- that really supercharges a city's economic engine. When governments, universities and business communities work together, the economic vitality is impressive.

And it's no coincidence that economic vitality and livability go hand in hand. Creativity in music, arts and culture, plus neighborhoods and recreational facilities that rank high for "coolness," attract like-minded professionals who go on to cultivate a region's business scene.
The list:

Austin, TX
Seattle, WA
Washington, DC
Boulder, CO
Salt Lake City, UT
Rochester, MN
Des Moines, IA
Burlington, VT
West Hartford, CT
Topeka, KS

Speaking of Rich F., he recently compiled his own list of the 20 cities with the fastest growing job markets. And Pittsburgh isn't on it.

His list, like Kiplinger's, includes a lot of college communities, state capitols, and health care centers:

Rochester, MN
Washington, DC
Durham, NC
Bethesda, MD
Tallahasee, FL
Trenton, NJ
Charlottesville, VA
Olympia, WA
Gainesville, FL
Ithaca, NY
Boulder, CO
Duluth, MN
Brownsville, TX
Poughkeepsie, NY
New York, NY
Corvallis, OR
Atlantic City, NJ
McAllen, TX
Boston, MA
Springfield, IL


3 Responses to "Pittsburgh Misses the Cut"

BrianTH said... 8/20/2010 10:14 AM

Well, if your key phrases are things like "growth and growth potential" or "fastest-growing", then Pittsburgh almost surely should not be on your list. Barring a huge surge in the rate of international immigration to Pittsburgh, it is highly unlikely our overall rate of population and employment growth will even match the U.S. average, let along be among the highest.

On the other hand, I'm fairly convinced we shouldn't particularly care about getting on those fast-growth lists, or indeed we should be looking to avoid them. To be sure, we should probably be seeking some low level of positive population/employment growth, because there are negative feedback loops which can severely punish population/employment decline. But following a slow growth model may well be more sustainable and lead to higher per capita outcomes than a rapid growth model.

In short, I think Pittsburgh should be emphasizing quality over quantity in its vision of its future self. And if that means not being on any fastest-growing lists, so be it.

Jonathan Potts said... 8/21/2010 8:35 AM

FYI, Kevin Stolarick is (or at least was) a CMU professor, and a Richard Florida disciple.

Jim Russell said... 8/22/2010 2:07 PM

Yep, Kiplinger's list is another Florida product.

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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.

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