Allegheny Conference Picks Up its Fiddle

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The Allegheny Conference is following in his footsteps: It's reviving the discredited notion that it can kick the Pittsburgh economy into gear by buffing the region's "image." Come 2008, it will sponsor a birthday party to end all birthday parties to celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th. Combine that with feel-good celebrations for the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star game and the 2007 U.S. (golf) Open, you have the makings of . . .


Have a birthday party. That's nice, and have a great All-Star celebration and a U.S. Open for people who like that sort of thing. But don't pretend that any of it will cure what ails Pittsburgh. This is the Pittsburgh Regional Branding Initiative and the "Image Gap" all over again, and it's going to end badly and expensively.

You can't build a brand if you don't know what you're selling. What is Pittsburgh selling? How about: Despite its problems, this is a fine place to live and work, and contrary to popular belief, there really is an audience and a market for outsiders who want to come in and shake up a bit of the conventional wisdom. (We just have to find each other, but we're working on that.) Check out this story from the New York Times on recent out-migration from California. Tonight, the Allegheny Conference is showcasing a new $1 million feel-good movie about Pittsburgh. Instead of making a movie, how about spending $1 million on a couple of full-time Pittsburgh development people in California, talking to entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and managers? If people are are leaving anyway, why not bring some of them here?



5 Responses to "Allegheny Conference Picks Up its Fiddle"

Anonymous said... 11/09/2005 3:44 PM

Core to building a brand is having a legitimate product. I'm afraid what Grant Street and The County are selling has fewer and fewer buyers. Granted, some people can sell sand to the Saudis, but in the end you can only fool people for a little while before it shows. And that's Pittsburgh's problem: other environments have fewer burdens and more opportunity, and a whole heck of a lot less baggage. That's systematic, and a long way from resolving.

And as I've stated before, not just a Pittsburgh problem, but a core structural problem for the U.S. economy as a whole.

Hooman said... 11/10/2005 1:46 AM

"You can't build a brand if you don't know what you're selling. What is Pittsburgh selling?" I agree 100%. I brought up this issue to the Allegheny Conference this summer. Yes we need to create a unified economic development policy. Yes we need to have a brand for the region. But, what will that policy enable? What will that brand identify? I think we have to many diversified initiatives going on in this region. What we really need is to commit to a few simple goals and push for them. That is the only way that we will achieve any substantive progress that will be recognized on a national level.

Anonymous said... 11/10/2005 2:18 PM

Who can keep track of the numerous economic development organizations, leadership changes, and image campaigns attributed to the Allegheny Conference? They are often given credit because of their historical success in Renaissance I with cleaning up the environment, developing the modern downtown, etc. I'm not well versed in the details in what they did, but I'm pretty certain they did more than produce commercials saying "The air is clean in Pittsburgh" - they actual did something to get the air cleared.

The story that comes to mind when I think of Pittsburgh is the story about the frog in water. Put a frog in boiling hot water and he'll jump out and live. But if you put him in warm water and slowly raise the temperature he'll die.

Given human/frog nature, only a sense of crisis seems to bring about real change. People need to be shocked into reality. Someone needs to lay out just how bad it is, then lay out a vision for the future, and a strategy for achieving it. It's clear to me that the AC is not doing this.

starting to ramble...better stop here.

Gary Rosensteel said... 11/10/2005 10:32 PM

I attended the event and invite you to check out the HELP blog for my reflections and "snapshots" from inside the castle.


O said... 11/11/2005 2:56 PM

Yeah, I was there too.

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