There Are No Poor People in the Rust Belt

What?

In recent days, I’ve come across not one but two online features that celebrate contemporary Pittsburgh for its economic and cultural sexiness. Largely because of the regional tech economy, the millennials and GenXers who dominate it, and the insistence of Pittsburgh’s Old Guard that what you see today was always the plan for economic recovery after the collapse of steel in the early 1980s, Pittsburgh is back, baby! If this were Southern California and if there were waves on the three rivers, I could imagine Jeff Spicoli saying, “Hey bud! Let’s party!” Continue reading

#Pittsblog: Imagining Pittsburgh

Contemporary Pittsburgh is still mostly missing a writer who distills its emerging, collective voice, meaning a forward-looking imagineer to complement the marvelous visual nostalgia of Rick Sebak.  The expressive identity of the city and region are probably the things that I’ve wrestled with the most since moving here and writing about the place myself, on and off, for close to 15 years.  And when I come back to the topic from time to time — what defines Pittsburgh, in various ways, and what anchors its evolution? — this is the theme that pulls me in.  How does Pittsburgh talk about itself to itself, and how does Pittsburgh talk about itself to others? Continue reading

Pittsburgh Has Bookstores, Still

@NEXTPittsburgh recently published a nice roundup and review of the independent bookstores in the region that are standing proud for print as well as text. Pittsburgh isn’t as publicly bookish as say, Boston, but it’s nice to know that there are a few outlets left for those of us who like to browse in person as well as online.

http://www.nextpittsburgh.com/features/11-independent-bookstores-in-pittsburgh-worth-browsing-often/

My favorite, for entirely idiosyncratic reasons, is the decades-old Penguin Bookshop, @penguinbookshop. It’s worth the drive down Route 65 to Sewickley.

But check ’em all out, and buy some books.

Pittsburgh: Lagging and Leading

There was an interesting juxtaposition in Pittsburgh economic development news last week, courtesy of the @pittsburghpg @rczullo:

Lagging: “Brookings high-tech list a holy Toledo moment.” According to a recent Brookings Institution report, Pittsburgh is lagging other metro regions in its concentration of so-called “advanced industry” jobs. (Here is a link to the full report.) It’s possible to parse the data so that Pittsburgh doesn’t look quite so bad, but really, the headline tells the version of the story that has legs.

Leading: “‘Code for America’ fellows aim to make Pittsburgh more transparent.” The city of Pittsburgh has used Code for America money to bring a small team of hackers to town to make public procurement more transparent. I can only imagine the folks and interests that will be disrupted by this. The PG reported: “Contracts and campaign contributions often are the fuel that powers political machines, but Mr. Peduto said he wants the three Code for America fellows who will spend a year in Pittsburgh to help open up city purchasing to small businesses and others who have been historically shut out of the process and strip away ‘that whole machine.'” Good for Mayor Peduto.

In Pittsburgh: Kevin Sousa is Right!

Kevin Sousa, Pittsburgh chef and entrepreneur extraordinaire, has a plan to rescue the Pittsburgh region’s signature communal failure, Braddock, Pennsylvania, by opening a high-end restaurant there. It will be an unusual restaurant, “Superior Motors,” with some local sourcing and some local hiring, but a high-end restaurant nonetheless.  The other day, EATER magazine published an interesting overview of Sousa’s prospects — can culinary tourism bring hipster credibility and economic success to Braddock? — and EATER included some quotations from me, expressing skepticism. I have my doubts about Kevin Sousa and Braddock.

But Kevin Sousa is right about something else and something bigger. Even if I believe that Superior Motors and all that won’t bring Braddock back, I’m cheering for Kevin Sousa and people like him.

Here’s why. Continue reading