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