thinkingPittsburgh

City Public Schools Wither as Economy Booms

Austin is learning that much-desired economic success can have unintended consequences. The city’s declining school-age population and public school enrollment is citywide topic of conversation among Austin Independent School District (AISD) officials and Austin residents, including parents of school age children, taxpayers without children in school and local economic development professionals thrown in the mix. …

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Austin’s Conundrum of Success

Austin, Texas is one of a handful of cities in the world currently blessed in reputation—big enough to have almost all the cultural amenities of cities twice our size, yet small enough to be tops on any of those innumerable “livability” lists. A recent cover story in “The Economist” looks at the Silicon Valley and …

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A Lesson in Growth from Austin, Texas



With the U.S. Census Bureau reporting continuing populations losses for metropolitan Pittsburgh, the region is one of only a few “large” U.S. metros reporting losses, putting us in the company of Youngstown, Ohio and Altoona/Johnstown, Pa. This is not a good story. Companies often choose where to locate or expand in places people want to be. …

A Lesson in Growth from Austin, Texas

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Examining Austin as a Boomtown—Lessons for Pittsburgh?

Today’s high in Austin is 104 degrees, with 106 predicted for tomorrow. Even the native Texans, proud and defensive of the State’s hardships, are complaining. It has become a standard topic of conversation between strangers in elevators and in bars. And still the masses make their way here. Sit in traffic—which we do a lot of …

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Silicon Valley—and the Rest of Us

Last week I was in northern California’s Bay Area for a few days and, as I prefer to do when traveling even to familiar places, I make sure to read and watch the local media rather than “the usual” array of nationally available sources. I caught a TV report on a meeting of Silicon Valley …

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Pittsburgh: Too Much Same Ol’ Same Ol’

Despite being one of the country’s hottest cities, at least as far as mainstream media reporting goes, the Pittsburgh metro still provides less opportunity for its residents than its peers. That fact was borne out by recently released employment numbers for July: unemployment is rising above both State and national levels. Worse, the local labor …

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Prospects for Pittsburgh Where You Might Not Expect Them

Two recent reports have me thinking about the Pittsburgh region’s future, especially those areas that aren’t part of the latest international praise for being “hip” or “high tech” or “urban cool.” It seems, touch wood, that a large part of the region is on the path to the only measures of economic success that matter: …

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The British Vote and Pittsburgh’s Demographics

We’re all trying to figure out the implications of the somewhat surprising news that UK voters decided by a comfortable majority to leave the European Union. No matter what side you identified with in this grand referendum, it’s always invigorating when democracy’s voices speak. With a record high voter turn out – over 70% of …

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The City Should Welcome Shell to Downtown Pittsburgh

In the current issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, Publisher Doug Heuck notes the collaborative work of Pittsburgh civic leaders in helping Pittsburgh’s economic rebirth. The recent announcement that Shell is now committed to building an ethane “cracker” plant in Beaver County is an opportunity to increase that collaboration. The natural gas in the region has a …

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Problem in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate, reported for the latest available month, April 2016, bumped up for the third month in a row to 5.8%. On the surface this is a disturbing figure given that most cities in our cohort group are experiencing falling unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Charlotte is now down for the third consecutive …

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Should We Go Fishing for PayPal?

Recently PayPal announced the cancellation of a planned operations center in North Carolina resulting from the passage of North Carolina HB2 (the “bathroom” bill). The reasons a company chooses a particular location to establish a facility are complex, but I believe Pittsburgh offers practically everything that was to be found near Charlotte. I would like …

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Expat Paul Scripko Sets the Stage

A few years ago at Southwestern University in Texas I attended a lecture given by Michael Chabon, author of those two love letters to Pittsburgh, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” and “Wonder Boys”. At the start of the evening he asked “Who in the audience is from Pittsburgh?” A number of us raised our hands and …

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