Pittsburgh Renaissance?


In the third of a three part New Geography series on Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit, Aaron Renn assesses Pittsburgh’s value as a model region for other cities suffering decline.

As the G-20 leaders prepare to convene in Pittsburgh, expect the recent chorus of praise for that city's transformation to reach a crescendo. Pittsburgh, once the poster child for industrial decline and devastation, is now the media darling as an exemplar of how to turn it around. The New York Times talks about how “Pittsburgh Thrives After Casting Steel Aside” while the New York Post informs us that “Summer in Pittsburgh Rocks”. The Economist named Pittsburgh America's most livable city. This emerging reputation for cracking the code on revitalization is prompting struggling burgs like Cleveland and Detroit to ask what lessons the Steel City holds for them.  read more »

Baseball Goes For Broke

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Other than the banking business, is there an industry more dependent on government handouts, sweetheart tax breaks, and accounting gimmicks than major league baseball?

What other than a baseball depletion allowance explains the economics of a team like the New York Yankees, which is paying Alex Rodriguez $275 million over ten years while building a new $1.3 billion stadium and charging front row season tickets holders $800,000 for a box of four seats?  read more »

Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs


Media coverage of America's best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you're seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive "business and professional services" sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms.  read more »

The Changing Landscape of America: The Fate of Detroit



During the first ten days of October 2008, the Dow Jones dropped 2399.47 points, losing 22.11% of its value and trillions of investor equity. The Federal Government pushed a $700 billion bail-out through Congress to rescue the beleaguered financial institutions. The collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 was likened to an earthquake. In reality, what happened was more like a shift of tectonic plates.

In 1912 a German scientist, Alfred Wegener, proposed that the continents were once joined together as one giant land mass called Pangea.  read more »

The Successful, the Stable, and the Struggling Midwest Cities


The Midwest has a deserved reputation as a place that has largely failed to adapt to the globalized world. For example, no Midwestern city would qualify as a boomtown but still there remain a diversity of outcomes in how the region’s cities have dealt with their shared heritage and challenges. Some places are faring surprisingly well, outpacing even the national average in many measures, while others bring up the bottom of the league tables in multiple civics measures.  read more »

Who will win the Car-wars?


General Motors, the venerable American auto manufacturer is sitting on the cliff’s edge in North America with a recent 3-month loss of $6 billion. However, GM watched its sales in China skyrocket 50% for the month of April, 2009. Ironically, Toyota, the company many Americans now cheer for, has posted a $7.7 billion loss for the first quarter.

This now proves, without a doubt, that the auto industry – not just in the US – is going through a massive crisis. But it’s clear that American manufacturing has reached a critical, historical turning point.  read more »

Here in the Real World They’re Shutting Detroit Down


Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a city at the heart of the American continent, General Motors produced cars, like Pontiac’s “Little GTO,” celebrated in Beach Boys songs that captured the thrill of driving Detroit’s latest creations. Today, as GM struggles to appease the government’s auditors just to stay alive, Kris Kristofferson, with a little help from Mickey Rourke, curses the financial wizards from Wall Street that are “Shutting Detroit Down” while “livin’ it up in that New York town.”  read more »

The Worst Cities for Job Growth


One of the saddest tasks in the annual survey of the best places to do business I conduct with Pepperdine University's Michael Shires is examining the cities at the bottom of the list. Yet even in these nether regions there exists considerable diversity: Some places are likely to come back soon, while others have little immediate hope of moving up. (Please also see "Best Cities For Job Growth" for further analysis.)

The study is based on job growth in 336 regions – called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data – across the U.S. Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

Chrysler: Detroit Loses Its Muscle

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With the clock finally running out for Chrysler, I was reminded of a theme that has run through most of my corporate work, namely that corporate culture is the element of any organization most resistant to change. As I have read (and written) many times, senior management and new management schemes come and go, but the prevalent attitude among the permanent work force is “this too shall pass.” The senior managers move on, and the culture reverts. It takes a “burning platform” to effect real change.  read more »

How To Save The Industrial Heartland


You would think an economic development official in Michigan these days would be contemplating either early retirement or seppuku. Yet the feisty Ron Kitchens, who runs Southwest Michigan First out of Kalamazoo, sounds almost giddy with the future prospects for his region.

How can that be? Where most of America sees a dysfunctional state tied down by a dismal industry, Kitchens points to the growth of jobs in his region in a host of fields, from business services to engineering and medical manufacturing. Indeed, as most Michigan communities have lost jobs this decade, the Kalamazoo region, with roughly 300,000 residents, has posted modest but consistent gains.  read more »