The New York Times earlier this month did a news story on Pittsburgh titled, For Pittsburgh, There’s Life After Steel. It spins a story of a relatively recession-proof city that has turned the corner in its economic transformation. Although it faced tough times when others prospered, it now finds itself in the sweet spot with a 5.5 percent unemployment rate, a real estate market that saw prices up for the year ending in September 2008, and strength in sectors such as education, health care, and commercial construction. It followed similar themes to the article in October 2008 in Time Magazine about Pittsburgh titled, Finding One Economic Bright Spot on Main Street.
Yet, the reaction to the articles that I have seen has been deeply divided. Many of the comments to the New York Times article seem to imply that the author was smoking something when he wrote the article, or was simply intoxicated by the Pittsburgh PR machine. News stories and editorials commenting on the story featured headlines such as Power to the ‘poopers’, Progress through delusion?, and Ignoring Pittsburgh’s decline.
I’m going to withhold my own personal thoughts on Pittsburgh from the debate, since I’ve been witness to some of the best and worst of Pittsburgh and don’t want to lay it all out in this post. I’m encouraged, though, by the fact that the debate over the benefits and drawbacks of living in Pittsburgh has progressed to the national stage. Both sides can make a pretty compelling case that Pittsburgh is declining / advancing, and the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. While the grass may be greener on the other side, I’m sure that there are plenty of places right now where it is much browner. As far as I know, Pennsylvania isn’t considering handing out IOUs in place of tax refunds. And that, at the very least, is something to be celebrated.