Bill Toland of the the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, asks the question: Is California the new rust belt in his article, “Are Californians dreamin’ of a Rust Belt Destination?” While I think this might be a bit of a sensational question to garner readership, this is an interesting question to stop and ask. It makes me wonder where is the best place not only weather the recession, but continue to thrive? With the recession, governmental financial issues and tightening of job opportunities California’s reputation as the land of opportunity may be on the decline, at least for a time. Where are people going to move for if they wish to continue thriving and prospering in these times? Perhaps Pittsburgh has the answer.
There are some compelling points within the article. California, or at least silicon valley, has always been the land of entrepreneurial opportunity for the U.S. The article cites that in 2007, 63% of Californians had moved from another state to seek opportunity. The opportunity they were seeking, Silicon Valley is the largest venture capital market in the U.S. Lately Pittsburgh has become the second fastest growing VC markets, according to the National Venture Capital Association (.pdf file). Pittsburgh has shown 513% growth totaling $197 million over the last ten years. This economic growth is a sign of fertile opportunities and technologies in the region. It is no surprise to me with top universities, hospitals, manufacturing and companies in the area that Pittsburgh’s growth is on the rise once more. The most glaring sign of these opportunities coming to fruition is the G20 Summit coming to Pittsburgh. This summit has traditionally graced world capitals and cultural centers. This will be a great time for Pittsburgh to showcase all of its innovations and new medical and green expertise to the world.
Pittsburgh and other midwestern rust belt cities have been quietly renovating themselves over the last few decades since the demise of the steel industry. This year Pittsburgh was voted most livable city for its wide array of amenities and cheap cost of living. With its cheap cost of living and growing opportunities Pittsburgh is the ideal city to not only weather the recession, but continue to thrive.
Two of us in the office at Bright Innovation have moved back to Pittsburgh from California. While California is an appealing place full of opportunity. It would seem Pittsburgh, and other rust belt cities like it, are becoming hot beds for similar opportunities but on a smaller scale. With this growing base of young professionals flocking back to Pittsburgh from their professional travels the city may experience a renaissance if it plays its cards right as it emerges from this economic downturn and takes its place as an innovation powerhouse with the necessary mindshare and infrastructure for growth.