Growing up in the Pittsburgh region during the Steelers’ 1970s heyday, I don’t think I ever heard my father mention a certain football team located along Lake Erie without a particular modifier. “The Hated Browns” – and the city of Cleveland – have long been objects of scorn (mostly flip and good-natured, but sometimes a bit darker) to Pittsburghers.
I hate to dicker with tradition (or my dad), but these days there are signs of healthy cooperation and dare-I-say affection between our cities and citizens. One example is the TechBelt Initiative, an effort including Youngstown to leverage mutual assets in technology, industry and research to create new products and businesses in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. (Our Dewitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, is an active member.) University of Pittsburgh regional economist Christopher Briem explored this interconnectivity last year in his essay, “Welcome To Cleveburgh!”
More recently, Cleveland native Isa Hopkins, who now hangs her hat in San Francisco, spent time in Pittsburgh on an AmeriCorps service project. In her words, she fell in love, and shared her impressions in Grist, an online publication of environmental news and commentary. Although the population declines she references have begun to reverse course in Pittsburgh, Hopkins accurately captures our spirit and quirks: how we’ve mostly been spared the glut of big-box megastores thanks to our crazy topography, our aversion to being characterized as Midwestern, and our scrappy can-do attitude:
“Leveraging decay and brand-name abandonment into reinvestment and grassroots-driven opportunity: It happens in Pittsburgh, and throughout the Rust Belt, because residents have no other choice but to use whatever they’ve got, to apply creativity and persistence to limited resources and see just what they can do.”
Click here to read the full essay, which also explains a bit about the Rebuilding Together project in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood that helps low-income homeowners renovate and repair their houses.