Jim Futrell
The Alamo / Photo by Billy Calzada Copyright San Antonio Express-News
The Alamo / Photo by Billy Calzada Copyright San Antonio Express-News

By Jim Futrell, vice president of market research and analysis for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance

A recent article published on Texas CEO Magazine’s website talked about the “brain gain” in San Antonio, citing a rise in the number of talented young people with college educations choosing to move to that medium-sized city – particularly to its more urban neighborhoods — to live and build their careers.

Sound familiar? It should, as we’re seeing those same trends in the Pittsburgh region, as I’ve noted here before. Similarly, the Alamo City is also seeing strong “return migration” of native sons and daughters who went away for college or to launch their careers. (We call them boomerangers, or as a colleague prefers, gumbanders.)

As a model for this new “talent economy,” the article cites Pittsburgh and specifically Carnegie Mellon University. It notes that instead of trying to lure graduates away in competition with other firms and locales, companies like Google and Disney are relocating right on campus. (Google has since moved to Bakery Square.)

It’s an interesting take, and of course it’s always nice to see Pittsburgh held up as an example to follow.  But I don’t think you can give sole credit to the activity generated by CMU. Overall it’s a relatively small (albeit very important) part of the economy. Our talent economy (and the talent spun out of Pitt, Duquesne and our many other regional colleges and universities) also manifests itself in all our other key sectors each of which has contributed to our growth.

Personally, I am not sure the comparison between the two cities is as strong as the article makes it seem. San Antonio’s economy was largely built around its several military bases, and government is their largest employment sector, accounting for 19 percent of employment (one-quarter of those with the federal government). In Pittsburgh, 11 percent of regional employment is in government. Tourism is also a critical economic generator for San Antonio.

And while I am sure University of Texas in Austin has some powerful spinoff benefits, San Antonio does not have a CMU or a Pitt. Their major research university is one of the University of Texas Health Science campuses, which does about $200 million in R&D. In fiscal year 2010, that figure in the Pittsburgh region was just over $1 billion.

But it does sound like the city itself is a talent magnet which I can certainly understand. I love San Antonio; it‘s my favorite city in Texas.

Bill Flanagan

Not only is our region among the most livable, it continues to rank among the “most list-able” as well. And we’re off to a good start in 2013 in racking up Top Five rankings.

NBC’s Today Show started things off by noting Pittsburgh as one of three must-see destinations in the world to visit this year. And now, Forbes reports that Pittsburgh is among the happiest cities in which to work.

This list of the happiest and unhappiest cities to work in, compiled by CareerBliss, is based on an analysis of more than 36,000 independent employee reviews between November 2011 and November 2012. Workers from all over the country were asked to evaluate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness. Those include one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

Workers in Dayton, Ohio ranked happiest, with Knoxville, Honolulu and Memphis coming in second, third and fourth, respectively. Pittsburgh ranks as fifth happiest.

The unhappiest place in America? Boulder, Colorado. Followed by Reno, Wichita, Fresno and Little Rock.

Cleveland ranks sixth unhappiest, not that we’re counting.

So, given our relative happiness, maybe it’s no surprise that our region’s workforce, at 1,265,110, is the largest it’s been in history – even compared to our industrial heyday, according to PittsburghTODAY.com.

Yes, our jobless rate is higher than we’d like it to be, but that’s in part because fewer people are leaving and more are coming; more people are joining the labor force. There’s a perception that there’s greater opportunity here than in other places, and the perception is a reality.

No wonder folks around here are happier.

Also, be sure to check out the special section on Pittsburgh in fDi magazine, a unit of the Financial Times. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance sponsored the overview of our region’s economy. The issue will be distributed at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland on Jan. 23-27, in keeping with this year’s forum theme of resilient dynamism.

Phil Cynar
Arte’s video web report is divided into five chapters that look at Pittsburgh’s image, heroes, economy, democracy and lifestyle. Click the image above to view them all.

Late in 2012,  a two-man creative team from Arte (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne) – a Franco-German television network that’s akin to the U.S.’s PBS – spent a week in Pittsburgh, filming interviews and footage of Pittsburgh today, vis a vis the famous black-and-white images of the city captured during the 1950s by the great American photographer W. Eugene Smith. These images are iconic of post-war America and illustrate the evolution in Pittsburgh and its environmental and economic transformation that spans over half a century.

The footage was used to create a short TV documentary that aired in France and Germany, as well as a five-episode web report on the Pittsburgh then and now – probing how this transformation was realized and the work that remains to be done.  Promoting the project on Arte’s website, Producer Vladimir Vasak notes, “Pittsburgh is a city that has undergone total transformation: from a city of steel, industrialized and polluted, it is now green and high-tech … a miracle of which Americans are proud.”

With France and Germany being among the top global destinations for foreign direct investment into the Pittsburgh region, Arte’s program and web report provide reinforcement in those countries about the region’s 21st-century strengths and illustrate why Pittsburgh is a choice destination for business investment, as well as tourism.  As it’s been said, “everything [including investment] begins with a visit.”

For regional residents, the web report is a great reminder of how easy it is to overlook what we have.  Seeing the region through the eyes of our visitors from Arte makes it nearly impossible to not proclaim,  “J’adore Pittsburgh!”

Check out two of the episodes below (“Visit Pittsburgh” and “Pittsburgh’s Renaissance”) and view the complete web report here. It’s divided into five chapters that look at Pittsburgh’s image, heroes, economy, democracy and lifestyle.

Ben Kamber

Overlooking the gorgeous downtown skyline on the banks of the Mon River is Pittsburgh’s newest sports and recreation destination — Highmark Stadium in Station Square. The 3,500 seat stadium will welcome the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Pittsburgh’s nearly 15 year old USL Pro soccer team, in the spring. Jason Kutney, a player with the Riverhounds and CEO of the team, sits down to discuss soccer’s growth in popularity in our region and why Highmark Stadium will be the nicest USL Pro stadium in the nation.

Cafe Kolache: A Decade of Sweet Success for Beaver, PA Business

As a corporate climber in Houston, Texas, Kristi Harper became acquainted with the Kolache — a slightly sweetened Czech pastry that holds a variety of sweet and savory fillings. But it wasn’t until she moved back home to Beaver, Pa. and met her husband Hugh that she decided to open her own Kolache shop in downtown Beaver. A decade later, Café Kolache is a thriving bakery and meeting spot for those in need of a Kolache fix. Kristi and Hugh discuss the café’s rise and why it has been such a hit in Beaver.

The Role of Private Wealth in Society

As chairman and managing director of Greycourt, a Pittsburgh-based boutique financial management firm, Greg Curtis has spent much of his career advising the ultra-wealthy, like the Mellon family, on how to smartly invest their fortunes. Now he’s out with a new book, “The Stewardship of Wealth” which aims to educate wealthy and middle-income individuals on smart investment practices and the broader role that private capital plays in society. Curtis discusses the book and a new app out called “Moneybags,” that provides smart investment advice for everyone.

Our Region’s Business airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV. Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.

ImaginePittsburghNow

Elliott Group may be 113 years old, but its new headquarters are anything but old fashioned.

The manufacturer opened a new $16 million administration building adjacent to its factory in Jeannette in 2012. The airy space features brightly colored furnishings, casual spaces for meetings and vibrant flags from the many nations where Elliott does business.

A unit of Ebara Corporation of Japan, Elliott supplies and services turbo-machinery used by the oil and gas, refining, LNG and petrochemical industries, as well as in process and power applications. While the regional shale gas boom has benefited the company, more than 70 percent of the products built at the Westmoreland County campus are sold overseas, as Elliott’s Tom Brown explains in the video below.

The company employs about 2,100 people worldwide, with about 1,100 in southwestern Pennsylvania. Some 400 people work in the manufacturing facility on Elliott’s 100-acre campus. The new headquarters, dubbed the Centennial Building, is home to engineers, draftsmen, programmers and administrative workers previously spread out across multiple buildings.

Get a look at the building in the video below, and hear Brown explain why Elliott is thriving – as well as his shout-out to Lawrenceville architects Kingsland Scott Bauer Associates and contractor Landau Building Company of Wexford.

You can read more about Elliott Group here.

Ben Kamber

Duquesne University has a lot to be proud of these days. At 1,500, this year’s freshman class is the largest and one of the most selective ever for the 134 year-old uptown university. Dr. Charles Dougherty, Duquesne’s president, sits down to discuss what’s behind this growth and why Pittsburgh and the university’s urban setting have become huge selling points for recruitment.

Superstorm Sandy Puts Spotlight on Nation’s Electrical Grid

As Superstorm Sandy painfully indicated, power outages represent a lot more than just an inconvenience for those impacted. It’s not until a crisis like a natural disaster that we realize how dependent we are on the nation’s energy grid and other energy infrastructure – and just how much it’s all in dire need of modernization. Greg Reed, director of Pitt’s Center of Energy at the Swanson School of Engineering, discusses the type of improvements that are needed to bring our energy infrastructure into the 21st century.

Grand Theft Auto Creator Harnesses Empathy in New Social Media Venture

Donora native J. Moses, who green-lighted Grand Theft Auto, is out with a new social media venture that aims to revolutionize the way we interact on the web. WeChi and GoodChi tap into the behavioral realm of users to encourage empathetic connections across the Internet. Moses sat down to discuss these products and what led him to explore empathy across online social networks.

Our Region’s Business airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV. Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.