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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pittsburgh Brain Drain - Fact or Fiction?

Probably a little of both.

However, Pittsburgh has apparently made significant strides in retaining young college graduates.

Bill Zlatos of the Tribune Review wrote a very interesting article on Pittsburgh Universities and brain drain titled "Here to Stay"

For years, Pittsburgh has suffered a loss of population- primarily due to our young people leaving for better opportunities in other regions. Our young residents ( some born in Pittsburgh, others attending our Universities from elsewhere ) were not finding the good jobs in Pittsburgh that were available in other cities. But according to the Trib article, regional economists say we have reversed that trend.

According to Pitt's Center for Social and Urban Research, Pennsylvania ranks second nationally in terms of gaining more college students in the work force than it loses, making our net gain of young, educated people approximately 12,600. Pittsburgh retained more than half of all of our graduates in 1999, up from 40% in 1994.

This is real progress in Pittsburgh's fight to retain our talented and educated youth.

As the article points out, one of the regions largest industries is education and it is unreasonable to expect that all of these students could remain in Pittsburgh. But it is imperative that the city maximize the opportunities to retain these graduates

Boston is another city with a large education "industry", and they have also been studying the problem of brain drain. A report on Boston's findings can be found at the Boston Chamber of Commerce website. I think that there is a lot of good information in this study that relates to Pittsburgh as well.
The report found that the three most important factors in a student's decision about where to live after graduation were :

  • "Feel of the City"

Good place to settle down, things to do, good for young people, cultural life, neighborhoods, attractions and "happening"

  • Geography

Access to outdoors and access to other cities.

  • Job Opportunities

Jobs in my field.

I contend that Pittsburgh has both "feel of the city" and geography in abundance. This city is strong in the settle down, things to do, cultural life, neighborhoods and attractions categories. We have access to the outdoors at our rivers and parks, and we are within 500 miles of more than half of the nation’s most populated cities. Pittsburghers routinely travel to New York, Philadelphia, Toronto or Washington, DC for weekend getaways. We must continue to improve the cities amenities and promote them to the students that we want to attract and retain.

This brings me to Job Opportunities.

There is no question in my mind that Pittsburgh must create more high paying jobs in the region if we want to be a truly competitive city. Our business and political leaders must seize the great opportunities that we have to commercialize the technologies being created at our universities, and we as citizens must let them know that this is our highest priority. We have made great strides in this arena as well, but we need to do more. ( This has become a recurring theme on this blog )

Our universities have worked hard to become truly world class institutions that attract some of the best minds from around the world. By creating new companies based on university research, Pittsburgh can give students abundant reasons to remain Pittsburghers.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Fellow Optimist

In his Post Gazette article Dr. Alfred Z. Spector, Chief Technology Officer of the IBM Software Group writes about Pittsburgh's potential in the 21st Century.

It gets to the core of what I have been trying to say about commercializing our technology to create Pittsburgh's new industrial revolution.

He even uses the word "Renaissance"!

This is a man who has participated in the academic and business worlds, and has witnessed first hand how the transfer of technology from university to start-up venture works.
His qualifications lend weight to his optimism.
I have been criticized by some for being too optimistic about Pittsburgh's future, and some day my critics may prove to be right. However, my optimism is not based on a blind devotion to all things Pittsburgh, but on articles like this one. I am glad that there are people out there able to articulate these thoughts better that I can.

I hope that you will all take the time to read this article at
Monday, April 24, 2006

American Bridge Will Build The Bay Bridge

I posted last month that Coraopolis based American Bridge Company was the low bidder for the new Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Today, it was made official at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The company built the first San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936.

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that the Bridge project is worth $700 Million in revenues to the company.

American Bridge has been headquartered in the Pittsburgh area since 1904.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times

CMU and Pitt Awarded $13.3 Million for Joint Biomedical Reaserch Projects

National Technology Center for Networks and Pathways Funded By the National Institutes of Health

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that the NIH is awarding a five-year grant that will further fund the Universities' work in cellular diagnostics. The NIH believes that the technologies being developed in Pittsburgh will be the first step in understanding "...fundimental aspects of costly diseases, such as cancer, dementia and stroke."

Pittsburgh institutions consistantly rank in the top 10 in NIH funding.

Read more at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Millcraft Proposes $269 Million Downtown Development

The Post Gazette is reporting that Millcraft Industries, Inc., the developer of the former Lazarus Department Store, is proposing a $269 million redevelopment plan for the Fith/Forbes corridor in Downtown Pittsburgh. The plan would include 45,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail and 805 residential units. Millcraft stated that it was not requesting any public subsidy for the project, only an exlusive option to purchace City owned property in the corridor.

As I have posted many times before, the key to a vibrant Downtown is a critical mass of residential units coupled with the ammenities that make up a "neighborhood". The addition of office and retail space to the current boom in residential construction downtown is a great step towards a successful district.

The South Side is a great example of this type of synergistic neighborhood. The residents make the commercial Main Street ( East Carson Street ) successful, and the commercial business provide the services that residents desire. I am seeing the same energy in the plans for Downtown, that I have seen over the past 20 years on the South Side.

It is critical that existing downtown neighborhood organizations band together to ensure that the plan is well thought out and that it is executed properly. The South Side Works development is the result of great planning by The Soffer Organization, combined with an intelligent, engaged and vigilant community. Downtown needs to develop a similar structure.

Residential development has been the key missing ingredient in our previous "Renaissances". It seems that this time we are on the right track for sustainable Downtown development and growth.

Read more at the Post Gazette
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Welcome Pittsblog Readers!

Thanks to Mike Madison at Pittsblog! I am an avid reader of Pittsblog, and I was very pleased to see that Mike had placed a link to my site on his blog.
I am thrilled that so many Pittsblog readers have enjoyed my site and have emailed comments to me.

I am convinced that the blogosphere can have a real impact on the future of our city.

Please click on the link below to read Pittsblog. The site is full of great posts on the future of Pittsburgh and it's economy.
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pittsburgh Commercial Construction Up 95% in First Quarter

The Tribune Review is reporting that Pittsburgh area non-residential construction was up 95 % in the first quarter of 2006, while multifamily residential increased 149%.
The construction was led by many "unusually large projects".

It is clear that Pittsburgh and the surrounding region are undergoing a dramatic transformation.
Renaissance III has begun!

Read More at The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Friday, April 14, 2006

Industry is our Industry

Industry (noun) :
diligence in a pursuit; especially : steady or habitual effort

It is common for some Pittsburghers to look back at the 1970's as a time when Pittsburgh lost it's industry. I understand what they mean- it was a time when our steel and related manucturing base declined.

However the notion of Pittsburgh losing it's industry has never sat well with me.

To the contrary, it is our industry ( our steady and habitual diligence in our pursuits ) that defines Pittsburgh, and has allowed us to remain a vital region when all odds were against us. Most cities in our position have never had a Renisainnce, but we are beginning our third. Our skyline, rivers and views are the envy of cities around the globe, and we have successfully made the transition from a manufacturing to a knowledge based economy.

It is true that the loss of steel manufacturing hit the region hard, but it was not just our steel that built the Empire State Building, The Brooklyn Bridge, The St. Louis Arch or the Kennedy Space Center. It was our industry.

Pittsburgh produced more steel for weapons, ships and planes during World War II than every allied county combined. Pittsburgh was nicknamed The Arsenal of Democracy!
However, it was not just our steel and related manufacturing that won WWII, it was our industry.
Pittsburgh's industrious nature is in the cities DNA. Achievement is our birthright.

We have earned our place in the American and World history books, and it is our work ethic and desire to achieve that has put us there. It is that exact same work ethic that is driving people at UPMC to develop a diabetes vaccine. It is an extraordinary work ethic that drives the people at CMU to develop robots that will save the lives of our soldiers , and the people at Bayer to develop new materials for the 21st century.

I firmly believe that these industrious people will one day see their names in the same history books as Andrew Carnegie, Jonas Salk, and George Westinghouse.

Our regional focus should never stray from our core value:
Promote industry! Foster the desire and create the climate to achieve great things.
Our diligenge in that effort will pay great dividends.

Have a great day at work.
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Piatt Place to Offer European Grocery Downtown

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that Millcraft Industries, the developer of the former Lazarus Department Store is planning on opening a European style grocery store on Wodd Street by the end of the year. The grocery would feature DeLallo Italian Foods and Omaha Steaks products. The market would resemble the urban markets found in New York City, and throughout Europe.
The market puts to rest the speculation that a Giant Eagle grocery store would go into the Piatt building.

In my opinion, the european market concept is the best possible outcome for the building. This market should thrive on both the new Downtown residents and the workday commuters.

Several months ago, I took a trip to Manhattan, and the deli/markets were striking for the quality of their prepared foods and their convenience. When you shop at one of these markets, it is immediately clear that this type of business is a cornerstone of their neighborhood. Now that Downtown Pittsburgh has been declared Pittsburgh's newest neighborhood, I feel confident that this european market can be influential in attracting more and more residents to the district.

This is just another example of how the new Downtown developers are on the right track.

Read More at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Developers Considering North Shore for New Entertainment Development

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that The Cordish Company, and Continental Real Estate are considering the area between the PNC Park and Heinz Field for a new entertainment district. The complex would be similar to Baltimore's Power Plant Live development.

My first reaction to any large scale entertainment development is that only careful design will ensure it's success. I point to the South Side Works development as an example. The facility was carefully designed to integrate into the fabric of the existing South Side business district. The scale was appropriate, attention was paid to parking garage placement, and the existing street grid was maintained. For these reasons, among many others, the development has boosted the fortunes of East Carson Street, and has not destroyed it.

I believe that with careful planning, an entertainment district on the North Shore will be a great addition to Pittsburgh's already jumping entertainment scene. One needed only to walk around the stadiums yesterday (Pirates Opening Day) to see the great potential of this neighborhood. People were everywhere, bars and restaurants were standing room only, and there was a festive atmosphere all around - despite the final score.

It is imperative that the city leverage the investments made between the stadiums (including the DelMonte building and the Equitable Gas building) into a full blown neighborhood revitalization that extends beyond the boundaries of the new development.

Read More at The Post Gazette
Monday, April 10, 2006

UPMC is Transplantation Pioneer

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported this weekend, that UPMC is exploring the field of xenotransplantation, or transplantation between species. In this case they are working on ways to better transplant pig organs into human beings, thus addressing the long standing shortage of human organs available for donation.

This line of research could ultimately lead to transplant patients living longer, and UPMC could be ready to begin human trials in two or three years.

The market for pig organs could be worth at least $6 billion according to the Trib.

This is a prime example of one of the new industries that Pittsburgh is poised to dominate in the future. Hopefully, UPMC and regional officials are busy setting up mechanisms to take advantage of these and similar discoveries. In recent weeks, I have written about inroads in the development of a diabetes vaccines, and contact lenses that can detect abnormal glucose levels. With the cooperation of regional government, all of these "scientific" discoveries can translate into substantial economic progress for Pittsburgh.

I have attached a link to a web page highlighting Pittsburgh's pioneering role in organ transplantation over the years.

UPMC Transplant Timeline

Photo from UPMC Thomas Starzl Biography

Lazarus Building Developer Propose Live Music Venue Downtown

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that the Piatt family is proposing a live music venue for the Fifth Forbes corridor. Their proposal is to locate a 1,000 seat venue near Market Square.
Music venues, grocery stores and movie theaters are all examples of amenities needed to attract residents Downtown. Kudos to the Piatt family for working hard to attract these kind of uses. They obviously see the big picture.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Saturday, April 08, 2006

NASA Awards University of Pittsburgh Science Grant

NASA has selected the University of Pittsburgh for a grant to support the agency's Mars Fundamental Research Program.

The Science Mission Directorate, Solar System Exploration Division solicited proposals to cultivate and pursue the most innovative scientific research concerning atmospheric, climatological, and geologic processes on Mars.

Pittsburgh has played a huge role in the history of American Space exploration. Rockwell International was headquartered in Pittsburgh. Before it was broken-up, Rockwell developed many innovations in space flight, and was responsible for the Apollo Space Craft and The Space Shuttle.
Although Rockwell is no longer in existence, it is my great hope that Pittsburgh will once again play a large role in the Nation's space program though our advances in robotics and nanotechnology.

Please check back to the site soon. I intend to write much more on this subject.

Photo courtesy of NASA
Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Reed Smith Merger will Create World's 20th Largest Law Firm

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that the Pittsburgh-based law firm Reed Smith, LLP is merging with London-based Richards Butler, creating the world's 20th largest law firm. The merged firm will have offices throughot the United States, Europe and Asia.
According to the Business Times, Reed Smith currently has 18 offices, and close to 1,100 lawyers. The firm ranks as Pittsburgh's 10th largest company.
In a previous post I wrote about the advantages of Pittsburgh companies expanding their global presence. This is yet another opportunity for Pittsburgh to shine as a global leader.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times

UPMC Continues it's Global Expansion

The Pittsburgh Business Times reported today that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will build a new Biotech lab in Polermo Sicily. The lab will cost $398 million and will focus on many of the same things as their Pittsburgh facilities, including vaccine development, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

I believe that the continued expansion into Europe is very good for the Pittsburgh region. The center will be funded entirely by the Italian government, bringing in resources that UPMC can use to further advance it's work in Pittsburgh. In adition, it establishes invisible partnerships between Pittsburgh and European cities like Polermo and Dublin, further establishing Pittsburgh's reputation as a global leader in life sciences.
I have visited many European cities in the past few decades and (being a proud Pitsburgher) I have asked Europeans if they know about Pittsburgh. Almost everyone I talked to knew of Pittsburgh as a global industrial giant. Even after the bulk of the steel industry had left Pittsburgh, our reputation had remained. Projects like the UPMC labs in Polermo will help establish Pittsburgh as a global biomedical giant.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Downtown Penthouses Topping $1 Million

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that new downtown penthouse condos are reaching prices of over $1.8 million. In addition, these condos are being purchased at a brisk pace.
This reinforces my belief that there is tremendous pent-up demand for downtown living. These expensive penthouse units have the smallest pool of buyers to choose from, and they are being sold at a pace that even the developers didn't expect.

My prediction:
Within two years, downtown will develop into a full fledged neighborhood, with traditional neighborhood serving businesses like movie theaters, grocery stores, corner deli's etc. Downtown will become an 18 hour neighborhood, retaining much of it's daytime vibrancy into the evening hours.
More extensive taxi service will allow residents to eat in the South Side, watch a game on the North Side, and return home to their Downtown loft.

Last year at this time, this scenario would have been nothing more than a day-dream.
Today it is looking like a distinct possibility.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Photo: Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
Monday, April 03, 2006

Pitt Reasearches Discover Test for Early Ovarian Cancer Detection

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered a new method to detect ovarian cancer in it's early stages. The new method would look for protiens in the patient's blood, and would be much less invasive than the current methods that incorporate biopsies. Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live only three or four years because the disease is advanced by the time it is detected.

The new method could detect the presence of "markers" that would alert doctors to the presence of early stage ovarian cancer.
According to the researchers, a single drop of blood from a patient could detect cancer about 98% of the time.

Pittsburgh's medical research community once again proves that it is leading the way with real-world solutions to medical problems. In a post last week, I wrote that Pitt medical researchers are testing a vaccine for juvenile diabetes.
These discoveries are major developments in the medicine, and may save the life of someone you love. The world owes a debt of gratitude to these hard working women and men.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Conference Establishes Pittsburgh as Major Life Science Region

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times, Pittsburgh is about to get some international recognition for the work being done here in Regenerative Medicine.

The Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society ( TERMIS ) will hold it's first ever World Congress in Pittsburgh next month, positioning the region as a global leader in the field.

TERMIS' first president is Alan Russell. Russell is director of The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a Pittsburgh institute who's mission includes the development of innovative clinical protocols as well as the pursuit of rapid commercial transfer of its technologies related to regenerative medicine.

The McGowan Institute defines Regenerative Medicine as an emerging field that approaches the repair or replacement of tissues and organs by incorporating the use of cells, genes or other biological building blocks along with bioengineered materials and technologies.

It has become clear over the past few years, that Pittsburgh is once again becoming a global industrial powerhouse. However, this time the industries that we are building are in the biomedical, robotics and advanced material industries. Pittsburgher's should be proud that such advanced sciences have made their homes in our region.

It should not come as a surprise that the great innovations of the 21st century are coming from our region. Pittsburgh's core work ethic and desire to be great have always put us at the cutting edge of industrial innovation. It is only the industries that change.

Read More about the conference at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Read More about The McGowen Institute for Regenerative Medicine at their website.

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