Sunday, February 17, 2008

Regional indicators

My issues with being able to post during tax season continue, though I am no less worked up about things. My car is a mess, and I am sure most people would side with my wife in saying that it is my own fault. I knew there was a good chance the electrical system would be unreliable when I bought the car, it had been in a flood according to the vehicle history. But right now the radio is fighting me, which is annoying. It needs a code when the battery dies (which happens frequently, because it is an aftermarket battery that is the wrong size for the car). I usually try to put the code in while I’m driving, and have often flubbed a number (of the four digit code). I found that if you hold in the band button, the blank code display will come back. Except not this time. Errrrrrr. I will have to go out, probably now, un-hook the battery, and wait for the capacitors to discharge.

The KD/PG Sunday edition was interesting and frustrating today. It was on the Pittsburgh Regional Indicators thingie, the website. They had John Craig and Paul O’Neill on, and Stacy Smith and Samantha Bennett were the hosts. Stacy Smith sometimes has a problem with coherence, and today was one of those days. I don’t think he prepares as much as he should (he does work a couple of different jobs), and he had trouble asking questions and finding follow-ups that made sense. He also made the statement that I believe makes Chris Briem cringe, that Pittsburgh has more young people leaving than any other area besides New Orleans (I believe Chris Briem attributes local population decline to our disproportionately older population, and their natural tendency to shuffle off this mortal coil). Samantha Bennett only asked a couple of questions (she was there because among her hats is the PG web editor cap), and was not able to save the half hour, to her frustration. John Craig and Paul O’Neill were also not able to rise past the general sense of confusion. By the way, Paul O’Neill does not seem the CEO of a manufacturing concern, his mannerisms seemed a bit fey and he struck me more like a playwright or a professor, a very, very smart playwright. I say this only because I could see it driving George Bush crazy, this fey guy disagreeing in a really smart way with the conservatives in Bush’s cabinet.

It’s a shame the discussion went nowhere, because I think a regional indicators website could be very valuable to our area. Mind you, I am not sure our regional indicators website is the one to be valuable, because I have trouble with it every time I look at it. It is suppose to compare us with other comparable areas, like Detroit or Kansas City or Minneapolis, but I can never bring the comparisons up. If it’s not easy to use on a casual basis, it will be hard to attract many users.

But it could be (in the abstract) useful by providing information, both negative and positive. For example, we don’t want to encourage a Latino oriented business to locate here, at least not now, because it would surely fail. But it does encourage us to think about what sorts of businesses should think about locating here. Paul O’Neill noted that Pittsburgh is ahead of most reference cities in both the healthcare and education industries. He suggested both are recession proof, and that may be true. However, I have a feeling that we all are thinking healthcare may contract here soon, as a large number of patients simply die off, because they are so old. Education should be around for a while, though. Carnegie Mellon is a nationally ranked school (whose students have nothing but contempt for Pittsburgh). But Carlow, Chatham, RMU, Point Park and to some extent Pitt are more regional schools, and their fortunes may be tied to the regional economy. Still, I could see both consulting and internet businesses considering Pittsburgh, because of the large number of professors here, and the reasonable cost of living. In fact, it’s too bad University of Phoenix didn’t start out as Pittsburgh University instead. We have the infrastructure (I believe) to handle an online university here, and with online it doesn't matter where you are.

There's more to say (I guess I had too much build up) but in the interests of actually getting this posted ...

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