Will we always be second best?
Over the last month I have been corresponding with a young man from Tokyo. He will be moving to Pittsburgh for a job, with wife and baby daughter in tow. He is in fact an American but has lived abroad for years now. He believes that America can offer a better life for his family.
But apparently not Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is his entry point back into the country. He already has a timeline firmly implanted in his mind for the length of his stay here. Three years and then on to a better place.
My first reaction when he told me this was disappointment. But Chris Briem set me straight. He said “I bet places like Manhattan or Boston, or places one might think are ‘not second best’ are full of transitory people who will not stay.”. And of course, he’s right.
Just last month the Wall Street Journal’s selected their 10 top-rated Next Youth-Magnet Cities. Washington DC tied for first place with Seattle. Washington DC has an enduring brand as a place of transition, full of people who don’t stay long. And yet, it is, according to the WSJ the number one pick for today’s youth. Interesting.
If a region has churn, according to Chris, then it is attracting those mobile workers who have the most options on where they go. And this is a good sign. For decades now, the region has been moribund, unable to attract new workers, For decades now we have been number one in weird statistics like the highest percentage of people who have lived in their current home or current county. Now we have companies like Westinghouse who are growing so rapidly that they may be the provider for the churn we are looking for. Westinghouse alone is looking to fill some 600 positions they have open.
If the city is going to expand and grow then this is something we should learn to expect. It will be hard to forget the last 3 decades. Then, a person who left was not necessarily replaced. Now we should expect more people to come and leave and be replaced by others. New people, with new families and new ideas.
The day after he left Pittsburgh after his first brief visit here, my Tokyo friend wrote to me. “Strangely enough” he wrote “I miss the time I spent in Pittsburgh.”
Churn or not, I had to smile.