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Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Pittsburgh and the Magic of Failure by Ben Schulman

In recent years, Pittsburgh has developed an almost exotic allure as a successfully reborn, recast city. Since its near complete collapse in the early 1980s, when 85,000 regional jobs were lost as the steel industry decayed, Pittsburgh has been shaking off demographic decline and slowly morphing into an updated version of its former self — if not as a manufacturing colossus, at least in terms of having thriving street-life, dense, small-scale development supported throughout its neighborhoods, and a sense of economic vibrancy. This percolating renewal culminated, or at least achieved validity, with President Obama’s decision to place last year’s G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama’s decision to do so set off a small media frenzy about Pittsburgh’s determined grit and resiliency, with odes from Newsweek, The Atlantic, and Forbes all heralding the rejuvenation of one of America’s most overlooked urban jewels. Of course, the G20 boost was just landing on the tail end of a long-arc of reformation, as the New York Times had noted even earlier in 2009. On a recent visit just a few weeks ago to the city nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the amenities, vitality, and cultural options available seemed to be mammoth for a place of its size.

Walking through the Cultural District downtown, crossing the Sixth Street Bridge to the Pirates’ PNC Park (adjacent to the Andy Warhol Museum), heading a bit north to the devastatingly beautiful Mexican War Streets Historic District (home to avant-art capital The Mattress Factory), crossing over to the hipster haven of Carson St on the South Side, exploring the teeming Old World-Bronx-circa-1950 feel of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, scarfing down the overwhelming deliciousness of the Saturday morning open-air food market that is the Strip District, or randomly stumbling into a milonga during the Lawrenceville neighborhood’s First Friday evening artwalks, it isn’t easy not to get caught up in the Pittsburgh reincarnation story. (Not even mentioned: Oakland, home to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh; Shadyside, the host to some of the most impressive homes anywhere in the country, and many other neighborhoods of the 89 distinct ‘hoods that make up Pittsburgh proper.)

Like any place, the book on Pittsburgh is yet complete. Despite its successes, the city is saddled with a looming pension crisis in which more pensioners are due out money than there are currently city workers paying into the fund. The results of the 2010 census will again show a hefty population decline within the city limits, and the region has shown- up until recently- little growth in terms of international and domestic migration. But unlike places like Detroit or Cleveland, where a slow, spiraling decline of industry and population are exacerbating underlying dysfunctional conditions and dependency on old models of growth, Pittsburgh is undergoing a peculiar demographic turnover wherein more people are dying within the city than are being born and/or moving in at present.

Hence, the city is molting, literally discarding the remnants of its past. When the process is complete, which looks very close to occurring, the city left behind will be in some respects, a new, shining city on (many) hill(s). And an incredibly educated one at that, vying with Washington D.C. for the largest proportion of young adults aged 25-34 with post-graduate degrees. Pittsburgh booster and Burgh Diaspora blogger Jim Russell has been an incredibly insightful and influential voice when discussing Pittsburgh’s structural strengths that bode well for its future. Noting the large amount of students from its universities and colleges moving in-and-out of town, Russell has posited that Pittsburgh’s constant shuffling out-migration of students is actually an asset to the region. Much in the same fashion that cities like Chicago and New York consistently draw in and spit out people, Pittsburgh, on a smaller scale, now has the opportunity to do the same, keeping the homegrown ideas, businesses and most importantly networks, in place. After all, a globalized economy will lead to cities with a globalized network, regardless of actual population size. In other words, less could be more in this case.

This article however isn’t intended merely to be a love letter to Pittsburgh and its champions. Nor is it to say that Pittsburgh is even necessarily an appropriate model for struggling, formerly manufacturing-oriented cities in need of what urbanist Richard Florida, a former Pittsburgher himself, has called “The Great Reset.” The lesson to be gleamed from Pittsburgh isn’t so much in what steps it’s taken on its way to recovery. Rather, the lesson to be learned from Pittsburgh is what happened to it when its Great Recession hit in 1983.

It failed.

The steel collapse decimated Pittsburgh and its region, taking with it nearly 1 out of every 10 jobs there. Entire towns surrounding the city became obsolete. But it is because of that failure, that absolute bottoming-out, that Pittsburgh has been able to cast aside its past and emerge as a unique showcase of what a small, bustling, connected American city can eventually become. The example of Pittsburgh is to fail on the failures and invest in the attributes- granted, of which the ‘Burgh had many, in its beautiful architecture, old establishment money, intact communities and ethnic organizations, and cultural trusts and universities- that a place already has. It is a tale not so much for cities facing similar problems to the Pittsburgh of 30 years past, as it is for the country as a whole in this stage of national transmogrification.

Like Pittsburgh did, the country needs to realize that failure is an option. Failure can be a catalyst for movement and for action. Failure can be a paradoxical assertion of American greatness. It is time for great structural changes that reinvest in our national attributes- granted, of which America has many, in its beautiful architecture, old establishment money, intact communities and ethnic organizations, and cultural trusts and universities- rather than band-aiding failed foreclosure prevention policies.

The current crisis could be used to rewrite the rules in regards to short-sales, allowing underwater homeowners to sell their properties without being penalized, as they are now by having the forgiven loan amount treated as taxable income. By freeing sellers from this penalty, in effect, the mobility of individuals to go where opportunities are increases, and the housing market loosens. As the aforementioned Richard Florida has mentioned, perhaps now is the time to get rid of the tax deduction for mortgage interest and enable the country to settle into new modes of habitation. Let’s let Detroit shrink. Bring back the Public Option. We could radically alter the political landscape of the country for the benefit of all by adopting Neil Freeman from FakeistheNewReal.org’s Electoral Reform Map. By doing so, and combining logical population distributions into political constituencies, the increasingly marginalized communities that currently comprise our States could be eliminated, moving us past the versus mentality that simply infects the country and its politics to the point of stagnation.

There are many, many intriguing, innovative and encouraging ideas floating out there, and our collective fear of failure is the only thing preventing the nation from remedying itself anew. Maybe it’s time to look towards Pittsburgh, a magnificent failure that now seems to be a wondrous place to do business in, a place to create in, a place to live. Riding the steep funicular incline to rest atop the city’s Mt. Washington neighborhood, and taking in the vista of its Golden Triangle, some could even say a place of magic.

This post originally appeared at Gapers Block. Reprinted with permission.

22 Comments
Topics: Demographic Analysis, Economic Development, Globalization, Public Policy, Strategic Planning
Cities: Pittsburgh

22 Responses to “Pittsburgh and the Magic of Failure by Ben Schulman”

  1. Eric says:

    Great post.

  2. Pete from Baltimore says:

    But what happened to the blue collar workers who worked in the mills?

    I have only passed through Pittsburgh.But it sounds a lot like what happened in Baltimore, where we lost our manufacturing jobs and replaced those jobs with banking and healthcare jobs.

    But the problem was that it rarely was the people who lost thier manufacturing jobs who got the newer jobs.Those people are either unemployed, working at the dollar store for mininum wage, or shoveling debris in houses being rehabbed due to gentrification, and getting $8-$10 an hour for doing so [if they are lucky].

    As i said.I dont know the detail s of Pittsburgh and what the reality there is.But i do have to wonder where the blue collar workers work now.Or if they even live there anymore.

  3. DBR96A says:

    The economic collapse of the early 1980’s had a disproportionate effect on younger blue-collar workers. Younger workers didn’t have tenure, so they were the first to lose their jobs. Because there were no opportunities for gainful employment in the Pittsburgh area at the time, and because they didn’t have time to prepare for career changes, they all had to move to other cities across the U.S. and they ultimately built their lives in those places. (This is why you’ll find Steeler bars in every major U.S. city.)

    On the other hand, older blue-collar workers kept their jobs the longest because they had tenure. They not only had more job security, relatively speaking, but they also had more time to prepare for their career changes, so many of them ultimately stuck around. This, combined with the mass exodus of younger workers, is what artificially increased the median age in the Pittsburgh area in the 1980’s, and has kept it rather elevated today. (Other cities will catch up rapidly in the next 20 years, however.)

    So basically, Pittsburgh’s younger blue-collar workers are now older workers in other cities, and Pittsburgh’s older blue-collar workers are all retired now. This has resulted in Pittsburgh becoming one of the most white-collar cities in the U.S., which flies in the face of “conventional wisdom” which now happens to be about 25 years old.

  4. BrianTH says:

    Schulman’s follow up piece to this article was also very interesting. As I have said before, the guy should write a book on lessons to be learned from Pittsburgh–a suggestion I intend quite seriously, because I think there is a market for some insight into how all this has worked in Pittsburgh (just ask former mayor Tom Murphy, who has been doing speaking engagements all over the place).

  5. riley says:

    Thanks for the great article about Pittsburgh. It’s amazing how underrated it is, and how people from cities like Cleveland love to disparage Pittsburgh. It’s clear they have never actually been here!

    To Pete: DBR96A is right. I grew up in the shadow of the mills, and was just a kid when they started to close. My dad lost his job that paid well and he thought he would have it forever. But we stayed here, we adapted and he found another job to make ends meet. He eventually found another job in the steel mills (not all of them closed, by the way) and he has been there ever since. While many people did move away to find jobs, just as many stayed here and toughed it out. There are plenty of blue collar jobs in Pittsburgh today, and in fact, as a recruiter, I have trouble filling them. Even in this economy where people are out of work.

  6. R. Pointer says:

    Sorry to post this, but it should be ‘gleaned’, not ‘gleamed’.

  7. Lauren says:

    I’m a fourth-generation Pittsburgher and adore my city. But the economic “rebound” was only possible because we hemorrhaged a good third of the population at least, mostly blue collar workers who headed south. Without steel, Pittsburgh simply can’t sustain the population it once had. Now this has had upsides – we basically missed out on subdivision and strip mall sprawl, thank God, and it’s certainly better to have a labor-drain than a brain-drain. But it puts a HUGE question mark on the viability of Pittsburgh as any kind of model for the US, unless we plan on exporting large numbers of citizens to wherever the jobs are.

  8. DBR96A says:

    The use of Pittsburgh as an economic redevelopment model has to do with workforce development, not workforce dislocation. The former is a long-term solution while the latter is a short-term solution. Pittsburgh is a good model for workforce development, and the evidence of this is the stark contrast in educational attainment rates between the 25-44 age segment in Pittsburgh and the 55+ age segment. The 55+ age segment is educated at a rate well below the national average, and the 25-44 age segment is educated at a rate well above the national average.

    The key is, cities can ensure their own economic stability by developing existing workforces, as opposed to poaching other cities. It’s tantamount to building an NFL team, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins really seem to mirror each city’s approach to workforce development. Neither team/city could have a more different approach from the other. The Steelers develop their team from within by focusing on the NFL Draft, much like the city of Pittsburgh has focused on educating its own residents. The Redskins, on the other hand, have tried to put together the best team money can buy by luring free agents away from other teams, not unlike Washington DC (and the U.S. Government) luring people away from other cities.

  9. Keith Kipple says:

    Surely this article is some sort of joke. I’m curious if the author has spent any amount of time in Pittsburgh or simply heard from a friend that it’s a real happening place. Lauren (#7) has it right – the city sent workers forth who, when they found jobs, never came back. It now contains skeletons of its once successful past that will NEVER be used again. If this is some sort of model for new US ‘growth’… well… okay.

    Spend any amount of time in the ‘Burgh and the general run-down-ness of the place, the masses of shuttered shops and billboards hawking methadone clinics will make you wonder if this is really a city on the upswing or just one that is a shadow of itself.

  10. b.hack says:

    In response to Keith…you should read the links to the articles in Forbes, etc, if you don’t get what this piece is saying. In a nutshell…Pittsburgh, like Detroit, was built on a single industry that boomed then contracted dramatically. But unlike Detroit (or Cleveland, Toledo, Flint, or any other number of midwestern industrial cities) Pittsburgh successfully made the transition to a more diverse economy, and it promoted a culture that’s based in its identity and history. No one’s saying it’s Paris, but its an economic success story that’s highly relevant to the times we’re living in.

  11. fisherpdx says:

    Just thought you might like to know that you got the attention of one of my fellow Oregonians.
    http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-happened-to-pittsburgh.html
    I read your blog frequently, and really enjoy your take on things. I also understand we all have our opinions and respect those as well but I don’t think this guy understands the article.
    Keep up the great work.

  12. kgasmart says:

    I don’t know, Keith, did you ever get out of the downtown?

    As someone who lived in the ‘burgh from ’72-’75 and then back again from ’85-’94 – and still visits from time to time – I think this gets is mostly right, but the one thing missing is how Pittsburgh retains its blue collar soul and vibe. Those towns clinging to the hillsides after you emerge from the Squirrel Hill tunnel headed towards town – they’re still rife with pickup trucks and flannel and guys who dip while watching the Stillers. I think there remains a great resentment over the demise of industrial Pittsburgh.

    Pittsburgh is the great educational institutions, the South Side, PNC Park (if they only fielded an actual team). It’s also the guy I watched piss his name in the snow outside my apartment when I lived in Bellevue. The two go together – strangely.

  13. riley says:

    Keith–I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. The thing about Pittsburghers is, they may leave, but they seem to end up coming back. Secondly, yes there are a lot of remnants of the past–but is that such a bad thing? The steel that was made in this area was the steel that built America. Of course there are going to be remnants of that giant everywhere you go. Eventually those run down mills and closed warehouses and buildings are being demolished and new things are being put in there place. It takes time, it was only 30 years ago. The downtown area is undergoing revival, as well was many neighborhoods. There is much transition going on. Steel jobs are being replaced by healthcare and technical jobs, but there remains quite a lot of blue collar positions. Yes, some of the outlying counties and their respective steel towns are still struggling, but things will change like they always do in any city. That is the ebb and flow. There is growth potential and development going on all around. It’s amazing how many people are so ready to “diss” Pittsburgh and they have never actually been here! Or still think of it as the dirty city it used to be. No, it’s not New York, but it’s definitely got a lot going for it.

  14. Brad says:

    I must re-iterate what others have stated here. Pittsburgh was able to export its problems (i.e. – unemployed blue-collar workers) to the South and West), as was able to do so at the beginning of what was for all intents and purposes a 20 year period of for all intents and purposes, the high point for white-collar job growth and mobility.

    But to use this as some kind of model for the US as a whole, facing likely a 2 – 3 generate decline if nothing is done policy wise to avoid it is foolish.

    It also had advantages few other cities had, which was a strong infrastructure, wonderful universities already in place, and a really decent housing stock. In addition, and this gets missed a lot, it is a very homogeneous population. It lacks many of the racial and cultural divides which can lead to numerous other policy problems (see Baltimore for what happens to a city where a large portion of the population are African-American, and have been essentially ignored). Pittsburgh did not have to deal with that host of socio-economic issues.

    Finally – and this is what is NOT brought up. Pittsburgh for all intents and purposes is one giant government bailout. It’s growth industries are health-care and education, which are if nothing else, some of the largest beneficiaries of government tax dollars.

    I think it is America’s forgotten jewel, and quite frankly, I hope it stays that way, or risk losing its current beauty. But do not think their model is something we should replicate country-wide. We cannot all be University professors,

  15. DBR96A says:

    Among the 100 largest MSAs in the country, only Grand Rapids, MI has a lower percentage of government workers than Pittsburgh does, so clearly, there’s much more to Pittsburgh than health care and higher education.

    It’s surely no more of a “government bailout” than all the Southern states that get $1.20+ of federal tax money spent on them for every dollar they pay.

  16. BillinDurham says:

    I grew up in the ‘burgh, 50s-70s, and my Mom is still there. Yes, the mills closed and jobs were lost. The old mill guys retired out and the schools (CMU and Pitt) churned out new better educated people for Pittsburgh’s and other town’s white collar work forces. The nostalgia for blue collar work makes me smile. I wonder how many have worked those jobs. The mills were soul draining, dangerous, and deadly.

    After 2 years of the Ivy League, I returned to the ‘burgh for a break. J&L wasn’t hiring but when they saw the college kid on break, they hired me. Everyone knew these jobs were dead ends. Six months as 3rd helper on the last blast furnace in Pgh showed me a couple of things:
    1) all the drunks were assigned as vehicle drivers because the furnace jobs were too physically demanding so look out for all vehicles – the drivers are ALL drunk, especially on first shift.
    2) don’t wear protective hoods because if you step in a trough of slag or iron, you’re dead. So optimize your eyesight and learn how to keep the skin on you nose from being burned off.
    3) there’s no training offered by anyone for anything – that’s job security. You have to know someone to learn something. Stupid, unsafe, unproductive, welcome to the old steel industry.

    Six more months making railroad spikes showed me:
    1) 5 years ago, there were white jobs (skilled and/or cool) and black jobs (unskilled and/or hot). The feds integrated it and paid back wages but decades of discrimination left a trail of dead souls, drunks, and damaged bodies, “why do we call him fats… because he was fat before he fell drunk on a red hot steel shaft which took out much of his guts -ask him to show you the scar”
    2) Hard, dangerous furnace work was preferable to easy, repetitive assembly line work.
    3) moving 12 tons of steel each night with one arm makes you a danger in bar fights
    4) Breaking the machine was a perfectly acceptable way of getting some time off from the job
    5) Skill levels and motivation are directly proportional to the difficulty and danger of the job. The best people do the challenging jobs simply because they need to. But watch out for the stupid on the easy jobs.

    Etc. I went back to school with wings on.

  17. BillinDurham says:

    BTW, sorry for all the reminiscing. Shulman’s piece on the “magic of failure” seems right on target. Pittsburgh was gutted but it somehow it took stock of its assets and recovered at a level it could sustain. Trying to hold on to past glories and insisting on continuance of same has killed greater towns. One cannot overemphasize the value of it’s schools and other educational resources. Their value persists while industries rise and fall. I now live in Durham NC and see parallels between the 2 towns. Working class tobacco has turned into a creative class boom. The Triangle’s (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) educational resource(Duke, UNC, NC State) is what differentiates it from the similar but not quite as prosperous Triad (Greensboro, Winston Salem, High Point). It’s the schools, the smarts, and the ability to move beyond obsolete industries. Would you like a smoke?

  18. DingDongBells says:

    Kinda related, but here is an interesting article about the diaspora Pittsburgh suffered from, but still managed to retain something in common.

    For those who don’t know, Scott Paulsen is a radio host in the ‘burgh.

    DingDongBells, spent my college years in Pittsburgh

    Nation Building
    January 18, 2006
    Scott Paulsen

    Think about this the next time someone argues that a professional sports franchise is not important to a city’s identity:

    In the 1980’s, as the steel mills and their supporting factories shut down from Homestead to Midland, Pittsburghers, faced for the first time in their lives with the specter of unemployment, were forced to pick up their families, leave their home towns and move to more profitable parts of the country. The steelworkers were not ready for this. They had planned to stay in the ‘burgh their entire lives. It was home.

    Everyone I know can tell the same story about how Dad, Uncle Bob or their brother-in-law packed a U-Haul and headed down to Tampa to build houses or up to Boston for an office job or out to California to star in pornographic videos.

    Alright. Maybe that last one just happened in my family. At this same time, during the early to mid-eighties, the Pittsburgh Steelers were at the peak of their popularity. Following the Super Bowl dynasty years, the power of the Steelers was strong. Every man, woman, boy and girl from parts of our states were Pittsburgh faithful, living and breathing day to day on the news of their favorite team. Then, as now, it seemed to be all anyone talked about.

    Who do you think the Steelers will take in the draft this year?

    Is Bradshaw done? Can you believe they won’t give Franco the money – what’s he doing going to Seattle?

    The last memories most unemployed steel workers had of their towns had a black and gold tinge. The good times remembered all seemed to revolve, somehow, around a football game. Sneaking away from your sister’s wedding reception to go downstairs to the bar and watch the game against Earl Campbell and the Oilers – going to mid night mass, still half in the bag after Pittsburgh beat Oakland – you and your grandfather, both crying at the sight of The Chief, finally holding his Vince Lombardi Trophy.

    And then, the mills closed. Damn the mills. One of the unseen benefits of the collapse of the value systems our families believed in – that the mill would look after you through thick and thin – was that now, decades later, there is not a town in America where a Pittsburgher cannot feel at home. Nearly every city in the United States has a designated “Black and Gold” establishment.

    From Bangor, Maine to Honolulu, Hawaii, and every town in between can be found – an oasis of Iron City, chipped ham and yinzers. It’s great to know that no matter what happened in the lives of our Steel City refugees, they never forgot the things that held us together as a city – families, food, and Steelers football.

    It’s what we call the Steeler Nation.

    You see it every football season. And when the Steelers have a great year, as they have had this season, the power of the Steeler Nation rises to show itself stronger than ever. This week, as the Pittsburgh team of Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Bettis and Porter head to Denver, the fans of Greenwood, Lambert, Bleier and Blount, the generation who followed Lloyd, Thigpen, Woodson and Kirkland will be watching from Dallas to Chicago, from an Air Force base in Minot, North Dakota, to a tent stuck in the sand near Fallujah, Iraq.

    I have received more email from displaced Pittsburgh Steelers fans this week than Christmas cards this holiday season.

    They’re everywhere. We’re everywhere. We are the Steeler Nation. And now, it’s passing from one generation to the next. The children of displaced Pittsburghers, who have never lived in the Steel City, are growing up Steelers fans. When they come back to their parents’ hometowns to visit the grandparents, they hope, above all, to be blessed enough to get to see the Steelers in person.

    Heinz Field is their football Mecca. And if a ticket isn’t available, that’s okay, too. There’s nothing better than sitting in Grandpa’s living room, just like Dad did, eating Grandma’s cooking and watching the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Just like Dad did.

    So, to you, Steeler Nation, I send best wishes and a fond wave of the Terrible Towel. To Tom, who emailed from Massachusetts to say how great it was to watch the Patriots lose and the Steelers win in one glorious weekend. To Michelle, from Milwaukee, who wrote to let me know it was she who hexed Mike Vanderjagt last Sunday by chanting “boogity, boogity, boogity” and giving him the “maloik”. To Jack, who will somehow pull himself away from the beach bar he tends in Hilo, Hawaii, to once again root for the black and gold in the middle of the night (his time), I say, thanks for giving power to the great Steeler Nation.

    All around the NFL, the word is out that the Pittsburgh Steeler fans “travel well”, meaning they will fly or drive from Pittsburgh to anywhere the Steelers play, just to see their team. The one aspect about that situation the rest of the NFL fails to grasp is that, sometimes, the Steeler Nation does not have to travel. Sometimes, we’re already there. Yes, the short sighted steel mills screwed our families over.

    But they did, in a completely unintended way, create something new and perhaps more powerful than an industry. They helped create a nation.

    A Steeler Nation.

  19. Brian says:

    BTW, the lack of universities and research likely helped Raleigh unseat Charlotte as the East Coast’s hot spot — at least for now.

    Speaking of “Bank Town,” Charlotte could end up being the Great Recession’s poster child for a “white-collar reset.” The region’s blue-collar workforce largely outside the city in satellite mill towns, a fairly small urban core built pre-WWII, and a booming CBD, all laid the groundwork for a last-minute inversion of land values leading upto the recession (and hopefully now a quicker correction following its 11th-hour bubble).

    But despite the bank implosion, what seems to be carrying Charlotte (and other cities with younger in-migration), is Gen-Y’s preference for urban rental housing in a metro largely dominated by owner-occupied suburbia. Hence, the city/suburban inversion is still on pace, but now at a greater expense and more rapid and visible change to middle suburbia (faster filtering), as well as urban condos going rental.

    I do think these changes are visible in every major metro. It’s just the most pronounced where there’s significant young-adult in-migration. Add that to a city, where the core industry faced the biggest reset, and it has been a head-spinning pace.

  20. Jim says:

    Interesting piece. Unfortunately, it only briefly touches on the subject of the suburbanization of the ‘Burgh. The city is losing population, but the county is holding pretty strong. A different commenter noted on here that the city is looking more like a shadow of its former self. Well, that’s to be expected when the center of forward-looking investment doesn’t benefit from that investment.

    Allegheny County is getting progressively more segregated by economic clout, with the city ironically being both a primary source of the (educational) resources driving the county’s economy and coming under increasing economic strain. The bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you mentality is going to come around and bite Allegheny County somewhere else if it doesn’t deal with this issue.

  21. BillinDurham says:

    During the 80s, I traveled from NYC to ‘vacation’ outside of Charlotte. More recently, I spent 6 – 8 years commuting between Charlotte and Durham. Brian’s description of blue collar satellites and a small, then booming, city core is dead-on accurate. From declining textiles to NASCAR, the ‘burbs are blue and the city white. Watching Charlotte reset in the bank bust as the Triangle, and particularly Durham, rise has done nothing but reinforce the lessons of Pgh. Especially the schools. Ironically, the biggest Steeler nation I’ve ever encountered is in Charlotte.. a legacy of US Air, nee Allegheny Airlines.

    Ahh, the Steelers. I grew up in the shadow of old Pitt Stadium where the hapless Steelers played a long long time ago in a place far far away. Parked cars, sold papers, hustled tickets, and tried to ignore the annual party of Clevelanders who liked to come down, waste the Steelers, and drink all the way home. Times did change but for old me, I can’t forget the John Henry Johnson, Big Daddy Lipscomb days as I try for forget the excessive celebrations of the Bradshaw days. Jeez, I’m getting old.

  22. DBR96A says:

    I forgot about the US Airways connection. I had always asked myself why Charlotte seemed to be more overrun with ex-Pittsburghers than any other Southern city. Now I know.

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