The continual praise Pittsburgh has been receiving is a bit like the compliment given to a person recovering from a prolonged illness: "Oh, you look so much better!" What begins as flattering can quickly turn irksome. As native son Michael McGough explains it in the L.A. Times:
A lot of the commentary was patronizing. 'Pittsburgh is a nice place? Who knew?!'Holding up Pittsburgh as a shining example of an industrial powerhouse reinventing itself with the magic of deregulation is now nearly as hoary a cliché as calling it, well, an industrial powerhouse. Here are a few of the many examples:
- The President of the United States, via the Wall Street Journal's Clare Ansberry: “Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st century economy. As a city that has transformed itself from the city of steel to a center for high-tech innovation –including green technology, education and training, and research and development — Pittsburgh will provide both a beautiful backdrop and a powerful example for our work."
- Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as quoted by Kim Lyons for the Pittsburgh Business Times: Eric Schmidt said Wednesday that Pittsburgh has "the most effective tech council in all of America," and the region's drive to create new industries, dating back to the Mellons and Carnegies, has served it well in the 21st century.
- The Washington Post's Alexi Mostrous: "Pittsburgh has shaken off its smoky image, transformed by an industrial collapse that drove out half of the city's population in the early 1980s. As the Group of 20 gathers Thursday, members are more likely to ask what Pittsburgh can teach them than why they had to come here."
- Forbes' Raquel Laneri: "As cities around the world suffer from collapsing industries, spiraling real estate prices and crumbling infrastructure, Pittsburgh's persistence--if not quite'"boom'--emerges as a ray of hope in this tumultuous time. And it has gone from depressed former steel town to host of the G-20 summit not by emulating other global capitals or rebuilding itself as some shiny sky-scraper-lined metropolis, but by remaining, essentially, Pittsburgh. Battered economies, take heart: If this idiosyncratic, disorganized, humble city can arise as the unlikely symbol of progress in all this mess, there is hope after all."
- The Daily Mail's Sam Fleming: "Pittsburgh not only survived its industrial meltdown, it painstakingly reinvented itself in the 1990s and 2000s as a hub for medical research, high-tech manufacturing and financial services. This new-found diversity has helped insulate Pittsburgh from the worst excesses of the bubble economy, as well as the subsequent crash that is still afflicting America."
- The Moderate Voice's Elrod: "Spurred by the education and health care industries Pittsburgh has rebounded as one of the most economically healthy cities in America. Its rebirth has given hope to other Rust Belt cities desperate for a makeover."
- Jim Russell at New Geography: "Pittsburgh is finally ready to take advantage of the spotlight. With the global economy in dire straits, hell with the lid blown off never looked better. The underlying numbers, such as unemployment, are relatively strong. Pittsburgh is a place of brain gain, not drain. When national growth returns, people will begin to move again. Pittsburgh will be one of the places they will consider."
- And of course, we would be remiss not to mention The Atlantic's own Caitlan Smith: "If Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Gordon Brown, or any of the other hundreds of foreign government officials (plus 4,000 journalists) are looking for inspiration on how to revive their economies, they could do worse than to walk through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, which brim with reminders that just about everything old can be new again."