Tonight, President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address. Tomorrow, according to media reports, he’s headed to our region – West Mifflin to be exact.
Unlike much of the country and much of Pennsylvania for that matter, the state of our region is relatively sound. Although the job growth rate has slowed a bit (more in line with the national average), according to PittsburghToday.org we’re still outpacing the average of our benchmark regions. Household employment remains at record levels, with 1,285,400 people employed in the region through the end of November. Employment has been at record levels for 18 of the past 22 months.
At a time when there’s so much talk about the very real challenge of long-term unemployment and an ongoing debate about extending jobless benefits, it may be easy to forget that more than 20,000 local jobs are available through ImaginePittsburgh.com. A big challenge is the mismatch between the skills employers need and those of the people looking for work. More than half the open jobs listed in the 10 counties of our region demand at least some IT skills.
The relative strength of our region’s economy, coupled with strong community and family networks, may be part of the reason why Pittsburgh has turned up near the top of a list of the “10 best places to pursue the American dream.” Researchers from Harvard and Berkeley ranked regions according to “intergenerational upward mobility,” places where children do better than their parents. Pittsburgh turned up at No. Two, right after Salt Lake City and just outpacing San Jose; places The Atlantic calls the “capitals of the land of opportunity.”
Turns out as well that Pittsburgh’s getting to be a mighty good place to grab some grub. The city’s turned up on another list, this one from Bon Appétit, of the “next big ingredients:” the people and places setting the pace for food in 2014. The magazine says Pittsburgh is ‘The Next Big Food Town’ and that the‘Steel City is where you need to eat now.’ According to the magazine, there are four reasons why: “1.) The East Liberty neighborhood, with its $52 million transit center and future Ace Hotel. 2.) Farmers’ markets everywhere, including Farmers @ Firehouse in the Strip District. 3.) Restaurants like Cure, Bar Marco, Conflict Kitchen, Notion, Fukuda, and Meat & Potatoes. 4.) Serious beer (The Brew Gentlemen) and cocktails (The Livermore, Butterjoint).”
Bon Appétit didn’t reference Pittsburgh specifically with regard to the Boilermaker, also making its top ten for 2014. This famous drink incorporates a shot and a beer, and it’s hardly news around the region, where a shot and beer often meant the end of a steel worker’s shift. But apparently the drink is sweeping the country. For example, Produce Row Café in Portland pairs an oatmeal stout with single-malt Scotch in its version.
Speaking of Portland, a civic leadership delegation from that city is planning a visit to Pittsburgh in the spring. We’ve hosted more than 30 of these delegations from around the country since President Obama brought the G-20 summit to Pittsburgh a little more than four years ago. In the same period, working with Global Pittsburgh, we’ve hosted more than 50 international delegations. They’ve all come looking for best practices in regional revitalization.
But in the meantime, it will be nice to welcome the President back to town. His decision to bring the world leaders to Pittsburgh in 2009 with thousands of reporters in tow helped to transform our region’s reputation – as did everyone who helped to tell our transformation story and showcase our achievements.