Forging Innovation

Catalyzing economic development in Pittsburgh through collaborative discussion and emergent thought.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mudslinging in Pittsburgh

As an active member of the community, I make it a point to follow the news associated with state-funded, economic development organizations such as Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, Allegheny Conference, Pittsburgh Technology Council, etc.

Recently, there has been a lot of noise around the community about the progress that is being made by those organizations. Some of these organizations, like the Allegheny Conference, have received more attention than others. One side of the camp argues that organizations such as the Allegheny Conference serve no purpose. Their efforts ultimately are a waste of money and may even be deleterious to the general growth of the economy. On the other side of the camp, there are those individuals and organizations that staunchly defend these organizations. These folks claim that our economic development organizations have made massive progress and are leading us towards a brighter future. Who do we believe?

I don't really care. Why? Because it doesn't matter. Regardless of how we got here, we are here now. Let's do something about it. It is essential that we stop the mudslinging, stop pointing fingers, and start to work together as a community. There is no right, or wrong side. These organizations have done good things for the city. Whether they can do better, or not--that is another question. In my humble opinion, they most certainly can. You can always do better. In this particular case, it is clear that they not only have to do better, but have no choice in the matter if our region is to move forward.

Ultimately, however, critics of the economic development community are right on one thing. Our goal as a city should be to eliminate economic development organizations. These organizations were ostensibly formed to foster an environment of self-sustaining growth. If they are effective in achieving their goals, we should have an economy so vibrant that their presence is no longer required. What do you think?


  • At 8:09 PM, Blogger Ed Engler said…

    If nothing else, the ACCD has shown the important ability to gain consensus among the private sector leaders and help them speak with one voice. One may claim that talk is cheap and we need more action, but getting everyone on the same page clearly requires a large amount of communication among community members of all stripes. No other organization in our community could have achieved such consensus.

    State-funded ED organizations can play a crucial role in a region's economy if they are well conceived and well run (two big ifs). It's easy to criticize those with little accountability who are spending taxpayer dollars in ways that aren't transparent and valuable to all. That said, I think there has been good progress in increasing the effectiveness of some of the publicly funded economic development organizations in our region. We - each of us and our organizations - can always do better and must strive to do so, but we must also recognize the progress we've made, feel good about it, and then press on. Anyone resting on their laurels is not helping the situation. Mudslinging and negative attitudes are even worse.

    We must each seek ways to contribute ideas, sweat and capital to the opportunities before us, then push forward in a collaborative, supportive way to move our community forward. If we don't, nobody else will.

    Get involved, get others involved, and help us make good things happen for this community!

  • At 3:16 PM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said…

    If you don't care .... then we have a problem.

    If you can't understand the past mistakes -- then you can't avoid them for the future. History matters. How we work matters. Otherwise, we'll make the same mistakes again and again.

    I don't agree that there has been good progress in increasing the effectiveness of the publicly funded economic development organizations.

    Mudslinging is a bad word. Not my word. Mayor Murphy was big on saying, "Naysayers." The naysayers were right on in terms of Murphy's economics. Lord & Taylor and Lazarus offered POOR Deals for the city. We did go bankrupt. TIFs cripple.

    Personally, I don't think much of the private weenie groups around here. That's a yawner next to the ill will I feel for the elected politicians in the public realm. That's where the bleeding really happens. But, the semi-private groups speed along the corporate welfare from the public sector 100-fold.

  • At 7:46 AM, Blogger Hooman said…

    Mark, I agree that you have to learn from the past. My point was not that we should ignore the past, but need to work on creating an actionable plan for the future. My frustration has stemmed from the fact that I have been part of a number of "studies" and "surveys" that have resulted in absolutely no forward progress. Hope that makes more sense. Great post.


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