The change is so imperceptible that you probably don’t even see it.
But it makes sense. Total sense. And along with other drivers such as the Marcellus/Utica Shale, high-tech start-ups, and healthcare, this quiet trend is doing a great deal of good in terms of “saving” our fair city.
I’m talking about Pittsburgh’s role as a back office “home.” I’m talking about moving the “glamour” work to the coasts (along with the requisite glamour people) while the grind-it-out people and the stuff they produce stays fixed within the boundaries of your favorite three rivers.
A good friend of mine, Mark Laskow, calls Pittsburgh the “Bangalore” of big industry. And he’s right. He’s right because big industry is no longer characterized solely by manufacturers. Instead, we’re talking primarily here about industries like law and medicine and banking.
The idea is simple and, really, as old as this country itself. You put your “pretty boys” --- those who can sell, those who can hustle deals --- on the east and west coasts. You allow them to throw lavish parties and ink outrageous contracts. You then take the business they generate this way and send it back home for the “muckers and grinders.”
For the banking industry, this is everything from check processing, to information technology, to cyber security.
For our legal friends, it’s the same things except you may substitute: real estate closings and the menial drafting of contracts and incorporations in place of check processing.
And of course, in the medical world it’s always about billing. First party, second party, third party, Christmas party --- it all gets billed from right here --- your fair city.
This all works perfectly with the personality of our town. Look at your football team, Pittsburgh. There are still a majority of people who blanch when the Steelers throw the ball on first down.
Instead, Pittsburghers want a running game. And, they want their team built on rock-solid defense. This is fundamental stuff. This is Middle America.
“It all works because people actually work hard here,” says Laskow. And this is true. Descending from the Joe Magarac sinew in all of us, we find our town comprised, and to the highest degree, of individuals who will give you a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. They’ll not slack off, and they’ll make sure that the work that is done is done as perfectly as possible.
Laskow continued, “And, Pittsburghers actually know how to do things. I have noticed this as well.” He asked me, “How many Pittsburghers have fathers and grandfathers with workshops in their basement? And here, I’m not just talking about ‘for show’ workshops --- I’m talking about workshops where the sawdust is fresh.”
Try to find a home woodshop in Santa Barbara, California. Or Palo Alto for that matter. Sorry --- these daddies just never passed these skills along to their progeny.
It’s all ok with me. And the reason it’s ok with me is because, and for my entire life, I’ve watched how “glamour fades” while “substance stays.” It’s the same reason why our real estate prices held steady over the past four years.
This is a huge advantage for a town like Pittsburgh. May it always be so.
Of course, there are also inventions happening here as well. I’m not going to deny the fact that outfits like Alpha Lab and Innovation Works are doing their part to innovate.
But even these innovations have roots based on process and not glitz.
Just as any Pittsburgher would have it.
About Ron Morris
Ron Morris puts over thirty years of entrepreneurial experience to work answering your business questions, solving your business problems, and bringing you all the latest information about everything that is happening on the entrepreneurial landscape. “I’ve built companies with ZERO money and I’ve been associated with companies who have borrowed money”, says Morris, “I’ve merged companies, I’ve sold companies, and I’ve even bankrupted a company. (My “greatest learning experience.”) So, when you tell me about your business problem, it’s a pretty sure thing that I’ve ‘seen it at least once before ... this ain’t textbook stuff ...this is ‘real bullets’, real world stuff.”