Our opinion: Development beyond big cities

A recent story by the Center Square highlighted Pennsylvania’s struggles to expand the commonwealth’s innovation economy beyond more than a few tech hubs located in the state’s biggest cities.

A Brookings ranking found that, of 56 regions, Pittsburgh was 54th for its change in jobs since 2012 and 50th for its change in employment rate. The region’s share of jobs in advanced industry is still below the American average. Advanced industry jobs in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia lag behind the familiar hubs of Boston, North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, the Bay Area and Seattle while Pennsylvania also finds itself lagging behind parts of Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan.

For decades Pennsylvania has struggled to redefine itself from its Rust Belt history. The dialogue captured by the Center Square shows the struggle isn’t going to end anytime soon because the state is facing the same issues it faced 30 years ago — lack of a qualified workforce, lack of incentives to attract new companies and an inability to achieve the growth in its cities that can lead to some growth in outlying areas like ours.

If Pennsylvania can’t figure out how to make innovation hubs work in its biggest cities, what hope does the rest of the state have? If it can’t find a workforce for advanced manufacturing and technology-driven jobs in places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, what hope do areas like Warren, Forest and Elk counties have to get the types of companies and jobs that can keep more of our children from leaving after they graduate from high school?


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