An economic tale of two cities

As the associate editor of Smart Business Pittsburgh and Smart Business Columbus, it’s only natural that I see some correlation between the two cities I spend so much time working on. This month was no different when considering economic development.

Both cities are taking advantage of their strengths in similar ways to create a robust economy. The key sectors differ based on what works well.

In Pittsburgh, that’s advanced manufacturing, energy, financial and business services, health care and life sciences, and information and communications technology, which represents half of the region’s private sector employment.

For Columbus, the six most prominent sectors are agbioscience, headquarters and business services, international business, logistics, manufacturing, and science and technology.
By consciously strengthening their strengths, the economy as a whole is more prosperous. For example, in November 2014, the national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, 4.3 percent in Pittsburgh and 3.7 percent in Columbus, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s certainly something that the most successful businesses do, too. Take what you do well, turn it into something great and then strive for exceptional.

Strategic planning

These regions also have been following a set plan to improve competitiveness and effectiveness, which is generating success.

For Pittsburgh that’s the Mehrabian Report, the regional benchmarking analysis spearheaded by Robert Mehrabian, former president of Carnegie Mellon University. Columbus is a little further behind, but has made a noticeable difference since it started to follow its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in 2012.

All strategic planning, whether for nonprofit or for-profit organizations, needs to be broad, forward-thinking and most of all adhered to.

These cities have stuck to their plans through both successes and setbacks. So, in your business, don’t let distractions pull your focus off what you’ve determined to be your mission and priorities.

Focusing in

Another similarity is comprehensive services or consolidation.

In Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development oversees 10 southwestern Pennsylvania counties as the umbrella organization of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. This “joint venture” is now more than 10 years old.

Columbus created Columbus 2020, an economic development organization that represents the 11-county Central Ohio region, working in collaboration with state and local partners to offer comprehensive services.

In order to make changes to either your business or a regional economy, you must provide a clear picture, get feedback and buy-in, and then make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

By consolidating or creating a comprehensive organization, both regions’ economic development providers could provide clarity and create one place for questions, concerns and any necessary changes to the plan. Perhaps it’s time to see if you’re doing the same in your organization.

I want to officially dedicate this issue of Smart Business Pittsburgh to regional pride. As usual it wasn’t deliberate, but somehow I ended up with a cover story on a steel company, Universal Stainless, a feature on economic development and a Uniquely on Pittsburghese.