The Pittsburgh region faces tough questions as it faces the futures ahead. Will it, for example, find a way to stop its young people from leaving or slip further into the profile of a “weak market” city, with all that means for the erosion of jobs and talent? Will it close the gaps between its citizens on education, health, earnings, and poverty, or will it continue to be listed as a city of disadvantage for African Americans? And will it play an aggressive role in helping Pennsylvania rebuild its aging economy or eventually eclipse North Dakota and West Virginia as the state with the slowest growing economy in the nation?
No one knows yet just how these futures will play out. It could be that the Pittsburgh area is on the cusp of a great revival as it continues to make the turn from an industrial-age economy to an “eds and meds” future. It could also be that the area has reached the maximum range of its geographic spread, thereby signaling an end to the hollowing-out of its inner city. It could even be that the area’s young people are starting to see the vibrant opportunities embedded in urban renewal and a low-cost of living, not to mention an expanding arts community, access to some of the nation’s greatest educational institutions, and the chance to revel in the return of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the yellow towel industry that goes with it.