Economic Summits and the City of Champions

DSCN0301Well, I managed to run 10 miles over the weekend: five on the concrete around the neighborhood Saturday and another five Sunday around and around and around the high school track close to where I live in Copley. The track provides a much more forgiving surface for my injured foot and leg — but the entire run takes on the quality of being in a holding pattern and circling an airport waiting to land. Woot.

On Saturday we took off for Pittsburgh to visit my family — along with my daughter Jessica and her friend Gyorgyi, both visiting from Budapest. (See Budajest.) As the students in the introductory writing classes at Kent State and elsewhere opine: a good time was had by all. Sheesh.

I enjoy Pittsburgh. And there were actually people walking around the downtown streets on a Saturday afternoon, heading to a concert, the Andy Warhol Museum and so on. Or just sitting around — like us — drinking beer and eating what is possibly the world’s best sandwich at Primanti Bros.DSCN0295

And plenty of people — 3,000 or more — from around the world are going to get this view of Pittsburgh in late September when the City of Champions hosts the G-20 economic summit.

This gathering of pooh-bahs from around the globe provides a good showcase for Pittsburgh, a city that has really transformed itself several times since I left the Steel City in the mid-1960s. Gone are the steel mills and other (gross simplification and generalization here) manufacturing jobs. In their place are jobs that support a thriving middle class and a vibrant city. That should give some hope to cities like Cleveland, Detroit and so on that are struggling with the same issues of attracting and retaining employers that actually provide jobs that provide middle-class wages and lifestyles.

And it is also the kind of event that all of the tourism groups and economic development organizations in other cities would kill for. To wit: the CEO of VisitPittsburgh, Robert McGrath, says in the Pittsburgh Business Times:

Robert McGrath, CEO of VisitPittsburgh, put the estimated value of a convention that brings 3,000 to 4,000 attendees to town at approximately $8 million. But he expects the value of the G-20 will be higher than that, given the high-level dignitaries attending. Including advance teams and other visitors, McGrath expects the event will generate between 14,000 and 15,000 room nights over multiple days.

While he acknowledged it wasn’t an event for which VisitPittsburgh could campaign, McGrath said the city did win out over other cities in contention.

“It kind of fell from the sky but at the same time we had to earn it,” he said. “We had to convince them that we could deliver.”

The G-20 meetings also tend to attract protestors and demonstrations. No problem with that IMO as long as the protests are peaceful and no damage is done to property or to individuals. Otherwise — something tells me this gathering won’t end well in the ‘Burg.

But the protestors — to the extent there are any — did catch a break. The Steelers play in Chicago Sept. 20 and in Cincinnati Sept. 27.

Any disruptions or delays for fans heading to Heinz Field for a Steelers game in late September — well, that would be ugly.

The folks in Pittsburgh know only too well that a good defense often trumps a solid offense. And the Steel Curtain certainly helped the ‘Burgh become the City of Champions.

Let’s hope the Pittsburgh police don’t have to take the field with similar results in late September.


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