Keeping Even with the Joneses, Except in Football

By J.F. McKenna

PITTSBURGH–With the exception of football, things over at the neighbors’ place are pretty much the same as at home.

Once again I find myself in Steeler Town. Once again I am reminded that things a two-hour drive from Cleveland—from promises to problems—look very much like things on the lakeshore. Whether you’re a Browns fan or a Steelers fan, the region is tied to a common fate. And Ohio folks and Pennsylvania folks are wrestling with the same economy.

Cleveland’s Federal Reserve confirmed that fact with its Beige Book report last week. The review of the region’s economy is freighted with uninspiring expressions ranging from “modest” to “sluggish.” Neither city can claim the expression “boom town.”

“Manufacturers in the district told the Federal Reserve that they were cautious, with steel companies reporting that shipping was steady or slightly lower,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. “Manufacturing companies also reported that they were going to go forward with capital spending plans even as their output was below capacity at most factories. Nationally, the Fed reported that consumer spending went up modestly.”

As I said, not much new at the neighbors’ place. But, like Clevelanders, Pittsburghers continue to look toward better days.

PNC Financial Services Group, for instance, is touting the Tower at PNC. Downtown Pittsburgh’s newest skyscraper will be 33 stories high and will feature a multi-story atrium. The $400 million structure should be a reality by 2015. The schedule is realistic, since PNC shaved seven stories from its original design.

Entrepreneurs are getting into the act downtown, too. Donna Fisher is a former librarian who reads the local market as well as good books. She is working with Ace Hardware to open a franchise next year, citing the residential housing boom near the three rivers as a positive sign.

High-tech businesses, not surprisingly, are busy looking for an edge in Ben Roethlisberger’s town. Mylan Inc. has just announced that it will introduce a generic version of Caduet tablets. Good news for folks with high blood pressure, good news for Mylan employees.   

Pittsburgh does seem more star-struck than Cleveland, constantly vying to catch the eye of Tinsel Town refugees. The Dark Knight Rises has been a temporary resident for a while. Now, Frank or Francis, a film starring Nicholas Cage, is planning temporary residence next year.

“Anthony Bregman’s production company, Likely Story, filed an application with the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development for a state film tax credit grant of $4 million for ‘Frank or Francis,’” the Post-Gazette reports. Hey, even for cities, getting the part is expensive.

Less glamorous, but far more important, community enterprises are proving not only expensive but worrisome—as Clevelanders can fully appreciate. “The wolf is sitting on the doorstep at the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT),” reports the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. “A little over six months from now the agency will be staring into the abyss of a $64 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012.  According to PAT’s executive director, the budget shortfall will necessitate a 35 percent slash in service. Such a massive paring back of service will produce hardships for many transit users and possibly impact the county’s economy.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Cleveland and Pittsburgh do have plenty in common.

Except when it comes to football. The Stillers are five games ahead of us in the NFL division. And the fans here are more than glad to tell that to a skinny little boy from Cleveland, Ohio.

J.F. McKenna is a veteran business journalist and communications specialist. Reach him at



  1. I invite you to take a closer look. I’m in Pittsburgh often, and it’s way more lively and booming than Cleveland. Consider the following:

    1). Pittsburgh has a new Fairmont Hotel, a $400-a-night luxury chain. Cleveland’s nicest downtown hotel is…a Marriott.
    2). Pittsburgh-based PNC took over Cleveland-based National City, and Cleveland is now the banks biggest market.
    3). Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle has taken over much of the Cleveland area’s grocery stores, with about 60 stores in this area.
    4). Pittsburgh-based realty chain Howard Hanna bought its largest Cleveland equivalent, Smythe Cramer.
    5). Carnegie Mellon University had the foresite to open a campus in Silicon Valley some years ago, to tap into the resources, ideas, technical sophistication, etc. of that area. Our CWRU? Nada.

    I could go on, but you probably get the gist by now.

  2. Duly noted, John. Thanks for the input.

    For the record, the sweetest girl I know is from Pittsburgh. She’s goes over my copy pretty thoroughly, too. Joe

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