This is part of a series of blog posts based on the book Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida.
The picture above is of Dixie’s in Charlotte during the Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders game. Not a particularly important game and definitely not a primetime one, but the bar is still packed with Steeler faithful. Walking through the crowd it was mostly former Pittsburghers. Some left because they had to. Some loved parts of Pittsburgh but felt unwelcome in others. Some just didn’t see it as a place where their careers could flourish. This thought was fresh in my mind on Monday as I was driving back to the Burgh for Thanksgiving.
It was puttering around in my head as I was reading Rise of the Creative Class, and was still there when Florida started talking about one of his case studies, Dublin. Florida made the interesting point that while the population of Ireland was booming in the early 2000s, 53% of the population increase was returning Irish. That statistic really excited me. In so much as Pittsburgh (like Ireland) is a nation (in the sociological context) just as the Irish are a nation (both inside and outside of Ireland), I think this statistic shows the potential for reabsorbing some of our diaspora down the lines.
I’m of course not alone with these thoughts, Jim Russell is one of Pittsburgh’s best bloggers, writing the Burgh Diaspora Blog. Jim has also recently started Pittsburgh Expat Network and is a cosigner of the original Manifesto for a New Pittsburgh which had seven principles, the first of which was to “connect and reconnect the virtual Pittsburgh.” While these are commendable efforts in which I participate actively, I think the focus needs to remain building out a better Pittsburgh. If we follow the Irish model, it wasn’t an outreach to ex-Irish that brought them back, it was a better Ireland.