I have had several recent conversations with some of Pittsburgh’s self-identified regional taxonomists who disagree with GLUE’s categorization of the burgh as a Great Lakes city. I will be the first to admit we are not dealing with a cut and dry categorization here.
The term “Rustbelt” is pejorative and anachronistic but attractively gritty in certain circumstances.
Alternatively, I’ve taken to experimenting with a “Midwest” tag. With only anecdotal evidence available, I’ll tell you that it hasn’t been pretty. I’m not sure exactly what the fuss is all about, but there seems to be general agreement amongst Pittsburgh natives I know that it simply will not fly.
One protester of the “Midwest” stamp went so far as to say that Pittsburgh is the capital of America’s “Middle-East” region. Does that mean we will need to start naming, and re-pronouncing, places in Arabic, Hebrew, and Farsi in addition to the Pittsburgh-ization of French names (think North Versailles, or Ver-sayles)?
Then of course there’s the “Mid-Atlantic” distinction. OK, I haven’t really given it a chance. The term wants to be followed by “Sales VP” or “Regional Manager” – an org chart classifier, perhaps, but not much else. I do not anticipate legions of Pittsburghers rallying around a call for Mid-Atlantic revitalization.
Jim Marczak did not put the taxonomy issue to bed in yesterday’s Post-Gazette, but he did proudly associate us with our freshwater oasis to the north, Lake Erie. My ardent hope is that his piece marked the beginning of a sincerely felt Great Lakes identity in Pittsburgh.
Among my favorite passages:
“Let’s face it, the Pittsburgh area is not really competing against Cleveland and Buffalo and Toronto. The entire Great Lakes region is competing for the next international investment dollar with Shanghai and Mumbai and Dubai, and we must work together to make it more attractive to investors.”
Making the region more attractive to international investors may not be the only reason mega-regionalism rings my chimes, but it’s a big one. As Erie’s twenty-something green-trepreneur Lucas McConnell said to me in January, “There is no reason industry can’t be responsible for the reemergence of this region as a global force. It will just be a different kind of industry.” Hear, hear!
If we exclude cities that don’t literally abut the Great Lakes from our regional concept, we severely undercut the potential power of cooperation.