G-20: Temporary Inconvenience, Long-term Benefit

Now that the logistics of the G-2o Summit are becoming known the feeling around town is a little like that after a big party. The celebration is over and the hangover is setting in. It’s important to bear in mind that the economic impact of the G-20 selection is more about the signal being selected sends and the attraction of business opportunities that will follow.

Unfortunately, the summit itself will not feel like a big benefit. The mainstream media, in its never-ending effort to focus on negative angles, has written of late about the deliterious effects on nearby restaurants and retailers, many of whom probably thought they would get a business boost from the delegates & hangers-on. The security measures, particularly in a post-9/11 world, are going to be amazingly stringent, and that has meant that almost all businesses near the downtown corridors will actually be closed. In part this is for convenience, but mostly it’s because transportation (even public transit) will be locked out of almost all the central business district.

Even more disconcerting is the fear of potential damage from the protestors. Anecdotes about foreign tourists taking a too-keen interest in some of the roof-tops in the Cultural District are seeping out, and the history of the protests from recent G-20’s isn’t heartening. They tend to be violent and destructive to property. With so many cultural gems located near or in the G-20 security lockdowns, it would be unfortunate if the past performance repeated.

These unfortunate realities aside, remember that the selection of Pittsburgh has been very beneficial. After the initial response (did they really say Pittsburgh?), the selection has caused thousands of media and business to research why Pittsburgh was chosen. This has lead to a raft of stories wourldwide about how cool, progressive, etc the region is, and has increased inquiries about business location here.

There is a legitimate concern about our ability to put our best foot forward when we have to abandon some of our showcase areas to security. One of my friends, attorney David Hickton, asked the question “will Pittsburgh end up looking like Rock Ridge?” (great Blazing Saddles reference). The answer is probably yes, but if we get lucky with the protestors, it’s far more likely that the aftermath will bring lots more interest in the city. This will mean more visitors for leasure and more businesses for the long haul.

For some help in dealing with construction during the the Sept. 23-25 lockdown period, the Master Builders’ Assoc. of Western PA has put together a great guide for planning. You can access it at http://www.mbawpa.org/MBA%20G-20%20Guide.pdf

It’s going to be a pain in the neck period when the world’s leaders are here, but for the big picture it will be better to be in the spotlight for a little while than to watch some other city suffer through it.

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