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Yang Sook, owner of Seoul Mart in Pittsburgh

The Rustbelt, Again?
part 1 2 3 4

Seoul Mart, a corner grocery store, opened last year along a busy street that runs between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. Owner Yang Sook, a Korean immigrant, says the store sells a lot of ramen noodles and kimchi to its customers, mostly young Asians. "Not only Korean students, they are Chinese, Thai, Philippine, Japanese."

A century ago, immigrants poured into Pittsburgh, almost all of them from Europe. Only one in 100 was from Asia. Now it's one in five. But the city's overall immigration rate is well below the national average, and that's a problem. In a study, Duquesne University said within a decade, the city may face a labor shortage of up to125,000 workers. Skilled jobs are already going unfilled.

"This region has profited from immigration over the past 20 to 30 years, [but] not in the numbers, particularly in the '90s, that were a reality for many of the Sunbelt areas, California and Silicon Valley and so on," says Schuyler Foerster, head of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. "We're not going to have a workforce large enough, with the right kinds of skills, to be able to remain competitive as a region, particularly as the nature of global competition changes. We're just going to be short of people."

Now, isn't that interesting? Here's, like, a leading figure in Pittsburgh, saying he has to have more immigrants. Now for Pittsburgh, this was never a problem. I mean, right? Immigrants came to Pittsburgh automatically.

To work in the steel mill.

Right. And more recently, I suppose if you were from, I don't know, China or India, and you could get into Carnegie Mellon, you'd go in a flash!

Absolutely. Or Berkeley, Harvard, all the crown jewels of the American university system. But look at what's happening today. There are wonderful universities around the world - in China, India, Australia, Philippines - research institutes that are hiring the top scientists.

That weren't around 15 or 20 years ago?

No. There's choice today. If you're an Indian, you can decide, "I think my better prospects are here in India," or maybe better prospects in Australia or maybe it's China.

Does Carnegie Mellon notice this?

Oh, they're very well aware of it. For one thing, it's getting harder to attract students here, so guess what they're doing. They're going to where the students are. Brick and mortar in different countries, like Qatar in the Middle East, in order to attract students.

Wait, wait. You mean Carnegie Mellon is building a campus in the Middle East?

Yes.

I know NYU is doing this, too, and Harvard is thinking about it as well. So there must be this very palpable sense that that they're not going to come to us, so we have to go and recruit them, even if that means a very expensive form of recruitment, meaning up go the buildings, over go the professors, and so on.

And this is why this globalization is really different than the previous waves of globalization, that the talent is all over the world, and the innovation, the ideas, are all coming around the world. So it's no longer that the best and brightest come here to the United States, if you want to pursue an idea this is the freest environment. It has really changed. The game is much more level.

Back to Global 3.0 or continue to Part 2: Winners and Losers