The Diaspora Report: Matthew Kleinrock, a guy who came back

He came to Pittsburgh. He left. Now he's back. Study this case!


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Born in Fairfax, Va., in 1974, Matthew Kleinrock is a man of impeccable taste, as evidenced by his decision to move to Pittsburgh and surround himself with wonderful, intelligent, good-looking people such as ourselves. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, transferred to Mary Washington in Virginia, then spent the ensuing years in front of a computer in the D.C.-Northern Virginia tech corridor before deciding, approximately, The heck with this, I'm moving back to Pittsburgh.

He came here a year ago, lives Downtown in a Penn Avenue apartment and pursues his interests in photography. If you see a guy with a camera and goatee, shadowing the dancers of Attack Theatre, that's probably him. (Or it's some random perv with a camera.)

He's part of the coveted subclass of Pittsburgh Diaspora who was educated here, then left. It's the blasted Brain Drain phenomenon, about which every city of a certain size, with more graduates than available jobs, wrings its hands and gnashes and wails: Please don't go!

Well, he went. But why'd he come back?

If there's a thread through his response, it's that Pittsburgh, whatever it lacks, at least has a genuine sense of community -- and that's more than some other cities can say.

Q So what brought you back?

A I needed to leave the Washington, D.C., area, because I didn't feel that it was a very comfortable community. I loved Pittsburgh when I was in school here -- it's beautiful -- and there's a lot going on. When I was looking for places to go, the choices were San Francisco or Pittsburgh.

I decided to try Pittsburgh, and if I didn't like it, keep heading west. But I'm still here!

How does Pittsburgh reach out to others like you -- the ones who have tried Pittsburgh and liked it, but who don't have that deep, ingrained connection?

If you've never been here, and you hear "Pittsburgh," you might think that it's not the best place. It was a challenge to get me to come visit Pitt when I was looking at colleges. But once I came here, I found the city to be full of good, accessible people.

Here, you can be part of a community and make a difference. In D.C., there really wasn't a sense of community because everyone is so transient. Here, you have the power to make things happen. People actually live here -- they don't just reside here -- and overwhelmingly, Pittsburghers are the best people I've met.

The unofficial headquarters of the Pittsburgh diaspora is the Washington, D.C., area. What does Pittsburgh have to offer specifically to those who have left here for the nation's capital? Should we be trying to bring them back? Strengthening ties with that pocket of Pittsburgh, tapping their financial capital and goodwill? All of the above?

One of the main reasons people leave Pittsburgh for D.C. is because it's close by and there are more job opportunities and higher incomes. Until people are tired of making more money and having more opportunities, people will continue to go there. If they come back to Pittsburgh, it's because they like the way of life here.

So I would focus not on reaching out to people in other areas or the financial aspects, but to investing in Pittsburgh itself and creating opportunities here.

Pittsburgh is behind larger cities in a lot of ways -- technology, business, capital -- but it also has a much more community-oriented feel. Capitalize on that to bring in new companies and opportunities rather than trying to make Pittsburgh into something else.

You mentioned your belief that Pittsburgh, in some cases, is spending its limited marketing resources on technologies or endeavors that are superfluous. Could you elaborate on that?

What I meant is that Pittsburgh seems to be behind the curve in how it uses Web-based technologies for advertising and marketing. It's slow to adopt new things, and when it does, it adopts things that are no longer new to the outside world.

So Pittsburgh needs to move to the cutting-edge of new media technologies, and use those to tell the story of how great Pittsburgh is. There's a general misunderstanding that the Web is just another way to have a brochure, when really it's a way to interact with your audience -- and it doesn't have to be expensive.


Bill Toland can be reached at btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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