This is Exit Interview, a weekly interview series with someone who has left Philadelphia, perhaps for another country or region or even just out of city limits and often taking talent, business and jobs with them. If you or someone you know left Philly for whatever reason, we want to hear from you. Contact us.
People leave and come to cities all the time. That’s just part of their natural ebb and flow.
And, Exit Interview was never meant to be exclusively about community members leaving in a huff, it was meant to get a pulse on the various reasons why different people have left. Sometimes those reasons are purely circumstance.
Jonny Goldstein didn’t leave in a huff when he moved in mid-August 2010. His wife got a job in Pittsburgh, and the pair still loves this city. But the graphic artist’s new perspective is helpful in garnering insight on the perception of our city’s tax structure, its place in this part of the country and, heck, even how the Steel Town sees us.
What is the primary reason you left Philadelphia?
My wife was looking for an academic job. Academic job searches tend to be national in scope, and her job search fit this pattern. She got an offer in Boulder, Colorado, and Pittsburgh, and we decided on Pittsburgh.
Once academic job offers failed to materialize for my wife in the Philly area, we realized that we were going to have to relocate.
Was there anything that could have been done differently to keep you?
Short of a university in the Philly area offering my wife a job that was a good match for her interests and skills, no.
Do you think you would return to Philadelphia under appropriate circumstances?
I would love to return to Philly at some point.
I tell them that the startup community that I encountered via Indy Hall is awesome, that there is a vibrant startup scene, and even a Cheers-like bar for the tech community: National Mechanics.
Philly has world class universities, big-city infrastructure, and visionary people that keep connecting talent, ideas, and opportunities. With the advent of the social web, the dots in Philly keep growing and connecting, creating an ever more compelling picture.
I think Indy Hall is a huge asset to Philly. It’s a Petri of ideas, business, and culture, heavily infused with geekery, but not a geek ghetto. I also heard good things about DreamIt Ventures.
I am also a vocal fan of Philadelphia itself. It’s got all the big city benefits with a much more affordable cost of living than Boston, NYC and DC. Philadelphians benefit from geographic arbitrage. They pay low rent and have access to high opportunity markets to the north and south.
Yes, Philadelphia has problems—a lot of the population lives in poverty and poor neighborhoods suffer from high crime. I gather the public school system has problems — although I’ve been to Chris Lehmann’s Science Leadership Academy and if Philly can give every kid in town that kind of education we would be very lucky. The tax structure is not currently easy to navigate for small businesses and the self-employed.
That said, the Philly metro area is the fifth most populous in the country, there is a good airport, Philly lies within a couple of hours of NYC and DC, housing costs are affordable, the city oozes with character, and it’s an hour and a quarter from the Jersey Shore.
And did you know there is an amazing bird refuge in Southeast Philly? I kid you not: Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.
People in Pittsburgh seem to have a pretty positive outlook on Philly.
As far as I can tell, Pittsburghers think Philly is a big, cosmopolitan, fast-paced Northeast Corridor metropolis, which jibes with my perception. I really dig Pittsburgh — how can you not like a town that hosts the CMU computer science program and restaurants that put fries on all sandwiches? — but after a month here, Philly seems to be humming with energy.
A big reason I am happy to be in Pittsburgh is that I am still in easy striking distance of the Northeast Corridor in general and Philly in particular.
What’s the latest you’re up to that we can plug or look forward toward?
I have just come off a couple of really exciting months—doing large scale visual notes for the Collaborative Innovation Forum with participating companies like GE Energy, Enovia, Dassault Systems, and Under Armour and sharing the stage with amazing speakers at TEDx Philly…
It looks like I’ll be back at UArts to teach more workshops in the spring, and I’m getting interest from Philly-based companies to bring me in for some consulting, so I am happy to say that I will be back in Philly soon.
Other plans: I want to start up a VizThink Pittsburgh group, and Julia Pellicciaro — who just moved to Pittsburgh from Philly to study at CMU — and I and some local folks are going to start up IgnitePittsburgh. Plus, as much as I enjoy traveling, I want to develop more business in Pittsburgh.
For more updates, people should check Envizualize.com