This week the Group of 20 leading countries, G20, met in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25, to address two key issues: climate change and the fledgling global recovery. This meeting is important, because on Sept. 25, this forum announced that it will be the main one in which global business and economic policies are shaped, replacing the G8.

The G20 comprises the finance ministers and central bank heads of countries that account for 85 percent of world GDP, 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of world population. The countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil,  Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK, U.S. The European Union is also represented, hence the “G20”. Last April  the group met at heads-of-government level in London — recall the TV shots of each Prime Minister entering 10 Downing St. with his gowned wife, one by one, in a fashion parade. Next year G20 will meet in Muskoka (a resort north of Toronto) and in South Korea. 

Politicians, economists, pundits and others all proclaim the crisis is over and the recovery has begun. But managers are not so certain. And it is managers who are in the field, daily, producing and selling the goods and dealing with clients. Here is what McKinsey Global Research found in their recent survey of managers worldwide:

In early September, McKinsey surveyed more than 1,600 business executives around the world about their current views on and hopes for the economy. Only 20 percent believed that a “normal” recovery starting in late 2009 would be the most probable outcome. Some 42 percent thought that 2010 would be a year of flat economic activity. About a third believe that an extended period of anemic global economic growth (below 1 percent per annum) is likely for the next several years. The remaining 7 percent felt that something akin to a double-dip recession was probable.

I think the real story of the Pittsburgh G20 is Pittsburgh, not G20. My sister and brother-in-law live there and I have been visiting Pittsburgh regularly for 55 years. I watched Pittsburgh transform itself from a dirty steel town (I recall touring the steel mills along the Allegheny River), permanently coated in soot, to a sparkling clean modern high-tech city with great universities (University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon), entrepreneurial energy and excellent mayoral leadership. Located at the confluence of two great rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, Pittsburgh has escaped the decay and decline other cities experienced when their heavy industry disappeared. As a city that successfully reinvented itself — one of very few — Pittsburgh merits careful study by innovators and deserves a visit by tourists. Come especially to see what they’ve done to the old Union Station — it’s amazing.

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