Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive:
Pittsburgh made the steel that built America. More steel was produced in Pittsburgh during the Second World War than was built in Germany and Japan combined. This great industry declined, and Pittsburgh’s identity has turned around through technology. For example, we’ve become an epicentre of driverless cars, autonomous vehicles. Recently, 238 cities bid for Amazon’s new headquarters that will create 50,000 jobs. Amazon picked a final 20, including Pittsburgh. We’re the only one that’s a rust belt US city. When President Obama visited our city, he asked me: ‘How come you succeeded where others did not?’ It’s our spirit of collaboration, to work together and get the job done.
We have so much technology coming out of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh. The cost of living in Pittsburgh is much less than in San Francisco, Boston or New york, and so on. Our quality of life is high, with arts culture, parks, and beautiful surroundings. We also have the largest amount of subterranean natural gas in North America, the biggest natural gas deposit: Marcellus Shale. We have an energy portfolio that’s growing, with Shell investing in a $7bn dollar plastics and petrochemical plant, the only one in North America that’s outside the Texas, Louisiana area. Pittsburgh has an infusion of young people coming in, especially software engineers [since] we have Google, Facebook, Apple and Disney doing research. We’re one of the fastest growing millennial populations in the country. For first time in many years, we’re having shortages of workers, not jobs. We’re a city of 300,000 – but we used to be 600,000 before the [crisis] of the Eighties and Nineties.
Christina Cassotis, CEO of Pittsburgh International Airport:
I’m not a native of Pittsburgh, I moved in to take this job. I’ve observed that the reason this region is leading among middle tier cities in the US – and showing the way for other rust belts cities – is because of the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the city’s founders and leaders. Pittsburgh’s airport reflects the history of the past few decades. [Following the city’s industrial decline], the airport’s annual 21 million passengers fell to seven million. From 110 destinations, at its peak, in had 37 in 2015. However, this is changing. We’re now at 74 destinations. We’ve created the momentum by demonstrating that there’s a market to be served. We’ve leveraged the assets of the community, the business community, the inbound leisure community, the convention community. We’ve been incredibly aggressive in positioning ourselves on an international world stage as leaders in innovation. In partnership with CMU – a world leader in AI and robotics – we’re going to build the world’s smartest tech airport in the coming years. If we have the right air service profile, FDI makes much more sense.
Stefani Pashman, CEO of Allegheny Conference on Community Development:
One of Pittsburgh’s biggest challenges for many years has been around inclusion and diversity. We have a very low population of African-Americans and a small Hispanic community, not least because, for 30 years, people were leaving due to unemployment. So we don’t have the breath of diversity compared to larger cities. This can affect our attractiveness since millennials want to see diversity. Thus, we’re very intentional about how we’re thinking about ensuring cultural competence in our businesses, ensuring that we open up our talent pools to diverse audiences, and ensuring that we have amenities that can attract a diverse population. The recent influx of tech workers from around the world is helping a lot.