Pittsburgh – No Longer Steel City, How about Deal City?

Posted by: Hank Hyatt on Monday, August 19, 2013
Entrepreneurism to Industrialism and Back Again... When a city loses more than 200,000 jobs over 24 months and unemployment spikes to 18%, what are community leaders to do? That issue was front and center in the mid-1980s in Pittsburgh, as its steel industry was decimated. A host of causes were blamed for the decline. From cheap steel imports to a lack of flexibility on the part of management and labor, underlying all these reasons was something more fundamental: a falling way from the original spirit of entrepreneurism that had originally helped Pittsburgh leaders create the industrial behemoths that dominated post-World War II America and the world. Fortunately, a legacy of the wealth created during the boom times lives on in the extremely strong foundations that have been transformative during the lean years in Pittsburgh. The amount that these foundations invest annually in their region each year is larger than the entire budget for the City of Pittsburgh. Change can happen much more quickly in a community when it has assets of that magnitude. That is one of the pivotal stories that Greenville leaders will hearing during a visit to Pittsburgh October 22 – 24. Thanks, in part, to such foundations, Pittsburgh has created an economic engine based on an “Eds and Meds” strategy. By leveraging key anchor institutions, such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Pitt School of Medicine and Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh has been able to create new round of locally-focused wealth creation. Through health sciences-related technology innovation, commercialization and new company formation, Pittsburgh has established a reputation that goes well beyond Steel City. Emerging, high-growth firms are nurtured by local organizations such as the Pittsburgh Technology Council as well as by a set of state-level policies and incentives that support technology-based economic development. In many respects, the Greenville region is similar to Pittsburgh. With textile layoffs in the tens of thousands, we, too, have seen an industry severely impacted. We, too, have had a rich legacy of entrepreneurism and are seeing a rebirth in that spirit today. NEXT, The Iron Yard, Upstate Carolina Angel Network, SC BIO, among others, are all organizations dedicated to seeing high-growth companies succeed. And by creating more locally-based headquarter firms, we will impact our long-term wealth position. Imagine having foundations whose assets are measured not in millions, but in billions. Greenville is in a race for the future. It’s a race that started well before we got here and will go one well after we depart the scene. We have a responsibility to see that we accelerate our current rate of growth as we strive to foster local wealth creation. This year’s Intercommunity Leadership Visit will be a great opportunity for the area’s leaders to see how seriously another community takes that commitment.

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