100 Pittsburgh Leaders
We asked 100 top leaders across Pittsburgh to respond in 100 words or fewer
to this question: According to the U.S. Census, in 2021 the Pittsburgh MSA had the inauspicious distinction of having the highest natural population loss — more deaths than births — of any metro area in the country. Pittsburgh lost 10,838 people, followed by Tampa/St. Pete (-9,291) and Sarasota/Bradenton (-6,643). In order to sustain this region’s future economy and quality of life, what’s your top idea to stem the population losses and attract new people?
Their answers follow in the pages to come. But Pittsburgh Tomorrow needs your thoughts too! Please send your ideas (in 100 words or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will use them in shaping the final plan for Pittsburgh Tomorrow.
PATRICK GALLAGHER, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
We lack a strategy that articulates why we want to grow and what steps we must take to evolve. We’re like a team full of the most talented players — but without a coach, a game plan, or a sense of teamwork. As a result, we’re losing against “less talented” regions that are leveraging a playbook and cleverly collaborating. Growth, especially equitable growth, is no happy accident. It requires a clear path forward and asks each partner to be aligned and assiduous in strengthening economic opportunities for all. How intentionally we engage in this work will impact whether or not Pittsburgh grows — and if this growth will benefit the many or merely the few.
SUNIL WADHWANI, CHAIR, MASTECH; PRESIDENT, WADHWANI IMPACT TRUST
Pittsburgh has well-paying jobs, great quality of life, and an enviable cost of living. We also have more than 50,000 vacant housing units. Why not make these available — for free, or a nominal amount — to people who want to move here? For this to work, the process for buyers to get clear title must be thoroughly revamped, to make it much faster and easier: Ideally, the new owners should get clear title within 90 days. We could supplement this with assistance in connecting with appropriate local employers and in securing necessary training, if required. This could be funded through a combination of existing resources and by raising a billion-dollar Pittsburgh Prosperity Fund. Over the next 10 years, this will give us an additional $100 million a year to invest in attracting new people and businesses to our region. It’s an ambitious target, but — with the commitment of our corporate, civic and political leaders — we can do it!
KATHY HUMPHREY, PRESIDENT, CARLOW UNIVERSITY
The region’s universities bring thousands of students to the city each year who can make our region their home. Keeping even one-quarter of the student population would make great strides in increasing the city’s population. We must go beyond the walls of each university and work collectively with businesses, organizations, and others to engage and involve students in a way that reinforces a sense of belonging and appeals to their civic mindedness. We also must work collectively to provide opportunities for employment, health care, and housing for Pittsburgh to thrive and remain an attractive place to live, work and play.
RICH FITZGERALD, ALLEGHENY COUNTY EXECUTIVE
We have found success in attracting and retaining people here because of three main things: our diverse economy and job opportunities, our quality of life, and our affordability. We shouldn’t take any of those things for granted and should continue to focus and build on each of those items to continue to attract new people to this region, and we need to do our part to ensure that everyone in our community shares in those opportunities.
DIANE HOLDER, CEO, UPMC HEALTH PLAN
Having spent most of my adult life in Pittsburgh, I am still a fan of its beauty, arts, topography and friendly people. I’m still impressed coming out of Fort Pitt tunnel at night, or viewing the convergence of the rivers from the top of Mount Washington. We need to be a magnet for young people and give them the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh. We need more industry and business support, and we should merge the city and county into one entity that would better leverage state and federal dollars, create jobs, align leadership, minimize expenses, and leverage our truly amazing assets.
ED GAINEY, MAYOR, PITTSBURGH
Each day, my administration gets up and does the work of transforming Pittsburgh into America’s safest and most welcoming city, where everyone has opportunities to thrive. When everyone feels safe and welcome in our great city, we will be able to attract new residents to Pittsburgh — but they will only choose to stay if we also create pathways to prosperity so they can live a full, rich life here. We also need to celebrate our city’s diversity. That is key in a global economy and will help us in our efforts to attract more people to live and work here.
(Look for more leaders’ responses next week.)