Bold Action Needed: James McQuade, Laura Karet, Stefani Pashman
At a time when the Pittsburgh region is continuing to lose population and has been seeing regional job losses the past few months, we asked a group of regional leaders to respond, in 200 words or less, to this question: What action do we need to take to create the kind of growth, vitality and dynamism that will stem our population loss and catalyze a strong future?
James McQuade—President and CEO, Dollar Bank
As I see it, two issues greatly impact Pittsburgh’s ability to maintain significant growth. First, we must connect our region’s workforce more readily to the business environments where they are needed. Our public transportation system is woefully behind the demands of the community. Why is there still no high-speed connection between Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, which is Pennsylvania’s third leading center of commerce? Our business centers will thrive when we connect our intellectual capital with our centers of business. This has been demonstrated in the explosive commercial growth of East Liberty and its proximity to Pittsburgh’s universities.
Reinforcing this idea is the topography of our region, which begs for high-speed mass transit. Communities in the east, north and west could benefit from the high-speed connectivity utilized by south Pittsburgh communities.
The same can be said for the transportation void between Downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh International Airport. Our public and private leaders must make doing business in this region seamless. One starting point is airport accessibility.
Second and closely related to transportation is our need to maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing for our workforce. How can a region satisfy the growth of the service sector and trades that keep our infrastructure working without providing affordable housing for these individuals? We have seen the significant benefit homeownership offers individuals, families and communities, but they cannot take advantage of these resources when they are priced out of the housing market.
Laura Karet—President and CEO, Giant Eagle
To build a robust, inclusive economy, we need to supercharge efforts to attract businesses to the region and ensure that the ones already investing here, prosper. We must continue to innovate and infuse technology in all sectors of the regional economy and attract and retain diverse talent who will propel our companies and region forward.
Much of this work begins with a commitment to remove employment barriers for everyone by creating a workforce culture where all skills, talents and abilities are cultivated. At Giant Eagle, we are doing this by partnering with local colleges and universities to retain young talent through internships and apprenticeships, such as developing one we recently launched with Community College of Allegheny County to develop and train store leaders, meat cutters, cake decorators and CDL drivers.
Our Technology Annex, which will soon open in Lawrenceville, will provide an opportunity to attract technical, digital and creative expertise.
And collectively, we must also focus firmly on making our region—and world—a more sustainable place through reduced plastics, carbon and waste.
Stefani Pashman—CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
I envision multi-colored communities with people of all backgrounds living, playing and working side by side—all sharing in the prosperity of this place. I envision a Pittsburgh with connectivity that allows for communities to interface and flourish.
Imagine leading the world on communications and transportation technology solutions that make interactions seamless. How do we lead on 5G adoption so we increase economic opportunity and access to social services such as education, employment and health care? How could we improve remote learning via new technologies to make sure our whole region benefits from our educational assets?
What if we were the leader in autonomous public transportation—connecting workers to jobs and employers to customers—making it possible for anyone to get between two points in the city in no more than 15 minutes and to surrounding counties within 45 minutes while cutting in half the number of private vehicles?
What if enhanced connectivity removed physical and social barriers that fuel misunderstanding and hatred? If we could build on our legacy as a place that tries new things and solves problems through technology, we would be a more prosperous Pittsburgh.