"I am proof of the life newcomers to Pittsburgh can have."
Fresh out of Penn State, Jesús Torres and his wife headed for the go-go world of Washington D.C., finding jobs in finance in a town that is thick with diverse young professionals and vibrant nightlife.
The physical temperature was warmer than what the couple had experienced at college, but the atmosphere was chilly.
“We didn’t know anyone there. We missed our friends and family,” Jesús – who also goes by JT -- recalled. “There were also financial considerations. After we moved here, we bought a house. Our monthly mortgage is half of what we used to pay in rent in DC.”
Jesús is a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico with extensive experience living in the United States. He’d made many visits to New York and Florida, and at 16 he was recruited to play basketball at high school just outside of Bangor, Maine. He played shooting guard and point guard at Penn State Greater Allegheny before transferring to the main campus. Before long, though, repeated injuries – including severe stress fractures that left him with metal rods in each leg – put him out of serious play. He met Elizabeth, a native of Westmoreland County, and eventually proposed to her atop State College’s storied Mount Nittany, with the vast Allegheny Mountains as backdrop.
Jesús had a job offer back home in Puerto Rico but, eight years of recession, double-digit unemployment and insecurity made that unappealing.
“It’s hard to find a job in Puerto Rico. It’s been a constant battle for individuals with degrees; a lot of them have not been able to grow and move further in their careers,” he says. “Sadly but true, most of my friends are trying to leave. My brother was in Fort Lauderdale for four years, and my sister went to Massachusetts to study. Both of them have moved back home for non-career reasons, despite the difficulties. My family is sad that my wife and I have not returned as well, but they understand that we have more opportunities here.”
In January of 2014, Jesús accepted a job in downtown Pittsburgh with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, whose 2,500 professionals provide a wide range of accounting, tax, assurance and consulting services. As a senior accountant for the firm’s audit practice, Jesús’s client base includes nonprofit, senior living centers and higher education clients, as well as compliance issues. He is also part of Baker Tilly’s Supporting Opportunity, Advancement, and Recognition for all (SOAR) subcommittee, which works to help develop a diverse, inclusive workforce with opportunity for all team members to maximize their potential, create value and deliver to clients of this nationally recognized firm.
The best part of his job, Jesús says, is working with teams that he can learn from, colleagues who care about the working environment and fostering a workplace and region that has a place for everybody. “It’s great to work with a company and in a place that cares about making Latinos a part of the local workplace and population,” he said. “And I am proof of the life newcomers to Pittsburgh can have. You can find a good job. You can afford to buy a home. And you have enough money left over to enjoy yourself. I am always telling my friends, You should consider moving to Pittsburgh.”
In addition, Jesús is also the treasurer of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the region’s principal advocate for the Hispanic business community’s civic and economic interests. The PMAHCC also provides regional business opportunities for economic development.
Elizabeth is a contractor for the U.S. Coast Guard, working primarily from their North Huntington home, with occasional trips back to Washington. In their spare time, Jesús and Elizabeth enjoy working on their house, running or walking at nearby Indian Lake or hiking at Ohiopyle. They hang out with friends in the shopping and dining districts of Shadyside and The Waterfront in Homestead, and catch Pirates and Steelers games. They've discovered an affordable parking work-around when visiting the North Shore's stadiums: stop by the nearby Rivers Casino for a meal at the buffet, where you can park your car for free.