About Bill Flanagan

Bill Flanagan Bill Flanagan is executive vice-president for corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its affiliates. He hosts the weekly program “Our Region’s Business,” produced in partnership with WPXI-TV. It can be seen on Channel 11 in Pittsburgh at 11 a.m. Sundays, and also airs on other regional Cox affiliates and Pittsburgh Cable News Channel (PCNC).
Bill Flanagan

Congrats to VisitPittsburgh, which debuted its new information booth at Pittsburgh International Airport today. What’s the big deal? Well, for 20 years our region’s primary welcome booth has been tucked away in baggage claim behind and beneath the escalators that lead up to the parking lots. Four million people a year pass through baggage claim every year, but only about 10,000 found their way to the welcome center. The new booth really pops, with a black and gold color scheme, a huge video screen and a warm, wooden finish. It actually looks like we’re proud of the place and eager to welcome visitors. Allegheny County and the Airport Authority deserve credit for carving out enough floor space to do justice to the exciting region all around the airport. Mighty. Beautiful. Indeed!

Bill Flanagan

It’s getting easier and easier to see the changing demographics in our region. Yes, we’re still one of the “oldest” metros in the country, but on average we’re not aging as fast as we used to and the median age in Allegheny County is actually going down. The population in the City of Pittsburgh is getting younger fastest of all, with a median age that’s now below the national average. Not only that, we are among the top metros in the U.S. in terms of concentration of well-educated young people, especially those with advanced degrees.

You can see the change at lunchtime and during happy hour in Market Square, elsewhere Downtown, along the riverfront trails, and in the Strip where folks just seem to be younger than they used to be. And you see it in Pittsburgh’s East End, where Google has put down roots and entrepreneurs and innovators have begun to follow.

To build on that success and accelerate the momentum, a group of young people, natives and newcomers, have come together to organize the Thrival:  Music + Innovation Festival on the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14. A sort of hometown twist on SXSW,  the festival will feature 15 international, national and local music acts and more than a dozen innovation events … all of it packed into Bakery Square and the construction site across Penn Avenue that’s becoming Bakery Square 2.0.

In just its second year, Thrival has already outgrown Bakery Square 2.0, which is filling vacant land with new apartments and office buildings.  There will be a new location for the festival in 2015. With hard work and creativity it has the potential to become a signature event for our region to attract and retain young people.

The Allegheny Conference, through our ImaginePittsburgh talent attraction and retention initiative, is joining PNC and others as a sponsor of this year’s festival. Best of all, we’re able to offer limited-time discounts.  Click here and enter the coupon codes  10OFFSAT, 10OFFSUN, 10OFFVIPSAT and 10OFFVIPSUN for 10 percent discounts. Resulting savings could be as high as $20 per person, depending on the ticket option you select.

In addition to showing up, please help us spread the word about this emerging festival. Check out Thrival’s website, link up through Twitter and Facebook, and refer friends!

Happy, but never satisfied

It’s been great to see the reaction to #HappyinPittsburgh, the grassroots effort to counter recent research by the University of British Columbia and Harvard thank ranked Pittsburgh after New York as the second unhappiest city in America.  As noted in my last Note, the survey did seem to be a bit puzzling given all the positive momentum our region seems to enjoy right now.  All the more so because Pittsburgh was ranked as 5th happiest as recently as December by an iPhone app company called Jetpac.  (Quite a swing in six months from one of the happiest to one of the saddest at a time when our economy and quality of life have only been getting better.)

The dissonance may make more sense if you look a little bit closer at the research, in particular the question they actually asked people, “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”

I’m not sure that satisfaction is the same thing as happiness. People can be happy and still want things to get better. In fact, that may be something both Pittsburgh and New York have in common. People move to New York because it’s the Big Apple, they’re striving for something better. As a result they might be more likely to be less satisfied with their present state, whatever it is. Pittsburgh’s been striving for something better for the past 70 years, from Renaissance One when folks set out to clean the place up to the past 35 years or so when they transformed the economy.

One thing about any place: no matter how good it is, it can always be better. None of us should ever be satisfied. But there’s no reason we can’t be happy, too – about our progress to date and about our potential for the future. At the end of the day, that’s how we’ll thrive.

See you at Thrival on Sept. 13 and 14 at Bakery Square.

And, as always, thanks for your commitment to our region and for you help in spreading the word.


Bill Flanagan

I’m happy here in the Pittsburgh region. How about you?

Not to say things can’t be better, but I was surprised by a report last week from researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia. The team concluded that Pittsburgh was the “second-unhappiest” city in America, second only to New York.

The report was surprising to me not only because Pittsburgh is at or near the top of many lists – focusing on everything from affordability to stress-free living – but because so many things seem to be going our way these days. Pittsburgh was one of three U.S. metros to lead the nation out of recession, the region’s jobless rate has been consistently below the national average for years and we’ve been recognized as one of the “Best Places” in the world to visit.

Clearly, the researchers missed something.

Now, with the help of MARC USA, a number of very happy Pittsburghers are setting out to set the record straight. Starting today we’re inviting everyone in the region to use the hashtag #HappyinPittsburgh with your posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Google+ to tell the world what makes you happy in Pittsburgh.

Let’s create a groundswell of Pittsburgh happiness and show how socially savvy we are at the same time. Let’s make “Happy in Pittsburgh” a trending topic and the source of more good news about the region.

The social media team at MARC USA will track and compile all the posts and share the results at the end of the week. Then we’ll share them with you.

We’ve Got Jobs (Now!) … With More to Come
If you need a few talking points, tell your friends and family about the 24,260 jobs available today across the 10-county region. They can find them on the ImaginePittsburgh.com jobs aggregator, which is updated nightly from more than 900 corporate websites and job boards (including Monster, Career Builder, LinkedIn and Craigslist). Many of those jobs offer family-sustaining wages with room to grow. More than half require some IT skills, a reflection of the knowledge-based economy that’s been created here over the past generation. Occupations in high demand include RNs and nursing assistants; computer systems analysts, support specialists and software developers; and commercial truck drivers maintenance and repair workers and salespeople.

“Baseball and the ‘Burgh Weekend” Sweepstakes
There’s so much going on that ImaginePittsburgh.com is partnering with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Major League Baseball to encourage baseball fans to come visit. We’re running a sweepstakes for a “Baseball and the ‘Burgh Weekend” through the Pirates website from now through the end of August. To be eligible to win, you have to live outside a 75-mile radius from the Point, but no matter where you are, you can help us spread the word. We’re targeting baseball fans within a 300-mile radius of Pittsburgh, along with people in San Juan, Puerto Rico, building on the success of the re-launch of ¡Hola Pittsburgh! last month. And there’s the Pittsburgh – Roberto Clemente connection, too. Aug, 18 would have been the “Great One’s” 80th birthday.

¡Hola Pittsburgh! Puts Pittsburgh on the Map in Puerto Rico
Thousands turned out on Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh on June 22 for the Pittsburgh premiere, of El Gran Combo, billed as “the Rolling Stones of Salsa.” The concert, sponsored by ImaginePittsburgh.com and Fifth Third Bank, was one of the featured attractions of JazzLive International, presented by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Allegheny Conference teamed up with the Hispanic Chamber and numerous other partners to bring the world-famous band to Pittsburgh as part of its talent attraction and retention program, Imagine Pittsburgh.com. It turns out that thousands of Puerto Ricans are leaving the island every year, many of them skilled in healthcare, financial services and engineering. The goal of ¡Hola Pittsburgh! is to put our region on the map in Puerto Rico and among Latinos across the United States. Vibrant Pittsburgh will be hitting the road with job and career fairs to spread the word.

VisitPittsburgh organized a media tour around the El Gran Combo concert. The resulting publicity – including this piece in El Vocero (English version here) — drove thousands of Puerto Ricans to ImaginePittsurgh.com. In fact, Puerto Rico represented 47 percent of total traffic to the site the week of July 7. We think we’re on to something – a population “on the move” that’s receptive to an appeal from Pittsburgh. The ¡Hola Pittsburgh! partners intend to stay on the case to help meet the growing demand for skilled workers in our region.

Most Affordable Place to Retire
Of course, you don’t need to have a job or even to be looking for one to consider Pittsburgh. It turns out our region is among the “most affordable” places to retire in the United States. The SimpleDollar.com has conducted an analysis of more than 200 communities across the U.S. to determine the 10 most affordable ones

Our region ranks ninth, the only major metro in the Top 10. Why?

Researchers noted that our cost-of-living index score is about 16 points below the national average, with median home costs at $76,700, and average apartment rents around $684.
“Pittsburgh provides seniors with the opportunity to continue their education through a diverse selection of courses and seminars offered by the various institutions located in the city as well as cultural amenities such as the symphony, ballet, opera, and many museums,” the article pointed out. “Lovers of sports also have plenty of top-notch teams to follow, making the Steel City as a great choice for an affordable retirement destination.”

So, what’s not to be happy about?

As always, thanks for your commitment to our region and for helping to spread the word.


Bill Flanagan

Tonight, President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address. Tomorrow, according to media reports, he’s headed to our region – West Mifflin to be exact.


Unlike much of the country and much of Pennsylvania for that matter, the state of our region is relatively sound.  Although the job growth rate has slowed a bit (more in line with the national average), according to PittsburghToday.org we’re still outpacing the average of our benchmark regions. Household employment remains at record levels, with 1,285,400 people employed in the region through the end of November.  Employment has been at record levels for 18 of the past 22 months.

At a time when there’s so much talk about the very real challenge of long-term unemployment and an ongoing debate about extending jobless benefits, it may be easy to forget that more than 20,000 local jobs are available through ImaginePittsburgh.com. A big challenge is the mismatch between the skills employers need and those of the people looking for work. More than half the open jobs listed in the 10 counties of our region demand at least some IT skills.

The relative strength of our region’s economy, coupled with strong community and family networks, may be part of the reason why Pittsburgh has turned up near the top of a list of the “10 best places to pursue the American dream.” Researchers from Harvard and Berkeley ranked regions according to “intergenerational upward mobility,” places where children do better than their parents. Pittsburgh turned up at No. Two, right after Salt Lake City and just outpacing San Jose; places The Atlantic calls the “capitals of the land of opportunity.”

Turns out as well that Pittsburgh’s getting to be a mighty good place to grab some grub. The city’s turned up on another list, this one from Bon Appétit, of the “next big ingredients:” the people and places setting the pace for food in 2014. The magazine says Pittsburgh is ‘The Next Big Food Town’ and that the‘Steel City is where you need to eat now.’ According to the magazine, there are four reasons why: “1.) The East Liberty neighborhood, with its $52 million transit center and future Ace Hotel. 2.) Farmers’ markets everywhere, including Farmers @ Firehouse in the Strip District. 3.) Restaurants like Cure, Bar Marco, Conflict Kitchen, Notion, Fukuda, and Meat & Potatoes. 4.) Serious beer (The Brew Gentlemen) and cocktails (The Livermore, Butterjoint).”

Bon Appétit didn’t reference Pittsburgh specifically with regard to the Boilermaker, also making its top ten for 2014. This famous drink incorporates a shot and a beer, and it’s hardly news around the region, where a shot and beer often meant the end of a steel worker’s shift. But apparently the drink is sweeping the country.  For example, Produce Row Café in Portland pairs an oatmeal stout with single-malt Scotch in its version.

Speaking of Portland, a civic leadership delegation from that city is planning a visit to Pittsburgh in the spring. We’ve hosted more than 30 of these delegations from around the country since President Obama brought the G-20 summit to Pittsburgh a little more than four years ago. In the same period, working with Global Pittsburgh, we’ve hosted more than 50 international delegations. They’ve all come looking for best practices in regional revitalization.

But in the meantime, it will be nice to welcome the President back to town. His decision to bring the world leaders to Pittsburgh in 2009 with thousands of reporters in tow helped to transform our region’s reputation – as did everyone who helped to tell our transformation story and showcase our achievements.

Bill Flanagan

1385027_1419535931597934_1486915443_n-1Kudos to Don Carter of CMU and Joel Mills of the AIA Center for Communities by Design for convening the 25th anniversary Remaking Cities Congress, which got underway yesterday in Pittsburgh. About 300 thought leaders on “post-industrial” cities are in town from across the U.S., Canada and Europe. As a reporter, I covered the first and only previous conference in March of 1988, when Prince Charles visited Pittsburgh on a very snowy day. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently wrote about it.) I enjoyed seeing the pre-recorded remarks by Prince Charles last night. He agreed to serve as Honorary Chair of the 25th anniversary event, although he was unable to be here in person.

Remaking Cities is a capstone of a global month in Pittsburgh, with the Carnegie Museum of Art bringing cutting edge art from around the world to Pittsburgh as part of the Carnegie International and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust providing U.S. and world premieres through the International Festival of First, which, of course, featured The Rubber Duck, now spending its final few days at Point State Park. Fortunately, the Carnegie International will continue to add a global flavor to the region’s cultural scene through March 16.

Bill Flanagan

With the team’s defeat of the Chicago Cubs Monday night at PNC Park, the Pirates are definitely “in” – in the spotlight of the playoffs, that is. This first run since 1992 at the pinnacle of MLB, the World Series puts the Pirates and their hometown more in the spotlight than ever.

Like the Bucs, the Pittsburgh region is looking better than ever — re-imagined and re-made in significant ways since 1992. We’ve capitalized on Pirates winning streak to present the highlights of the region’s own great American comeback in a fun video, à la 60 Minutes, the classic American TV newsmagazine. In the interest of time, so that fans can get back to the business of cheering on the Buccos, we present the Pittsburgh region’s transformation in “60 Seconds!” Got a minute? Check it out.