Phil Cynar
Point Park's beloved fountain returned to operation June 2013.
Point Park’s beloved fountain returned to operation June 2013.

On June 10, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) hosted five national environmental journalists as part Carnegie Mellon University’s annual Steinbrenner Environmental Institute’s Media Fellowship. A “Pittsburgh Re-made” cruise focused on environmental and economic transformation from the vantage point of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. A highlight of the 2013 cruise was the restored iconic fountain at the Golden Triangle. The fountain’s renovation, which is the final piece of the overall renovation of Point State Park by then-Governor Edward G. Rendell, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Riverlife, a public-private partnership dedicated to reclaiming, restoring and promoting Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. Riverlife has raised over $5 million for the fountain renovation, including $750,000 in private and grassroots donations for a matching grant challenge issued by the Colcom Foundation. With fanfare and flourish, the fountain was welcomed back to Pittsburgh’s skyline on June 7, 2013 after a four-year hiatus for fundraising and repairs.

PRA President De Peart (left) with environmental journalists from around the U.S.
PRA President De Peart (left) with environmental journalists from around the U.S.

“Riverfront redevelopment has been a huge economic force in downtown Pittsburgh over the past decade,” said Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of Riverlife and the narrator/guide for the annual PRA-sponsored river cruise.  “It’s hard to believe, but in 2000 very few of the city’s most prominent riverfront sites existed – the North Shore, South Side Works, Mon Wharf Landing, a refurbished Point State Park  and the list goes on. The investment in Pittsburgh’s downtown riverfront park system has transformed the city in a relatively short period while serving as a catalyst for an additional $4 billion in related riverfront investment, and that amount keeps on growing as we continue to create new public greenways, beautiful developments that open up to the rivers, trail connections and riverfront recreational amenities.”

Watch the video to see a sampling of Pittsburgh’s riverfront transformation and hear from several of the visiting journalists about their impressions of the region’s waterways.

Phil Cynar
Duquesne University Commencement Spring 2013
Photo Courtesy of Duquesne University Facebook Page

When Buffalo gets bullish on Pittsburgh, you know we’ve done something – or quite a few things – right. Sure, there’s the weather, a point on which Pittsburgh has an edge. Our winter tends to be less harsh,  and spring — particularly lush and green this year – comes a bit earlier. But we can’t claim much influence over Mother Nature.

Where we do have influence is the economy, which has become the envy of many places. Pittsburgh’s steady, stable economy is attractive, and the engineering behind this “new economy” driven by knowledge and innovation is often examined, but not always easily replicated – and certainly not in short order. Transformation is a time-intensive process, as Pittsburghers know.

But good things come to the patient, to paraphrase a cliché, and Pittsburgh is experiencing its share of good things, including recent accolades from Buffalo resident Bill Collins who penned a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editors. Collins’ son just graduated from Duquesne University, and the family was in town last weekend for the big event, in addition to numerous other visits during his years of study.

Pittsburgh, you’ve left quite an impression! Collins characterized us a having a “feeling of progress and energy” and “filled with nice people who always went out of their way to welcome.”

Nice words, for sure – but they’re more than just words. Collins’ son is staying in the region, and while the family will “miss having him at home, Pittsburgh is the next best thing.”  Thank you, Mr. Collins; you’re a wise dad. Read the letter in its entirety here.

Bill Flanagan

There’s evidence that employers are beginning to hire again, but there are precious few places in the country that have more jobs now than they did before the recession, and metro Pittsburgh turns out to be one of them. The Wall Street Journal reports that researchers at the Brookings Institution have analyzed local economic conditions among the top 100 metros and discovered that Pittsburgh is one of just 14 that have more jobs now than before the recession. Six of the metros that outpace us on that front are in Texas, with a seventh in nearby Oklahoma City. The other six are Omaha, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Knoxville, Washington, D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina

Skyline

What do these places have in common? Brookings says they all have a stable employment base, anchored by either universities, government agencies or high-tech hubs. Not bad company to be in.

But there are also warning signs on the horizon.

Pittsburgh has fallen from 13th place to 23rd in the March edition of The Business Journals’ On Numbers Economic Index, a measure of regional economic vitality compiled by the parent company of the Pittsburgh Business Times. Austin ranked number one, followed by Provo, Utah; Houston; Oklahoma City and Dallas/Fort Worth.

So, what gives? According to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, regions that got hit harder by the recession are now growing faster than ours, fueled by younger, growing populations.

Our region is still growing, but at what’s become its usual, steady pace. We tend not to boom, so we tend not to bust.

But in relative terms, we seem to be slowing down. It makes it a bit more challenging to spread the word about opportunity here.

So, we can’t afford to be complacent about the progress we’ve made — and we’re going to have work harder than ever to build on our momentum.

Today at the Allegheny Conference’s quarterly meeting of our 300+ Regional Investors – the companies and institutions that make up our membership – we’ll be outlining some of our plans to that end. Check back here at ImaginePittsburghNow.com to learn more, and follow us on our social media channels Facebook and Twitter to let us know what you think.