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Pittsburgh, skyline, three rivers, point, fountain
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Pittsburgh has done it again.

The Economist has ranked Pittsburgh as the most livable city in the continental United States, squeaking in just under Honolulu.

Not bad, considering Hawaii is a vacation destination.

This marks the second time that the esteemed journal of global economies has ranked Pittsburgh at or near the top. The Economist first designated Pittsburgh as the most livable city in America in 2009. But you won’t find it online.

The news is buried in a report issued by The Economist Intelligence Unit that was the basis for the article–more of a graphic image really–reported in The Economist of the top worldwide cities. Melbourne tops the list, followed by Vienna, Vancover and Toronto. Pittsburgh ranked No. 30 out of 140 cities surveyed.

VisitPITTSBURGH uncovered the info and sent out a news release earlier today and, at our request, sent the actual report including a full listing of rankings for Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh has the goods,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH. “We have received so much buzz in the last 10 years and it has helped us tremendously. This kind of success begets more success. We’re riding a wave.”

The Economist defines the concept of livability as a “simple assessment” that determines “locations around the world (that) provide the best or the worst living conditions.”

The study notes that those cities scoring best “tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. This can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.”

Here’s how Pittsburgh ranked in the following categories on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being considered “ideal”: stability rating 85; healthcare 92; culture and environment 91; education 100; and infrastructure 100.

Pittsburgh was four points behind Honolulu and ahead of Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta and the rest of America.

While The Economist rankings definitely have “street cred,” it was the Places Rated Almanac that really put Pittsburgh on the map in 2007, says Craig.

Since 2000, Pittsburgh has made more than 200 “best” lists including “40 Prettiest Cities in the World” (Huffington Post), “Most Entrepreneurial City in the America (Inc.), “Most Livable City in America” (Forbes) and “Best Places in the World to Visit in 2012″ (National Geographic Traveler).

Pittsburgh is the only city in the country that has been twice named to Places Rated Almanac.


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Bill Flanagan
Emily Padgett as Alex Owens in “Flashdance – The Musical”
Photo Copyright

Flashdance – The Musical more than echoes the movie set in Pittsburgh in 1983, it brings it back to life on the stage. I caught the premiere.

I’ll leave theater criticism to the pros like Christopher Rawson at the Post-Gazette, although I think his assessment is right on target. It’s a feel-good musical with great dancing, especially by Emily Padgett, who plays Alex. (You can watch our video featuring the show’s three leads — two of them from the Pittsburgh region — here or below.)

It’s been years since I watched the movie, but I remember Flashdance well. I had just moved to Pittsburgh in 1982 and they were shooting the movie around town. It was exciting to be here in the midst of Renaissance Two, with new skyscrapers going up and a genuine subway under construction.

Little did anyone know that a year later, Pittsburgh would hit rock bottom. When Flashdance premiered in theaters in 1983, the metro unemployment rate topped 18 percent and tens of thousands of people were moving away, many of them young.

Just as the young steelworker in the movie (and the show) was trying to reinvent herself as a dancer, Pittsburgh was challenged with reinventing itself, forced to compete as a post-industrial city. (Not to say we don’t still make stuff here. We do – but most manufacturers will tell you they’ve transformed themselves to compete in a technology-intensive world, another exercise in creativity and hard work.)  Thirty years later, Pittsburgh’s been re-imagined and re-made, with a diverse economy driven by manufacturing, finance, energy, health care and IT, and a high quality of life provided by decades of investment in the arts. That includes the Benedum Center and Heinz Hall — where Flashdance – The Musical made its world premiere – and in outdoor recreation, especially our growing network of riverfront trails.

Art and industry have been integral to Pittsburgh’s comeback, but they’ve provided the region’s character for more than a century – ever since Andrew Carnegie built his music hall in Oakland, if not before. The parts of the play that I enjoyed most were those that juxtaposed the creative and hard work of both industry and the arts – the pride in creating, working and excelling that’s also part of Pittsburgh’s character. If I had a word of advice for director Sergio Trujillo as he takes his show on the road to Broadway – admittedly knowing nothing about what it takes to create a theatrical hit – it would be to make a little more of these themes. I’d love to see a scene where the dancers and the steelworkers somehow share the joys – and challenges – of their professions.

Some folks may criticize the indeterminate time period of the play. The movie was set in the ‘80s, the show includes many more modern elements. But I kind of liked the fact that a number of the backdrops featured golden bridges and blue water, the revitalized riverfronts of today in addition to the classic industrial steel mill settings. Pittsburgh’s authenticity and beauty came through.

So, here we are, 30 years after Alex and Pittsburgh began their transformations. Our region’s back in the global game – and Flashdance is back home on stage. Quite a feeling.

Phil Cynar
fDi Senior Reporter and Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski

It’s a new year for the world and a special anniversary for the Pittsburgh region. 2013 marks 30 years since Pittsburgh’s economy hit bottom. The steel industry’s collapse crippled the region, its economy and its people. Marking the difference made by three decades of vision and collaboration – which resulted in a re-imagined and re-made region – is the retrospective, “Pittsburgh’s Progress:  Rust Belt City Reinvents Itself.” It’s a six-page report in the current (Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013) edition of the Financial Times’ magazine of globalization, fDi (Foreign Direct Investment).

In the fall of 2012, fDi Senior Reporter and Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski traveled to the region from London to explore the “rethinking” of Pittsburgh, as he characterizes the metamorphosis that’s taken place here.  He writes, “Pittsburgh was all but written off in the 1970s and 1980s … however, the city’s focus on technological and biotech innovation, combined with an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, has turned its fortunes full circle.”

While on the ground, Kaczmarski toured a number of business, academic and quality-of-life assets – the latter including the new “Living Building” Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory, a model of the region’s leadership and innovation in energy and sustainability and one of the greenest buildings on the planet. He also met and talked with a number of regional movers and shakers who provided him with perspective on how Pittsburghers imagined and galvanized a radical transformation from an industry-driven economy of old to one that’s now fueled by knowledge and innovation. Today, this economy, balanced and diversified, has rewarded Pittsburgh with a stability that’s allowed it to outperform benchmark cities and the nation as a whole, even during the Great Recession.

Among the notable leaders Kaczmarski met – and who are quoted in the fDi special report – are Knopp Biosciences’ Tom Petzinger; Henry Thorley of 4moms; Arif Sirinterlikci, director of Robert Morris University’s engineering laboratories (the university and its engineering expertise have been instrumental to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute for which ground has been broken in the greater region); serial entrepreneur Luis von Ahn; and Nathan Martin of Deeplocal.

He also talked with several 20- and 30-something entrepreneurs and young professionals who have opted to chose Pittsburgh (over places like Philadelphia, Atlanta and D.C.) or who have made the decision to stay in their hometown and give Pittsburgh a chance. None was disappointed, as you’ll read. As one woman told Kaczmarski, “The vibe in Pittsburgh is great. There is something about this city that makes you collaborative and entrepreneurial.”

Nearly 15,000 fDi subscribers will be getting this – and more – fresh perspective on Pittsburgh via the special report, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the organization that markets the Pittsburgh region for domestic and international business investment. In addition, the report will have special circulation among the 2,000-plus delegates expected at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23 – 27. The World Economic Forum is considered the foremost creative force for engaging leaders in collaborative activities focused on shaping the global, regional and industry agendas in an effort to improve the world.

The theme for the 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is “Resilient Dynamism” … “bold vision and even bolder action.” Pittsburgh has demonstrated these in its own transformation – examined in the fDi special report – making the region a model worth reading about.

See the complete report on Pittsburgh’s progress here. Get to know fDi Senior Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski better and hear his first impressions of Pittsburgh during his maiden voyage in 2011 in this video clip.

Bill Flanagan

I thought you’d enjoy seeing the holiday e-card below from the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. It sums up a few of the highlights of our region’s 30-year economic, environmental and quality-of-life transformation. (Look out for versions of our gingerbread skyline and message around the region over the next week or so in billboards, kiosks and in newspapers.) The New Year gives us a chance to put an exclamation point on it.

2013  is the 30th anniversary of the year Pittsburgh hit rock bottom. In 1983, the metro unemployment rate reached 18.3 percent. A huge population exodus was underway — 50,000 in 1984 alone — that changed our region forever.

1983 was also the year in which Flashdance premiered, a movie about a young welder in a steel mill who wanted to make a career in the arts. The next year, civic leaders formed the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which began to re-make a former red light district into one of the nation’s top performing arts districts.

2013 will kick off with the U.S. premiere of Flashdance – The Musical on New Year’s Day. Pittsburgh is its first stop on the road to Broadway in late summer. The Trust says it’s a very hot ticket. You can get a glimpse of what’s in store by watching our video here.

Later in the year, no less than five national arts conferences will convene in Pittsburgh, bringing the nation’s arts leadership to see what’s been accomplished here. Along the way, the multi-year reconstruction of Point State Park will wrap up and the iconic fountain will spring back to the sky. And, the Allegheny Trail Alliance will close the last gap in the GAP, the Great Allegheny Passage, completing a more than 30-year effort to build a biking and hiking trail that links Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

With a high quality of life, a more diverse economy (ranked best U.S. city for relocation by Sperling’s BestPlaces), as the fifth-best performing economy in the U.S. (The Economist),  and one of Triposo’s top destinations in 2013, it’s no wonder that our population is growing again and that young people are moving in instead of out.

It’s all the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people over the course of a generation. Our region’s been Re-Imagined and Re-Made. That’s something to toast this Dec. 31 when the clock strikes midnight.

Thanks for everything you’ve done to help make it happen and, as always, for helping to spread the good word about our region.

P.S. Thanks to our friends at Pop City, who have tipped their hat to the holiday outings we’re highlighting on our blog, Hope you’ll check us out too, and especially share our links with any guests in town for the holidays. We also explore the sustainable core of many of our region’s beloved traditions – such as the Highmark (Horne’s) tree. You also follow along by friending us on Facebook or following us on Twitter now and throughout the new year.



Thirty years ago, Pittsburgh created a recipe for regional prosperity. We baked innovation, technology and knowledge into five industry sectors – advanced manufacturing, energy, financial and business services, health care and life sciences, and information technology – creating a diverse and balanced economy.

Today, innovation, technology and knowledge flavor pretty much everything we do. Other key ingredients in our regional prosperity recipe include:

  • 120 corporate and federal R&D centers, mix with
  • $1 billion in university R&D expenditures; add
  • 31,000 graduates from regional colleges and universities annually, composing one of the nation’s the most educated workforces. Cut in
  • $100 billion-plus global corporations with headquarters or major business units here. Combine with
  • Fifth best-performing-economy-in-the-U.S.-status (The Economist). Top witth
  • Three “America’s Most Livable Cities” titles. Bake until golden. Frost with…
  • Three professional sports franchises, 500+ arts and cultural organizations and 24 miles of scenic riverfront trails.

The staff of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Allegheny Conference wishes you and yours the sweetest of holidays and a happy, prosperous 2013.


Phil Cynar

Despite a brewing Hurricane Sandy, chemical engineers from all over the world – some 6,000 men and women, including about 1,600 students – blew into Pittsburgh for the week-long American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) 2012 Annual Meeting, held Oct. 28 – Nov. 2 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

AIChE is the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with more than 40,000 members from 90+ countries. Its Pittsburgh meeting was touted by association leaders as having record-breaking attendance – in spite of the stormy weather here. Additionally, leaders at VisitPittsburgh, the region’s convention and visitors’ bureau, estimated that the delegates could have spent $8.5 million while in town.

Pittsburgh, in 2012, has seen a bit of a lion’s share of science and technology-based conventions and meetings. Among these were the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) – both in the spring. And more recently, nearly 300 undergrad masterminds from some of the best colleges and universities in the eastern United States to participate in the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Americas East regional jamboree here, showcasing their best in molecular engineering advances impacting medicine, energy, the environment and more.

Pittsburgh is a destination of choice for these groups, association leaders and meeting planners say, because it’s a model that reflects many of their key interests. Among these are a thriving innovation-driven economy, plentiful R&D investments and activity and a regional commitment to advancing energy solutions across a portfolio of energy resources, including a keen focus on sustainability and green technologies.

Because it “walks the talk,” Pittsburgh is more than your typical convention destination; it’s a living laboratory where visitors can see Pittsburgh’s expertise play out in real-world settings.

In the video below, Anthony Cugini, Ph.D., the head of the regionally located federal National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) shares insights about the region’s leadership in sustainability, higher education and the government-industry-academia partnerships that attracted AIChE to Pittsburgh.

AIChE President David Rosenthal and Steven Little, chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering share thoughts on why Pittsburgh attracts conventions like AIChe. Beyond fueling the local economy, conferences such as the AIChE meeting and others provide an opportunity to showcase (and perhaps sell) Pittsburgh as a destination with all the right things – low cost of living, high quality of life, stable economy – and, most important, thousands of open jobs, including lots of engineering jobs.

Seeing is believing, as the saying goes, so we’ll continue to chase key conventions and capitalize on them. We’ll showcase what the region has to offer to professionals and businesses from all over planet: careers aplenty and relevant investment opportunities.

Suzi Pegg
Stained Glass in Barcelona

Barcelona is simply beautiful, and the culture and the arts are deep-seated in this seaside city. Amazing architecture abounds, as does some of the most awe-inspiring stained glass I have ever seen. The latter is somewhat obscured by vast amount of dominating architecture all around, but when you happen upon it, the stained glass takes your breath away.

I’m thinking that in some ways, Barcelona’s stained glass might be a metaphor for the arts and culture – a real, but sometimes hidden, gem tucked away amidst the bricks, mortar, steel and concrete of the infrastructure of a metropolis – the “hardware” that literally gives a city or region its shape and form. The “hardware” is critical, but by itself – devoid of the stained glass, the arts and culture and the similar wonders that soften edges and add sparkle – a city or region can come up short on personality. I think that both Barcelona and Pittsburgh recognize the need to balance both in order to achieve a quality of place that attracts people and business investment. Thousands of miles apart, we might be more like-minded than we realize.

Suzi Pegg and Mikel Burazko, at “their” table, Hotel de las Artes, Barcelona

My home-away-from-home is the Hotel de las Artes, one of Barcelona’s twin tallest buildings at 505 feet. It ties for this rank with Torre Mapfre, a neighboring skyrise. Hotel de las Artes was designed by the famous architects Bruce Graham and Frank O. Gehry, and was completed in 1994, although its dramatic design under construction was made famous by the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona. In this tallest of buildings, Mikel Burazko, Pennsylvania’s man in Spain and Portugal and one of my key partners, often meet to plan our lofty strategies for marketing the our home state. We’ve gathered here so often that the staff has actually started to reserve us our “usual” table.

Pittsburgh and Barcelona are similar with regard to economic sectors and strengths such as information and communications technology, cyber security, energy, life sciences and manufacturing. Our similarities have made it easier for us to hold productive meetings with several motivated agencies to discuss the bilateral opportunities between our regions, with the terms “innovation” and “collaboration” common to our business vocabularies. I am feeling positive that that there are some key opportunities here, and I’ll look forward to reporting more as these develop.

To get from meeting to meeting, I sometimes take a cab. On a recent ride, my driver was an overly enthusiastic man who had just returned from a trip to the UK where, among other things, he had gone to learn English. He seemed delighted to practice his English with me and was thrilled to share all he loved about my native England – especially football matches and pubs. In fact, he was so thrilled that he found it impossible to not show me his many travel photos – while driving the cab! Needless to say, it was quite a ride, and I felt like I spent more time watching the road for him rather than admiring his photos.

The Pittsburgh Symphony concert was held in the historic and sumptuous Palau de la Musica. The hall – the “Palace of Catalan Music” – was designed in the modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and was constructed between 1905 and 1908. Not unlike Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall, it was built with important financial contributions from by Barcelona’s wealthy industrialists. The PSO musician played Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 – the Resurrection Symphony – exquisitely. It was a moving performance and yet another testimonial to the quality associated with our Pittsburgh region and embodied in the PSO. Our Spanish business guests were taken aback by how exceptional the orchestra is.

On that high note, we are poised to continue a conversation about how Pittsburgh and Barcelona – places that prize quality and embrace innovation and collaboration – can perhaps develop mutually beneficial business partnerships. To that, I exclaim bravo !