Why we like Pittsburgh
Sharma Staub Index Score: 0.84 out of 1.00
The Come Back City: Pittsburgh was chosen as the site for the G-20 summit to show the world its successful economic transition and to display how America’s future rests not just on its most populous cities, President Barack Obama said in an interview.
The president spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 25 minutes Friday in the Oval Office about a broad range of subjects in advance of this week’s Group of 20 summit.
The White House announcement in May that Pittsburgh would become the first noncapital city to act as host to G-20 leaders was a surprise to the United States and the world. But to Mr. Obama, it made perfect sense.
“This is a recognition that Pittsburgh is a world-class city,” Mr. Obama said. “That it represents the transition of the U.S. economy from [an] industrial state to a mix of strong industry — steel — but also now biotech and clean energy. It has transformed itself, after some very tough times, into a city that’s competing in the world economy.
Asset Stability: In the period between 2006 and 2011, the Pittsburgh Metro area experienced over 10% appreciation in housing prices—the highest appreciation out of the largest 25 metros in the United States. 22 of the top 25 metros saw a depreciation of housing values during the same period.
Booming Technology Industry: Pittsburgh has established itself as a technology hub with such companies as Google, Apple, Amazon, Intel, Uber, Facebook and RAND establishing campuses in the city. The Pittsburgh Technology Center, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and Pittsburgh LAN Coalition also develop major innovations. Companies such as Petrosoft, Modcloth, Guru.com, Songwhale and others have global headquarters in the city.
Impact of Universities and Innovation: The research and technology sector is growing due to the local universities, medical centers, the technology cluster, and the provision of financial capital to fund its development. These attributes provide the specific infrastructure required of sought-after industries. Therefore, this could attract business to the region and sustain or expand existing firms, which should result in a net increase in total jobs. Also, the presence of universities provides the context for university-industry technology transfers, which is the effective movement of technology to industry via students trained in detailed programs to meet the detailed wants of the industry.
Affordability: According to a 2014 report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Pittsburgh is the second-best American city for intergenerational economic mobility; in other words, Pittsburgh is the second best city to achieve the American Dream.
High Ranking School System: In 2009, US News and World report ranked 21,000 public high schools, in the United States, based on three factors. First, the schools were analyzed for the number of students who achieved above the state average on the reading and math tests in 2008. Then they considered how the economically disadvantaged students performed against the state average. Finally, they considered the participation rate and the performance of students in college readiness by examining Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate test data. Seventy Pennsylvania high schools achieved ranking bronze, silver or gold rating. Fifty three Pennsylvania high schools achieved bronze. Eight high schools in Allegheny County and 2 Pittsburgh School District high schools achieved inclusion in the ranking. Brashear High School and Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts achieved Bronze ranking. Nineteen southwestern Pennsylvania high schools are rated among the best in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 high school rankings. The highest-rated school in the area was Quaker Valley.
The 2018 best high school rankings evaluate over 20,500 public high schools. U.S. News identified schools that best serve all students and assessed how prepared students are for college-level work. Schools are also recognized with gold, silver and bronze medals with gold indicating the greatest level of college readiness.
Seventeen had silver medals and two received bronze ones.
Diverse Economy: Pittsburgh has a diverse economy with the top four employees mostly disconnected from the macroeconomics of the general economy i.e. somewhat recession proof.
|Largest county employers||Number of employees|
|UPMC Health Systems||26,700|
|Commonwealth of Pennsylvania||15,900|
|West Penn Allegheny Health Systems||10,200|
|University of Pittsburgh||10,100|
|Mellon Financial Corp.||8,404|
|PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.||6,959|
|Giant Eagle, Inc.||5,700|
|Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield||5,600|
|Eat’n’ Park Hospitality Group||4,600|
|USAirways Group, Inc.||4,000|
Major Development Projects: Of the many development projects of recent years, the largest and those with the biggest economical impact have been the completion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown; and the two new stadiums on the North Side, the stunningly beautiful PNC Park for MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates, and Heinz Field for NFL legends Pittsburgh Steelers. Then-governor Tom Ridge broke ground for the Convention Center in April 2000, and its 1.5 million square feet was opened in three stages even as construction continued. Phase I was completed in February 2002; May 2002 saw Phase II completed with four exhibition halls and 18 meeting rooms; and in March 2003 the grand opening ceremony was held with all 5 exhibition halls, 51 meeting rooms, and the huge Grand Ballroom. PNC Park opened March 31, 2001 with an exhibition game with the New York Mets. Although it is the next to smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball with 38,127 seats, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful, designed to offer amazing views of the city skyline and intimate views on the field. Heinz Field opened August 25, 2001; it is a 65,000 seat, horseshoe shaped stadium with the open end at the south end zone facing the fountain at Point State Park. New hotels, restaurants and retail outlets have sprung up near the new stadiums and convention center.
Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority handles many projects but there are six showcase projects of note. South Side Works involved riverside development and brownfield renewal around Carson Street and the Hot Metal Bridge, resulting in a mixed use development with offices, a hotel, retail, and restaurants, a sports medicine complex and practice fields, and housing. Summerset at Frick Park, also known as Nine Mile Run, revived an environmentally ravaged slag heap into a 238 acre, 713 home community. Bedford Hill area housing developments were made possible when the Pittsburgh Housing authority received a $26.6 million HOPE VII grant. The Pittsburgh Technology Center is the result of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh joining forces with the business community to create an interdisciplinary research center to advance studies in biotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, and computer applications. Washington’s Landing is a development on a small island in the Allegheny River about two miles upstream from the downtown Golden Triangle. Herr’s Island was transformed from garbage heap into an exclusive community with townhouses on the west end, businesses, a rowing center, and tennis courts in the middle, with a portion of the 17 mile Heritage Trail skirting the trees and fields along the perimeter. Crawford Square is an 18 acre residential development on the eastern edge of downtown Pittsburgh, bordering the mostly African American Hill District neighborhood.
In the southern end of Oakland and extending eastward to the Hazelwood neighborhood, an abandoned factory and brownfield area is being recovered as the Pittsburgh Technology Center Office and Research Park takes over the old LTV Coke plant. When complete, the LTV Coke Works Redevelopment Project will result in 700,000 square feet of office and research and development space, accompanied by around 1,000 residential units of various types. The city hopes the project will encourage businesses to locate near the universities in Oakland. Another research center is under construction in south Oakland on the edge of Carnegie Mellon’s campus, the Junction Hollow Research and Development Technology Center, which will create 300,000 square feet for high technology companies that spin off from interaction with CMU. Both the Junction Hollow and the LTV Coke Works projects hope to qualify for funding from the Keystone Innovation Zone Program, which funds joint ventures of universities and corporations.
In the heart of Pittsburgh’s downtown, the “Golden Triangle,” the African-American Cultural Center Project is scheduled to be completed in 2007. A performing arts and exhibition center, the project will include a hotel and parking, and will add a sixth theater to the downtown “Cultural District.” The Pittsburgh Riverfront Trail Connections Projects is an ongoing effort to improve, maintain, lengthen, and add connections to the 17-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail System, which is used both recreationally and for commuting on foot, by bike, or by rollerblade. Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Heritage Trail System is acknowledged to be a national model for urban trail design and economic benefits thereof. North Shore Transportation Improvements Project has evolved with the new stadiums to include a new riverfront park, a 900 space parking garage, and a revamp of the pre-colonial street grid to improve traffic flow. Future developments on the North Shore will be new office buildings for Del Monte Foods and Equitable Gas, an expansion of Carnegie Science Center, a 6,000 seat public amphitheater, more retail and residential developments, another parking garage of 1,000 spaces, and an extension of the light transit rail. In Lawrenceville, another East End neighborhood, St. Francis Hospital has been bought out by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has a new pediatric research center under construction and plans to move its Children’s Hospital facility there. It is expected to be completed in 2007, with the current Children’s hospital in Oakland remaining open until that time.
Other ongoing projects include Magee-Women’s Hospital Research Center, a seven story addition to the hospital of the same name. A much needed upgrade of Schenley Plaza at the juncture of the Oakland neighborhood’s University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon campuses, as well as upgrades to Schenley Park, is underway.
One of the major projects outside Pittsburgh city limits but within the greater metropolitan area is The Waterfront, another renewed brownfield area where the infamous Homestead Steel Works once flourished. It is a $300 million mix of commercial, retail, and residential use that the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development convinced three municipalities to share the financing and tax revenues. The Airside Business Park and Airport Cargo Center are two very important economic developments, the business park being a 273,000 square foot multi-use office space/warehouse facility in Moon Township near Pittsburgh International Airport. The newest completed development in the area is the Pittsburgh Mills mall in east suburb Frazer Township, which held a grand opening in July 2005. The Galleria section of the mall features more than a million square feet of space including a 165,000 square foot Kaufmann’s, a 98,000 square foot JCPenney, an entertainment and sports wing with bowling lanes, and a state of the art 16 screen theater.
Finally, a more controversial means of developing revenue in Pittsburgh is coming: gambling. In 2004, Governor Ed Rendell persuaded the state to pass the slots law, which approves 14 casinos to be built around Pennsylvania, 7 at horse racing tracks (one of which is The Meadows in nearby Washington County), 5 “stand-alone” locations, and 2 in resort areas. Pittsburgh is allotted one of the stand-alone casinos, and in mid-2005 several groups were vying for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to grant them the license for their proposed sites. The 23-member Pittsburgh Gaming Task Force was appointed by Mayor Tom Murphy to study the social and economic impact of a casino, provide input on the aesthetic look it should have, and determine how it should interact with its neighbors. The licenses are expected to be given out some time in 2006, with casinos opening in 2007.