Friday, May 29, 2009

World Economic Summit in September Will Highlight Pittsburgh's Progress & Global Status

Words can barely express the importance to the Pittsburgh region of the announcement that the next meeting of the Group of 20 World Economic Powers will be held in the city this fall. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this may be the big break we've been waiting for.

The eyes of the world will be on the Golden Triangle when the leaders of the world's top 20 countries come to Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25, 2009. And even before that, in the months leading up to the big event, the news will be full of stories about the city's recovery from the dark period of the early 1980s, when the steel industry collapsed and the local economy lay in ruins.

All too many people remember those days of 18 percent unemployment, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies that make today's world economic environment look like a walk in the park. Well, almost.

Some may have heard the chuckles in the White House press corps when it was announced on May 28 that Pittsburgh would host the G20 Summit. That's OK, we're used to people who misunderstand Pittsburgh. They're the ones who need to be schooled on the tremendous progress that has been made in the area in recent years. They're the ones who will be coming to Pittsburgh in September and they're the ones whose editors are already saying "Hey, we need a story about Pittsburgh. Why don't you put something together."

That's where the opportunity comes in for everyone in the Pittsburgh region, and all of the city's many fans around the world, to talk up all the positive things that have been happening here in the past 25 years or so.

GlobalPittsburgh knows that the Pittsburgh region is home to tens of thousands of new Americans and others born in foreign countries who have come here to work, to play, to study and to invest. More than 40 distinct international communities can be found in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and more than 300 international firms from 26 different countries operate offices, research labs or manufacturing facilities in the region.

Bill Flanagan of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development likes to start off his talks by reminding people that the number of total jobs in the Pittsburgh region is 70,000 higher than in 1979, when the steel industry was at its peak. And he also points out that the local unemployment rate is currently below the national average.

Pittsburgh is a world leader in health care, thanks to UPMC and Allegheny General Hospital, and an innovation hub thanks to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh and the many business spinoffs they have created. In addition, more than 125 corporate and federal research & development centers are located here, along with 90 billion-dollar-plus companies.

There's the world-renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the championship sports teams, the wide range of international restaurants, and the many recreational activities on and off the water. And if you want to get away, we're a day's drive from half the population of the U.S. and Canada.

On top of that, it's an affordable, accessible, safe and increasingly cool place to live. Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood has been called "the next Williamsburg," referring to the Brooklyn section that grew from gritty urban wasteland to ultra-hip oasis. And don't forget the South Side, East Liberty, Squirrel Hill and Bloomfield.

We all know people who have moved to Pittsburgh from other parts of the country who are amazed at how much house they can get for their money and how safe it is and easy to get around in (unless you count the fact that you'll often get directions based on landmarks that have long since disappeared - "Turn left where the old Isaly's used to be.")

We can all be ambassadors for GlobalPittsburgh in the months to come. We can help in the continuing efforts to change the minds of those who chuckle when they hear about Pittsburgh. We all have a lot to be proud of and we have the right to boast about the changes that are taking place here every day.

Learn more about the Pittsburgh region at www.globalpittsburgh.org and www.imaginepittsburgh.org.

- Thomas Buell, Jr.

1 comment:

  1. The G20 summit will also bring its share of problems such as protests. How the Pittsburgh police react to these protests could reflect negatively on the city.

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