Thursday, December 10, 2009

Former British Trade Minister Believes Pittsburgh Region Well Positioned to Lead Growth in Global Economy, Asian Expansion

The Pittsburgh Region is in a prime position to capitalize on an increasingly global economy, growth in Asia, and other current developments around the world, due in large part to its success in reinventing itself and emerging as an international competitor, according to Lord Digby Jones, former British Trade Minister, who will speak in Pittsburgh Dec. 15.

“I’ve been coming to Pittsburgh two or three times a year since 1989, and I have seen it grow and develop and change,” he said in a recent telephone interview with Thomas Buell, Jr. of GlobalPittsburgh. “It is now a global exemplar of reconstruction and restructuring. It’s one of those cities in the world that have just shown the world how it can be done.

“I think if you’re an exporting city, if you’re open to investment, and if you understand globalization, a getting-richer developing world can only benefit America and especially Pittsburgh,” he said.

Lord Jones served as Minister for Trade and Investment at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and at the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory from June 2007 to October 2008, and as Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s "Voice of Business," from 2000 to 2006.

He will speak in Pittsburgh on the topic of "Global Innovation: Building Synergies in Tough Economic Times" at the luncheon meeting of the Economic Club of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the British American Business Council - Pittsburgh Chapter.

The Dec. 15 event will be held at the Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Downtown, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Tickets are $30 for members, $40 for non-members and $20 for students. Tables of eight are $220. Reservations are required. For reservations, send email to reservations@econclubpgh.org.

During the interview excerpted here, Lord Jones also touched on several other topics.

On Pittsburgh’s economic transformation:

“It was this enormous steel manufacturing entity and it’s now an exemplar for health care, universities, for tomorrow’s knowledge-based economy, and so many other developing world cities, and quite a few in America actually, don’t do it – they don’t put the ball in the net. They don’t actually get there.”

The importance of the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit:

“I think hosting the G-20 Summit could be nothing but good. People didn’t talk about the G-20 being held in America, they talked about the G-20 being held in Pittsburgh. That means that sadly some people said ‘Where’s that?’ but that’s great because it means you’ve converted more people to knowing where it is - that’s good. And secondly to those who know Pittsburgh, they can say that’s changed and that’s excellent. And to the citizens of Pittsburgh, now they think, ‘Hey, we matter,’ and you can’t effect change without basic morale. You need the citizens of the city to think, ‘Hey, this is mine,’ and I think it did that big time.”

On the benefits of a global economy:

“America got richer after she was no longer a colony, and turned out to be the U.K.’s biggest investor and our biggest consumer (after it became a global economic power). There is no reason whatsoever that an India or a Brazil or a China can’t be same for America and for Pittsburgh. What you need is courageous leadership.”

On opportunities created by the green movement:

“Once America starts to solve that issue by the use of knowledge and funded research, the world had better watch out because she’s the one that can solve this. It puts the gantlet down to China and India and says we got rich polluting the world, and we’re going to help you get rich without polluting the world, and Pittsburgh has set the way. It’s the sort of city that has said ‘You can do it.’

“I was in Wuhan, China, which is a city of 12 million people, and it’s terribly polluted. I said we’ve got to enable you to become rich by being clean, so watch a city that’s done it, and that’s Pittsburgh. I didn’t even know that (Wuhan was Pittsburgh’s sister city). How’s that for an unsolicited endorsement?”

(Parts of this interview appeared in the Pittsburgh Business Times on Dec. 4, 2009)

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