Peart also highlighted some of the regional achievements the conference promoted in recent years including the G-20 summit, that state transportation bill approved lat year, and new development partnerships in McKees Rocks and Wilkinsburg.
“Since 2007 we’ve had 302 ‘wins’ in the region. A ‘win’ is recruiting a new business or expanding an existing one,” he said. “The entire state of Ohio had 300.”
Looking forward, Peart said he expects big things on the 200-acre Almano site in Hazelwood and the 28-acre former Civic Arena site downtown.
There’s nothing like that anywhere in the country,” he said.
He then turned the presentation over to conference Executive Vice President for Corporate Relations Bill Flanagan, who after noting in a PowerPoint presentation all the things the region needs to “energize the future economy,” asked chamber members what they think should be the conference’s focus.
Williams said more utilization of local small and minority-owned firms by developers and those in the growth industries.
“A lot of our members tell me they do much more business elsewhere,” she said.
Others mentioned the disconnect between young people and jobs, that they leave for places like New York City, Atlanta. Still others mentioned infrastructure—particularly getting into and out of the city from the airport.
“Even Manhattan is easier,” said James Cooper of Sterling Contracting. “I know a developer who came here to look at a proposal. He got stuck in traffic coming from the airport, and turned around and went back.”
Noting that African-Americans in Pittsburgh have a 25 percent unemployment rate and only 40 percent are graduating from high school, retired Heinz executive Chauncey Smith said he would like to see a focus on “those who’ve been left behind” in all the recent development.
Following the exchange of ideas, Flanagan and Catherine DeLoughry, conference vice president of communications, collected them into a list and asked the audience to vote on which two the conference should focus—minority business engagement and increasing diversity hiring and retention tied with the most votes, infrastructure was third.
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