The annual meeting of the Allegheny Conference at Carnegie Music Hall.

The region’s biggest challenge is population, said Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky at the annual meeting of the Conference on Wednesday evening.

The Conference’s strategic agenda for the coming three years was created over five months and included 51 listening sessions with partners and community members. Through those meetings, the Conference defined its top objectives: workforce development and transportation and connectivity.

“The good news is we’re no longer losing population, we’re growing again,” Yablonsky reported. “But we can see some real challenges looming in the not too distant future. Simply put, there are not enough younger workers in the pipeline to replace the baby boomers as they retire.”

The gap between workers 45 to 65 and those 25 to 44 is about 137,000 people wide. Averting a huge drop in workforce will require a multi-faceted approach: job training will have to be accessible; and the region will need to draw thousands of new residents and diversify the population. The Pittsburgh region is one of the least diverse metropolitan areas in the United States, says Yablonsky, and it has to change.

“The talent pool we need to attract doesn’t look like the majority of our region today. Young emerging leaders of all backgrounds have told us that living and working in a diverse environment matters to them. It’s part of how they choose where they want to be.

To create a favorable business climate that will draw more companies and more employees, will require addressing taxes, regulations and pension reform, Yablonsky adds.

“The same spirit of public/private partnership and collaboration that worked for us over the past two transformations,” he says, referring to the region’s previous growing pains, “can and will allow us to meet and overcome this challenge as well.”

The new agenda features three working groups–people, infrastructure, economy and community–each chaired by an executive committee member committed to creating measurable change in the region.

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.