The Hazelwood Green development site. Image courtesy of CMU.

The new Pittsburgh has arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed.

In a report released last September titled, “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city,” researchers from the Brookings Institution examined the local economy and found that while the research and technology sectors have made significant gains since the turn of the century, many in the city have been left out of the bounty.

“Pittsburgh’s scientific and technical strengths have not fully translated into broad-based economic activity. Instead, the city currently has seven percent fewer jobs in high-wage, high-tech advanced industries than it did in 2000,” the report says. 

“In fact, if the region had the same share of high-tech employment as university research, it would employ 9,000 more in the software industry and 5,500 more workers in drug development, not to mention tens of thousands of workers in related jobs.”

That report must have made an impression because this week city leaders officially announced the start of the “Innovation District” project as part of the InnovatePGH initiative.

InnovatePGH is a public-private partnership between the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, The Pittsburgh Foundation and an assortment of other local groups that aims to apply the recommendations of the Brookings report to projects around the city.

In practical terms, the “Innovation District” initiative builds on work both Pitt and CMU were already doing to extend their research and services beyond their Oakland campuses, while also steering money towards start-ups working in these same neighborhoods and attracting new outposts of existing Bay Area start-ups to town.  

The thinking is this: Pittsburgh’s workforce would not only gain new jobs at these companies, but also additional jobs at other businesses like restaurants and lifestyle amenities that would sprout up to serve this growing start-up community. While no specific projects have been announced, goals include using the initiative to lure small and medium-sized enterprises to set up shop in Hazelwood Green, a long-in-the-works industrial park on the Monongahela.

According to InnovatePGH, funding and partnerships will be made available in areas like Lawrenceville and Hazelwood starting this month. As more research and capital spreads to these neighborhoods, civic leaders hope that this will attract jobs and more private investment.

“The Brookings Report has been an important call to action for our regional economic development partners,” Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said in a press release. “InnovatePGH is the city’s platform to build the knowledge infrastructure needed to translate our technological strengths into an inclusive and equitable growth strategy for the entire city.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.