Last night at their annual meeting, the Allegheny Conference unveiled the organization’s “10-year vision of vitality for the Pittsburgh region” in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people.
A more detailed plan is due to be unveiled early next year. But for now, the organization’s 2020-2030 report brings together feedback from discussions the Allegheny Conference held this past year with 1000 or more community leaders, businesses and residents throughout the region’s 10 counties.
The biggest priority? Job creation.
On stage Downtown at the Westin Hotel, Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman spoke about the importance of drawing jobs to the region: “We are talking about 75,000 new jobs over 10 years,” she said. “We did it in the ’90s. This is not a number that can’t happen. This is a realistic goal, but it has to be something that we all want.”
Conference chairman Bill Demchak told the audience that while many Pittsburghers are enjoying job opportunities, the growth we’ve seen hasn’t benefited everyone.
“White-collar degree jobs have increased in the region, and we all see that middle-income jobs have declined. And we have failed at providing a pathway for low-wage earners left behind,” Demchak said. “Only Butler County has an unemployment rate on par with the national average. All of our other counties in the region have actually increased this year while the national averages fall.”
These numbers, he said, actually “mask the incredible job that people have done reversing years of negative growth.” But the real issue is what job growth will look like in the next decade — and what role the energy industry will play.
We have to consider, Demchak said, the “impossibility” of improving our economy without “leveraging our energy resources intelligently.”
What will that intelligent leveraging look like? All sides will need to be heard in order to answer that question, he insisted.
“We need that employment base,” Demchak said. “We need to grow. And we can’t make a decision for somebody who needs a job and wants to feed their family and send their kids to school, without entering into a discussion about the broader issues that we face as a region and an environment. And we have to have that discussion. So I’m going to ask you, as you listen through this today: I don’t care what your views are. Come to the meeting with your views. Argue your position. Show up with facts and let’s have a discussion.”
Avoiding the conversation, he said, isn’t an option: “If we sit at opposite sides of the room in this discussion,” he said, “our next 75 years is going to stink.”
Read the full report here.