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Greenville Leaders Explore Growth Strategies in Pittsburgh

Posted by: Hank Hyatt on Thursday, November 7, 2013
50 Upstate leaders joined the Greenville Chamber for its first Intercommunity Leadership Visit (ILV) since 2007’s visit to Ireland. The trip to Pittsburgh October 22-24 included time spent with high-level leadership and tours of key development projects, all in an effort to understand how Pittsburgh reinvented itself after the demise of their steel industry. During that traumatic period, Pittsburgh lost more than 150,000 jobs and some counties in the region saw unemployment rates of up to 29%. The area suffered significant environmental issues as a legacy of steel mills. Today, their rivers and air are clean, healthcare is the largest employer and technology is a growing business segment. Pittsburgh is back in a big way. “It is a healthy process to benchmark another community’s successes and shortcomings,” notes ILV Chair Tim Reed, “Pittsburgh’s leaders shared both, leaving us with a sense that, while the process may not be easy, we’re on our way to significantly impacting our region’s ability to enhance its competitive position and accelerate per capita income growth.” KEY TAKEAWAYS Economic Development Strategies A key to Pittsburgh’s renaissance has been the implementation of an intentional effort by area leadership to understand the key drivers and issues facing their community. Once identified, strategies are developed to attack those most likely to have a significant impact on the economy (in Greenville, we’ve termed such strategies “catalytic projects”). With limited resources, Pittsburgh leaders understand the need to prioritize strategies. Once implemented, strategies are measured and those that do not make adequate progress are terminated in favor of those that are. The cycle of research, planning and execution begins again, creating a virtuous and highly-effective cycle for the community. Higher Education & Industry Partnerships Pittsburgh is fortunate to be home to some of the top universities in the world, most notably the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), who bring to the community critical research resources and some of the brightest talent in the country. Pittsburgh brought together its life- and health-science companies with these institutions to promote technology innovation, commercialization and new company growth. Of note, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center worked with CMU to identify research and technology-commercialization opportunities that made the most economic sense for their region – in their case, information technology systems related to health care and life sciences research. A key takeaway was that leadership periodically reassessed their community’s potential based on changing market conditions and on the “natural strengths” of their respective organizations. Technology-Led Economic Development A trip highlight was visiting Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC) CEO Audrey Russo. Created 30 years ago to promote and advocate for the region’s technology sector, PTC now has 1,400 members and a full-time, professional staff of more than 20. (By comparison, the Greenville Chamber’s NEXT initiative provides similar services to 130 technology, biomedical and advanced manufacturing companies in Upstate SC.) PTC is engaged in connecting small technology firms and larger firms in the region. Just as Greenville, Pittsburgh struggles with an adequate supply of talent and venture capital funding for these firms. Significant time is spent connecting with venture capitalists from across the country and introducing them to opportunities in their region. PTC dedicates a portion of its budget each year to launch small-scale pilot initiatives, and rigorously measures the outcomes. This spirit of tightly-focused experimentation with an eye to community benefit is key to Pittsburgh’s success. Philanthropic Collaboration The importance of philanthropy was evident at a breakfast in the Duquesne Club, once frequented by Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, HJ Heinz and other corporate titans. Pat Getty, CEO of the Benedum Foundation, noted the importance of having a strong community vision aligned, not to particular political boundaries, but to the true economic region. Pittsburgh went from having a 10-county vision to one for 32 counties in four states. In addition, philanthropic organizations in their region have had a strong focus not just on the arts and culture, but also innovation, economic development and education. nA key to their success is the ability of various foundations to work together on strategic, highly-focused key issues. Public Policy Support for Intellectual & Entrepreneurial Infrastructure Tom Murphy, former Mayor of Pittsburgh, discussed a variety of technology-oriented legislative initiatives created in Pennsylvania. When faced with the collapse of the steel industry, leadership had to imagine what it would be like to grow again. An entrepreneurial culture had to be fostered and talent had to either be recruited or grown. Murphy noted that, “Talent is everything. The single most important competitive advantage a community can have. With it, quality of life and sustainability become important initiatives for the region.” Next Steps Greenville Chamber President/CEO Ben Haskew recaps, “The takeaways are many and will be considered as we continue to develop our strategic goals.” The tasks are to find the key areas of focus, develop measurable strategies and action plans, foster necessary collaborations, execute the strategies, and measure progress. “Greenville has many advantages over Pittsburgh. While we do not have the same level of corporate wealth generated by entrepreneurs such as Carnegie and Heinz, neither do we have the legacy issues faced by Pittsburgh.” As pointed out by Russo at PTC, “Greenville can leapfrog the development that has occurred during the Pittsburgh renaissance.” Special Thanks to these 2013 Intercommunity Leadership Visit Pittsburgh Sponsors BB&T Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Greenville Health System Ogletree Deakins PNC Southwest Airlines


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