After a packed day, and a visit full of strategies, collaboration, historical perspective and a bright vision of the future, the Hampton Roads delegates ended their Inter-Regional Visit to Pittsburgh with a private tour of Heinz Field and dinner in the Press Box.
They were honored to have Pittsburgh’s current Mayor and the city’s 60th, Mayor Bill Peduto join them for closing remarks. Peduto has spent over 25 years in public service and has been instrumental in many of the positive changes in Pittsburgh in economic and workforce development during his tenure.
Bryan K. Stephens, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber told Peduto about the mission of the IRV. “We’re interested in how you’re driving your economy and we want to get ideas from you,” Stephens said.
Peduto said, “The people have really strong pride here, you can really feel it. You can feel it in the people. It’s what we went through together.” Peduto told the now familiar story of Pittsburgh’s steel rise to the 3rd larges corporate center in America in 1970 to the great steel bust of 1979, which left hundreds of thousands without jobs and saw a mass exodus of the region’s population. “In 1979 the economic heart was ripped from the region. We went through a decade thinking, how are we going to rebuild our mills and manufacturing programs? But there were other ideas, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, predictive analytics at Carnegie Mellon, and healthcare innovations at University of Pittsburgh. This overnight success took 30 years of work. We didn’t have the benefit of having an enemy, the only way out was together,” Peduto said. Pittsburgh has a character and a pride that is distinct, it does not feel like an artificial downtown or an “Anywhere, USA” and this is seen in the bakeries from the old country, the Hungarian and German delis, the traditions and parades, and the fierce loyalty to local business. The pride and the character is built into the city.
“I view this as the best days of this city, and my motto, ‘if it’s not for all, it’s not for us,’ is real. We have the opportunity in this new economy to create a pipeline of jobs for the people who already live here. Looking as early as 7th grade. We lived through the time that we exported young people like we exported steel. As we build this next Pittsburgh, we enhance upon what has been given to us, preserving buildings and protecting the environment,” said Peduto. Coming on the heels of a night of heavy rains and localized flooding, something Pittsburgh battles in ways reminiscent of Hampton Roads’ struggles with sea-level rise, the mayor said, “You can flood a city, you can burn a city, you can rip the economic heart out of it, but you have to invest in its people, if we work together as one, we can get through it. I hope this is the lesson you take back, you create one agenda, you agree, everyone ante’s up and you go to the capital as one voice.”
“A river runs around a rock it doesn’t run through it. If you as a region are fighting amongst yourselves, you will never get anywhere. Don’t be the rock. You can’t let yourselves be the detriment to your own region,” Peduto said.
Stephens closed the evening by thanking all of the Hampton Roads delegates for attending the visit and scheduled a follow up meeting with the group early next month. The plan is to debrief on lessons learned, strategize and develop action items for making the Hampton Roads region the best it can be.