“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,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto as he addressed the Hampton Roads delegates on the last night of the Inter-Regional visit.
Again and again throughout our time in Pittsburgh, the Hampton Roads delegation heard the word “collaboration.” From the current Mayor William Peduto, and former Mayor, Tom Murphy, to the County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, CEO’s from PNC Bank, and entrepreneurs, like Paul Umbach, it is collaboration that has glued the region together and filled in the cracks of the steel bust and resulting population loss.
The visit consisted of an intimate look at a region on the rise, with areas still in flux, and adapting to their new found growth and economic success. The delegation was immersed in Economic Development, Workforce Development, Transit Discussions, Infrastructure and Waterfront Development and Tourism. From panel to panel it was repeated; vision, regionalism and collaboration are as much a part of Pittsburgh as the Heinz-57 ‘special sauce.’ Ground breaking change often means conflict, bold decision making and sometimes a risk to re-election, but investment in the future is what put Pittsburgh on the path to recovery and renaissance.
Former Pittsburgh Mayor, Tom Murphy led the charge in the mid-90’s. “I had to reimagine Pittsburgh. We had to take a no guts, no glory approach to invest in the future,” Murphy said. Murphy went against a referendum vote to build major regional stadiums and a convention center that ultimately led the region out of their recession.
Much of what contributed to this collaboration was a re-framing of the region as a whole. Rather than competing to move jobs from one city to the other, the 10 county region worked together to provide for everyone. The Allegheny Conference serves as a front door to the region and strategically markets the Western Pennsylvania area with opportunities for site development and a booming job market. “Together we could ultimately steer jobs to our collective region. This is the mission of the Allegheny Conference,” said Bob Hurley, Director, Allegheny County Economic Development, (ACED).
The region is successful because it operates with one voice. The exchange of ideas between the Pittsburgh leaders and the Hampton Roads delegates and the discussion and questions that followed, fleshed out the similarities and disparities between the regions. While both communities have the same types of concerns, it is evident that what separates the regions is the vision, collaboration and singular focus on working as partners. The motto that has taken hold on the region and is responsible for their transformation is, “If it’s not for all, it’s not for us.” Imagine what that would do for Hampton Roads.