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Report: Pittsburgh Region's Economic Growth is Steady, But Under the Radar

Advanced manufacturing is picking up in the Pittsburgh region, more jobs are requiring technology skills and the financial and businesses services sector is greatest contributor to the gross regional product.

Those are just some of the takeaways from the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s seventh annual economic development performance scorecard and “Wins Day” Wednesday.

The alliance is the marketing affiliate of the Allegheny Conference for Economic Development and is charged with the task of marketing the Pittsburgh region to businesses and workers alike.

Alliance President Dewitt Peart said, in 2013, they identified at least 302 “wins,” their term for investment and development projects in the 10-county region, up 12 percent from 2012.

Peart said most of those “wins” came in the manufacturing sector, and that the natural gas boom will be key to sustaining that growth in the future. He said Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry is maturing and that the initial influx of exploration and production companies is stabilizing.

“On the horizon is the downstream side, the petrochemical industry,” Peart said. “We’re blessed in this region to have the wet gas. There’s been a lot of talk about proposed petrochemical facilities. That’s going to be an entirely new wave of opportunity around manufacturing.”

Peart said that data from the Alliance’s job search website, ImaginePittsburgh.com, show that at least 50 percent of the region’s jobs require basic technology skills.

Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, said that proportion is likely to climb very quickly. She said skills that were once considered “technological skills” are now basic requirements for entry-level positions.

“There’s no job that will be untouched by the importance of this,” Russ said. “If any of you have been around young children you know very quickly that their capability and mastery of technology by the time they’re one, is something that many of us would not have mastered by the time we were 21.”

The alliance celebrated this year’s “Wins Day” by highlighting some of the fast-growing businesses in our region.

John Thornton is CEO of Astrobotic Technology, based in the Strip District. He called the company the “UPS to the moon,” and said within two years, it will be shipping things like seeds and other research tools to the moon via unmanned space flights.

Thornton, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate, said the spacecraft will be designed and built right here in Pittsburgh.

“We’re based here in Pittsburgh for good reason,” Thornton said. “The number one software institute in the world is right up the hill. We’ve got the number one robotics in the world right up the hill, (and) top 10 (in) engineering. It’s an immense talent pool that’s here in Pittsburgh, and most of our company actually is CMU alumni.”

“Wins Day” also highlighted Netronome, a Cranberry-based company that designs semi-conductors. Vice President and General Manager of Marketing Jarrod Siket said the company’s success actually influenced its two largest customers, Cisco Systems and Blue Coat Systems, to build facilities essentially next door to Netronome.

“Within about 300 yards, in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, there are two multi-billion dollar high-tech networking companies that otherwise would not have been there if it weren’t for the success of this device,” Siket said.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s Dewitt Peart said, with $2.4 billion in capital investment in 2013, the pace of economic growth in the 10-county Pittsburgh region has been steady, but that the region’s successes often remain unknown on the national stage.

“The world still doesn’t really understand what’s going on here,” Peart said.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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