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New Public-Private Partnership Aims To Bring Tech Companies And Jobs Into Oakland

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A view of Forbes Avenue in Oakland.

A 2017 report by the Brookings Institution suggested that Pittsburgh as a whole could realize its economic potential more fully by turning Oakland into a central hub for innovation and technology.

InnovatePGH, a public-private partnership launched last week, will seek to accelerate that process.

Partners include the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC, the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development and a group of philanthropic sponsors.

"Oakland has what is essentially the new, raw natural resources, which is proximity to the universities, as well as UPMC," said Sean Luther, executive director of InnovatePGH.

Luther had previously worked as executive director of Envision Downtown, another local public-private partnership dedicated to sustainable development of Pittsburgh's Downtown area.

According to Luther, one of InnovatePGH's main goals is to sell tech companies on opening research and development centers or engineering offices in Oakland; not headquarters, but rather a kind of satellite facility -- similar to Uber, which is headquartered in San Francisco, but has a location in the Strip District

"This is the new model that we're seeing around the country that companies want to replicate," said Luther.

He pointed to Philips Respironics as an example. The medical technology company, which manufactures respiration and sleep aids and is headquartered in nearby Murrysville, opened a 14,000 square foot facility in Oakland last year.

"It's a small outpust that serves to create specialized research and has students from Pitt and CMU coming in and out... all the time," Luther said. "And then they have direct access to the researchers at both universities."

Luther said InnovatePGH will also be taking a focus on workforce development in neighborhoods adjacent to Oakland and better connecting it other tech-heavy areas of Pittsburgh, like the Strip District and Bakery Square.