Allegheny Conference Goes Back to Basics

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development knows it has a problem, and conference chair and PNC CEO Jim Rohr wants to solve it. The ACCD wants to "tighten its focus." Let's review the plan:

* Potential consolidation of the city and Allegheny County. (Comment: Promising, particularly if there are real cost savings and elimination of multiple taxing authorities.)

* Get business taxes down, particularly Pennsylvania's corporate net income tax, which is the second highest of any state in the United States. (Comment: Promising again, but it's not likely to happen soon, and it's not a panacea.)

* Figure out how to hook up Oakland, Hazelwood and Downtown via new transportation. (Comment: Promising, again. Too bad that it's not possible to take the T-to-the-North-Shore money and divert it, and the train, to T-to-Oakland.)

* Develop better education and training programs. (Comment: By whom and for whom?)

* Aggressively pursue out-of-town life sciences, advanced materials and information technology companies and convince them to move operations here. Also, call on all big companies already here, asking what more can be done to help them expand. The goal is to double the number of "wins" -- companies that locate in the region as result of help from the conference -- from 20 in 2005 to 40 per year by 2008. "That is a pretty heady goal," said conference Chief Executive Officer Mike Langley. (Comment: Well, OK, but how about building a better business development infrastructure for local tech? Free the private sector from top-down "we know what's best for the region" planning. Support visibility for a wide variety of bottom-up legal, financial, and management resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.)

* Bring back international service to Pittsburgh International Airport. (Comment: If I were prioritizing the items on this list, I'd put this one at the top. An excellent goal.)

* Celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary in 2008 and use the event to generate publicity for the city and shape its identity locally and nationally. The conference's preliminary plan envisioned spending $1.6 million this year on planning for that event. But the effort, led by Marc USA President Michele Fabrizi, "has nothing to do with a party," Mr. Rohr said. Instead, it is a project designed to change "how we think about ourselves."

Comment: Oh no! This list was actually looking pretty good, and because of the sun I'm in a particularly fair-minded mood this morning, so I'm willing to say that something good might come out of spending a lot of money on a 250th anniversary party. But changing how we think about ourselves? Doomed to failure, it is, as Yoda might say. If the ACCD or anyone else around here wants to market Pittsburgh to the world, go ahead. That's a good thing. If they want to try to change how the world looks at Pittburgh, they should knock themselves out. We're all exhausted from explaining that really, the steel industry is all gone and the place is quite attractive. (If they want a suggestion, here's a pie-in-the-sky-never-going-to-happen-but-it-would-sure-make-a-difference-to-regional-marketing idea: Change the name of the football team to almost anything but the Steelers. Everyone in Pittsburgh knows that it's a metaphor for local tradition; a lot of people outside of Pittsburgh thinks that we're still primarily a steel-making town.)

But change how we think about ourselves? Not only is that unlikely to happen anytime soon, but also I don't think that it's necessary. Unless the ACCD is simply going to hand out cash to every resident (hmmmm -- maybe they can spend it at the new Harrah's!), there's no amount of advertising and partying that will make Pittsburgh residents feel better about themselves. If the 250th anniversary celebration is an excuse for local feel-goodism, then it's a waste of money. More important, I'm increasingly persuaded that Pittsburgh's well-known general sense of self-pity isn't behind our slow-growth and no-growth problems. More on that, though, in another post.


2 Responses to "Allegheny Conference Goes Back to Basics"

Mark Rauterkus said... 3/12/2006 9:57 AM

Two years ago I wrote a position paper on merging city-county activities. The next step in that process needs to be the PARKS. We have a County Parks and Citiparks. And, we have RAD (regional asset district) funding.


If anyone wants to talk to me, I have a detailed plan on how to make it work. I presented it to the OVERSIGHT (overlords) too. Act 47 and ICA both know of the paper.

In the parks effort, we'd get a new surge of volunteerism that is critical to fixing our mess.

412 298 3432

Anonymous said... 3/17/2006 8:37 PM

Conference still has 30 too many people.

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