Audrey Russo

By Audrey Russo, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council 

With 2020 upon us, it is yet another time of inflection for Pittsburgh. We have a multitude of opportunities and challenges that are coming at us, fast and furious:

• Competing for talent along with the rest of the world. 

• Worries about leaving people behind in this next chapter of technological leapfrog. 

• Establishing the fragile balance of prosperity and equity that seems to go so easily off-kilter. 

• Ensuring that we have enough capital and resources to help in meaningful ways as entrepreneurs launch companies. 

• Making sure that our institutional and corporate leadership reflect the diversity of our region. 

• Ensuring that the world is accessible to us and us to the world. 

• Figuring out how to keep the next generation of graduates as part of the solution for Pittsburgh’s growth – yes, we have to grow, in prosperity and in density, to remain vital and involved in the global stage.

The future is not a 10-year plan, but we know some essentials.

We know that the roles of middle management have distinctly eroded thanks to automation, advanced intelligence, and connected devices. Software ate long-term strategy right before the ink dried on projections. Industries have been toppled through, what might have been to some, blindsided upheavals and then appeared the new beasts of autonomy. 

The glory of what makes this era so pivotal for Pittsburgh, is we have experienced pockets of growth that can put a stamp on the future by leveraging a century of assets. This is so ironic because in the wisp of a decade so much has changed, yet we remain true to our origins – making stuff. Stuff that you can touch, maneuver, adjust, and move. Stuff that remains core to all economies. 

We know how to propel, power, decipher, analyze, energize, and even heal. If we zoom out for a moment, we see that the proliferation of artificial intelligence that is exploding here is deeply rooted in addressing problems that could shape and transform the world. 

Herein lies our opportunity: people can live anywhere. And high-skilled talent can increasingly live anywhere. When people do move, they migrate to expensive, high-growth cities. In those cities are more varied opportunities, ease of transport, and expensive housing. Companies can be built anywhere. People in the U.S… are now reluctant to move. We have created strong tethers ¬– after the housing crisis, but even prior – to where we live. With more families comprised of dual-wage earners, the odds are low for them to pull up stakes and relocate. 

And those living in rural communities are often trapped in cycles of inaccessibility and immobility keeping them deeply rooted.

If Pittsburgh is to thrive in the new decade, it will have to be known as a destination.

A place where people visit as tourists and intentionally want to live first because of access, inclusivity, diversity, amenities, education, and opportunities. 

As you can see, we have quite a few plates to spin all at the same time at varying speeds, but we HAVE to spin them. But in truth, Pittsburgh has always been a place for builders, not merely consumers and armchair critiques. So, dig in and help us solve these challenges. What plates can you spin?