In 2018, the Allegheny Conference participated in the regional team that formulated and submitted Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 proposal. The region was named as a Top 20 finalist for the project, which has significantly raised the profile of Pittsburgh for additional technology investment and media attention. As a result, we have been considered for other projects because we were an HQ2 finalist, and we have a regional team encompassing the business, government, academic, nonprofit and philanthropic communities that can mobilize quickly to address new opportunities and challenges.
While Amazon may not have chosen our region for HQ2, we are seeing other signature innovation-related projects coming here. One example is San Francisco-based Affirm, a fast-growing, five-year old company that creates financial products and alternatives to traditional credit, chose Pittsburgh for its second office primarily because of Pittsburgh’s available tech talent. The company plans to create 100 jobs by the end of 2019, anticipating to grow the office to 500 in coming years. The PRA thanks the State, Allegheny County, and City of Pittsburgh for helping to make this win a reality.
To support our economic development efforts we ramped up marketing the region to innovation-related companies. We traveled with a regional coalition to Seattle for the GeekWire Summit, and we also hosted journalists from publications such as Fast Company, Forbes, VentureBeat, ZDNet, Politico and MedTech Insight for a media tour of Pittsburgh’s innovation assets.
Finally, to ensure we unlock our full potential of our innovation opportunity, we developed an innovation strategy with a focus on a number of areas, including talent, infrastructure, policies and economic climate, place-making, corporate engagement, and business attraction. We are collaborating with tech-based economic development partners to find ways to help build on their years of progress.
One initiative is a “first customer” program. We are partnering with Innovation Works and Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to create more meaningful, scalable matches between regional startups and established businesses. Another initiative is aligning our business attraction efforts with the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pitt, CMU, Innovate PGH and local accelerator Ascender to target tech company attraction, with a focus on companies looking to expand outside of the Silicon Valley.