Pittsburgh was built on the business of building things. Our industrial economy propelled us to become an economic and political powerhouse and laid the groundwork for a middle class that sustained the city for generations. Though we all know the terrible story of how that industrial glory turned to decades of tough, painful times for families across the region, we can write a new chapter today and bring back good quality jobs making quality goods. Pittsburgh is well positioned to become a center for manufacturing of high-tech goods that will be in demand across the country and the world. As Mayor, I will make it a priority to bring new companies to our city and create hundreds of good jobs for everyone – from people with PhDs to people with GEDs.
1. Reform Pennsylvania’s Incentive Programs
The Commonwealth offers a number of economic development incentive programs that support new business development and business relocation. However, we are too often in competition for new business with the smaller municipalities that surround Pittsburgh and tax-subsidy bidding wars become all-too-common. We must leverage Pennsylvania’s economic development incentive programs but also push for common-sense changes that will decrease suburban sprawl, help us work collaboratively with our neighbors rather than compete with them, and lead to more jobs and a larger tax base for everyone in Allegheny County.
We should work with our neighbors to institute two reforms that will enhance all of our communities. First we should tighten the definitions of blight used to determine where economic development aid is funneled. Today pristine undeveloped land in the suburbs can be considered blighted under several of Pennsylvania’s economic development incentive programs. This hurts older communities with real brownfields in need of development and leads to development of natural areas that would be worth more as a public good if they were preserved. We should change these definitions and help change development patterns. Many of our suburban and exurban neighbors probably won’t be too happy about this proposed change. So to gain their confidence and ensure that economic growth benefits everyone, we should create region-wide tax sharing models that lift all boats when the region does well rather than centralizing resources in a few affluent communities.
With these two reforms, we can attract new manufacturing centers, provide good jobs, and end the zero-sum competition with our suburban neighbors. Economic growth in Pittsburgh should be good for everyone in Allegheny County and vice versa.