With the Pittsburgh skyline in the background, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl presented a "key to the city" to Tess Lojacono to kick off her business career in the city. Lojacono was the winner of the "Experienced Dreamers" contest, which awarded one baby boomer-generation entrepreneur $100,000 to start their own business in the city.
Contestants submitted proposals which explained their ideas for new business endeavors in Pittsburgh. Lojacono's winning plan is a program that will offer Fine Arts courses to residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes. It will be a continuation of her self-started business, Fine Art Miracles.
Lojacono will receive the first $50,000 after moving to the city this fall. The remaining $50,000 will be placed in a charitable fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation, which she will use to support local nonprofits.
Frederick Thieman, President of the Buhl Foundation, one of the organizers of the contest, said the baby boomer demographic is attracted to college towns like Pittsburgh.
"If you think about what draws them there, it's a low cost of living, it's good safety, it's good arts and culture, it's a good health system, and it's a lot of young people around," Thieman said.
Ravenstahl said although there was only one winner, other contestants showed a great interest in the city, which could prove to be beneficial down the road.
"There were a number of applicants, a lot of people that took a look at Pittsburgh and tried to win this contest and because of that, hopefully, they'll come visit Pittsburgh or maybe, potentially move here, even though they didn't win a hundred thousand dollars," Ravenstahl said.
After accepting the "key," Lojacono, along with her husband and two daughters, toured some of the area's cultural attractions, including Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. She also visited the Quality of Life Technology Center, based jointly at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Tonight, she will throw out the first pitch at the Pirates game at PNC Park.
Aradhna Oliphant, President and CEO of Leadership Pittsburgh, another organization that supported the contest, said she believes Lojacono was the perfect choice.
"She has the spunk, the spark, and it'll do good for the community. My sense is this is something that they thought can happen," Oliphant said.
Other supporters of the contest are the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, Allegheny County, and the City of Pittsburgh.