Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday the creation of Welcoming Pittsburgh, an initiative aimed at attracting and retaining immigrants in order to advance the city.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people flocked to the city from all over the world to work in the steel mills and factories. The Pittsburgh of today was built by the immigrants of the past. One century later, Pittsburgh has lost much of its population and the city is feeling the effects.
The answer to rebuilding Pittsburgh, according to Peduto, is to kickstart immigration—again.
Peduto said he wants Pittsburgh to become an immigration hotspot over the next few decades.
“This city is going to change dramatically over the next 20 years because our economy is going to be picking up and people from all over the world are going to be looking to make their home in Pittsburgh just like they did over 100 years ago,” he said.
As of last year, “more than 1,300 Bhutanese; nearly 500 Burmese; almost 200 Iraqi; and over 260 Somali” have immigrated to Pittsburgh, according to Peduto. The city is also home to more than 24,000 Latinos.
But the city could do a better job, according to second-generation immigrant Cecile Springer.
She said it’s up to the city’s residents to make immigrants feel at home.
“My only advice is that the welcomes need to be louder, so that newcomers find their way to understand the language,” Springer said. “The language of western Pennsylvania is different, but it’s inclusive and it’s welcoming.”
Betty Cruz, the city’s non-profit and faith-based initiatives manager, said immigrants will also be recruited for the Civic Leadership Academy, a program which teaches people the basic operations of city government. Cruz wants at least 15 immigrants to take part in the 30-person class.
The initiative will start with a 25-member advisory committee that will outline community goals and guidelines. Committee member applications will be accepted until June 20, with the first meeting expected for July.