Republican D. Raja said if he's elected as the next Allegheny County Executive, he would create a "Department of Innovation" to improve county government.
Announcing his broad plans to foster innovation, Raja said the new agency would be dedicated to finding and implementing creative ideas to save money and improve the services of all other county departments.
Raja said it's time for the county to listen to its thousands of employees. "That's where the best ideas come from, in my history of working in the public sector [and] private sector," said Raja. "The best ideas are with those people who do their day-to-day stuff. That's a very critical aspect that we need to do."
Raja said the Department of Innovation would also serve as Allegheny County's liaison to universities and private companies. He doesn't know yet how large the Innovation Department would be, but Raja said he'd set specific expectations of cost-savings and service improvements for each county department. He said he'd also work with Pennsylvania government to secure funding for researchers and business incubators.
Raja said he'd also like to integrate the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas industry into his push for innovation. "Port Authority's troubled in terms of revenues. Why not run all the buses on natural gas? We would save about $10,000 per bus per year if we converted to natural gas," said Raja. "And as I've talked with these different companies, they're even willing to fund it." Raja also reiterated his support for drilling on Pittsburgh International Airport property, and said the resulting income could go toward construction of a new business incubator there.