The Pittsburgh region was one of three U.S. metro areas to be deemed fully recovered from the 2008 recession by the Brookings Institution in late 2012.
A report released Tuesday shows the region has sustained five years of economic growth, including 2012, which was a benchmark year for employment.
“There are more people working in southwestern Pennsylvania today than ever before in our history,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “There’s plenty of people still out of work, looking for work or looking for better work, but we have more people at work and more people coming into the work force than ever before, which are good signs."
The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, released the report, which shows manufacturing led the growth with 59 investment and development projects in 2012.
“The second biggest sector was finance and related business services at 55 projects,” Yablonsky said. “Energy was third with 53 projects. Information technology had 33 projects, and healthcare and life sciences had 12."
The “other” category, which includes construction and transportation, had 29 projects.
The report, dubbed “Wins Day: a Regional Economic Development Scorecard,” highlights three regional companies. One of them is Aquion Energy, a company developing energy storage technologies from common materials. The company was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University and will continue to grow in this region. It currently has about 120 employees in Westmoreland County and Lawrenceville.
“We are opening a big factory, over 300,000 square feet in Westmoreland County at the old Sony facility,” said Aquion Energy CEO Scott Pearson. “That will be pumping out initial product at the end of this year and ramping from there. In terms of jobs, it’s definitely going to be approaching 200 by the end of this year and then going into the multi-hundreds after that.”
Companies M*Modal, a healthcare technology company, and United Lender Services, a real estate services company, are also planning to expand their workforces in the Pittsburgh region in coming years.
The growth is expected to continue, but Allegheny Conference’s Yablonsky said business and community leaders will examine issues that could derail the last five years of successes.
“Infrastructure, transportation, public transit, water and sewer,” he said, “we’re going to talk about work force issues. One of the questions we get from our companies now is finding the right quality, right diversity and right skilled people. Despite the fact that we’re doing well, we can’t rest on our laurels; we’ve got to continue to attack the problems that are out there to continue to grow.”