Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald today hosted a roundtable discussion with Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine and several regional community, business, non-profit, and economic leaders. Fitzgerald said the meeting was a chance to talk with the federal government about what’s going well in the region, and where help is needed.
“One of the things I’ve found in government is when we have a problem, whatever that problem might be, if you bring the stakeholders together, and you bring the various partners together – state, federal, local, business community, labor unions etcetera, you tend to have more success. We really can’t do this alone,” he said.
Erskine said the Obama administration is working to bridge the gap between local, state, and federal government.
“That’s what we at Commerce and EDA (Economic Development Administration) are trying to do every day, work with our local partners more closely and on a more coordinated basis as we pursue opportunities in economic development,” he said.
One of the topics of discussion at the roundtable was the lack of a trained workforce. County Executive Fitzgerald said there are many jobs available, but not enough skilled workers for those jobs. He said collaboration with the federal government on funding training programs could be helpful.
Infrastructure was another area of concern for those present, in particular finding sufficient funds for the road, bridge, building, and sewer repairs and upkeep that are needed. A lot of issues came down to a lack of funding.
“With the new economic reality we’re all dealing with, pressure on budgets from the federal to the state to the local, pressure on even private investment, no one can do it alone, so that’s why you have to have much better collaboration and coordination,” said Erskine.
In addition the roundtable, Erskine met with other community leaders and is announcing some federal grants to spur economic development efforts in the region including Bakery Square 2.0.
The Bakery Square initiative is a $120 million mixed-use development to be located on the site of the former Reizenstein School, which will include 400,000 square feet of new office/lab space. The Ravenstahl administration says that development will create an estimated 2,400 jobs and generate approximately $7 million in annual local tax revenues.